My second oldest brother and his wife homeschooled their girls right from the start. I was a teenager then, and we all thought they were whacky--my parents were really, truly worried. This was a long time ago--over 20 years ago--when homeschooling was a relatively obscure movement. A fringe movement--religious fanatics and hippies. We were certain that my nieces were doomed for failure-- socially and academically. Another brother put his children in public school about the same time, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
It wasn't until after I graduated from college--and I had certified to teach at the secondary level--and married that I met other homeschooling families. Each family that I met just completely blew me away. Yes, the kids were all well-mannered and well-behaved. But it was more than that--it was their obvious sense of confidence, their high self-esteem, and their social graces that really stuck with me. It was the closeness of the families. Our associate minister and his wife were one of these homeschooling families that God put in our path. When Jesse was about 5, I began talking with our associate minister's wife about homeschooling. She said to me, "I will always be happy to talk to you about homeschooling, but I will never pressure you or try to talk you into it. It is a decision every family has to make on its own." I loved that. I told her that I was really concerned about never having a life of my own. She just kind of smiled at me, and now I understand that smile. That smile means: "These children ARE your life."
We tucked the idea of homeschooling in the back of our minds and sent our son to public school for kindergarten when we lived in Iowa. It was a wonderful experience. It was the kind of school that I grew up in--a neighborhood school just down to block, a crossing guard at the corner that gave out candy, and a day that lasted only 2.5 hours. The kids were there to play and explore, not to pass the TCAP.
Then we moved to Knoxville, and lulled by our experience of kindergarten, sent Jesse on to first grade. Wow. Our lives changed so radically. He left at 7:15 and arrived home at 3 p.m. He had headaches every single day. He fought with his little sister and grumbled at us. He had at least 30 minutes of homework every evening--and this was in first grade! He was in bed every night by 7:30 just so that he could make it through the next day. We felt like our lives were totally dictated by the school system. Around midyear, I could begin to see what his future in school would be like. Already he was bored. He began scribbling on his math sheets. He is an extremely science-minded child, and science was almost completely left out of the classroom. Homework was a struggle every afternoon--not because it was hard, but because it was just busywork. One day when he said to me, as he had before: "Why do I have to do this Mommy" and I explained to him again that some kids needed the extra practice, so everybody has to do it, he said. "But I don't need to extra practice, Mommy! Why do I have to do it?" And I realized--why DOES he have to do it? He was absolutely right! I was convinced then that we had to homeschool. Interestingly, up until that point, Dr. H. had not been at all convinced that homeschooling was a positive option, although we'd tossed the idea around since our son was born. But after just a few months of public school here, he was utterly convicted that this was the right decision. I had less than a year to figure out how to do it, but I was very determined.
I began by doing internet research: hooking up with discussion groups, visiting every possible site on homeschooling, just seeing what was out there. I spent many afternoons with my sister-in-law and another homeschooling mom, talking about various aspects of homeschooling. I read a lot of books, and eventually I decided on what style and curriculum would work best for us. Jesse finished up first grade in Knoxville and then we moved to Blount County and began homeschooling in the fall.
The first year was hard. I was pregnant and I had a toddler. I was physically exhausted! But we fell into what worked best for us, and it was such pure joy to watch my child learn to love learning all over again. We joined our local support group and found an amazing support system. We have NEVER looked back.
Whatever initially leads parents to make this choice, homeschooling nearly always evolves into something far more than an alternative educational choice -- it becomes a lifestyle choice of personal responsibility and freedom and incredible joy within a close family life.
Friday, April 11, 2008 - Untitled Comment
Posted by Anonymous (184.108.40.206)
"it becomes a lifestyle choice of personal responsibility and freedom and incredible joy within a close family life." So well put! That pretty much says it all right there. Thanks for sharing your story. Julie http://funinthesunmom.blogspot.com
Friday, April 11, 2008 - Untitled Comment
Posted by Anonymous (220.127.116.11)
Yep. Loved that last line, too. I might have to quote you sometime. :) Thanks for sharing your story. I can't imagine my son in Kindergarten or 1st grade. Wouldn't be a good combo...
Heidi @ Mt. Hope
Friday, April 11, 2008 - Homeschooling
Posted by Morning Rose (18.104.22.168)
Thanks for sharing your story. Our story has some similarities. Our older son was in a traditional school through first grade also, when we decided to homeschool both our boys. I didn't understand why first graders had homework too. What did they do in school all day?
Saturday, April 12, 2008 - Untitled Comment
Posted by Ellen (22.214.171.124)
When we started homeschooling my parents thought that we were wacky, too, and that we might get arrested. They see things differently now that my sister's boys have horror stories about being in school. A few months ago, my sister finally brought her boys home, too. The grandparents are now very happy that all of their grandkids are home educated.
Sunday, April 13, 2008 - great story!
Posted by Jennifer in OR (126.96.36.199)
Thanks for sharing this; I can relate to many parts. It's funny how our perceptions change once we're dealing with our own children!