I never thought I’d be questioning the institutional form of schooling. Honestly. I didn’t see it coming.
I went to school, I turned out sort of OK, and I kind of liked it (the fun parts, anyway). Children go to school and school is a necessary tool for learning, right? There was no reason to question whether my children would go to school or not. School it was.
Or was it?
As my daughter’s 5th birthday was quickly approaching, I suddenly found my brain on complete overload. Resembling a gory question mark battlefield, it was also at war with my heart. These two just couldn’t agree on one single thing…
Public school vs. Private school vs. Homeschool???
I had the option to do what everyone else did – send my 5-year-old to school. We have a pretty decent public school here and a number of excellent private school options. No biggie…
Or I could just listen to my gut feeling and keep her home. I’ve always done things a bit differently than others, so what’s one more thing…
As I started to question the system (and my own experiences), I felt uneasy. And I didn’t like what I was hearing from other parents either.
I honestly felt like my daughter would do well at school. I really did. She is a smart, friendly, outspoken and somewhat competitive extrovert. And she has no health issues.
The more I learned about the school system, the less I wanted my children to be part of it.
I guess, maybe… If the days were shorter, I’d feel better?
When I was growing up, SCHOOL DAYS were much shorter and FREE TIME much longer and broader.
I couldn’t bear the thought of having my curious, energetic, happy 5 year-old spending close to 7 hours a day at school, 5 days a week. And then there were all of these piles of homework that I kept hearing about which she might be bringing home from school every day on top of an already long day.
Where was time for other activities? For family? For herself?
She might have been able to handle it (I mean she would probably get used to it), but it seemed unnecessary and even unhealthy at that age.
Other issues kept emerging…
Certain policies and school guidelines left me speechless – e.g., the (increasingly common) SILENT LUNCH. Aside from inmates receiving almost identical lunches as school kids (though I hear that prisoners get a larger serving of fruits/vegetables than innocent growing children), I’m pretty positive that you don’t have to gulp down your jailhouse lunch in silence and hurry like you typically have to at a school cafeteria.
Digging deep and researching, I also had a hard time believing that COMMON CORE was implemented to benefit the children. My children. All children. Our future.
I would have loved for my daughter to experience more play-based learning at this age, not the “drill and kill” style I kept hearing about.
Early childhood is a crucial developmental stage in a child’s life when rapid changes in cognitive ability play their part. But we’re not all exactly the same… Right? And just as children don’t grow in the same pattern, their cognitive and social-emotional development varies as well. Attempting to mold kids into the exact same shape and at the exact same time just didn’t feel right.
- Could that backfire?
- Would it possibly leave some children frustrated, stressed out, and overwhelmed?
- Could that lower their self-esteem or diminish their natural ability and desire to learn?
(Yes, yes, and yesss of course!!! my heart was screaming excitedly while my brain was rolling eyes, covering ears, and blurting out blah-blah-blah.)
The more I thought about it, the more I was sure of what I actually wanted for my children…
It was MORE freedom and LESS of what the school system was offering.
No, I didn’t think my kids were special and therefore required a special kind of treatment.
In reality, what I wanted for them was quite simple…
- I wanted them to be able to be kids for as long as they wish, focusing on who they are, not on who others view them as. No rushing into the feeling of having to grow up too quickly, no pressure of having to conform to peers.
- I wanted them to stay curious and to keep on asking questions. Questions are important!
- I wanted them to stay playful and creative, spending as much time outdoors as possible. Climbing trees and building forts, playing, learning, discovering and exploring, doing what kids their age should be doing.
- I wanted them to keep on getting lost in their boundless world of imagination where miraculous things happen and extraordinary ideas are created.
- I wanted them to have the freedom to learn and grow at their own pace and in their own way. Conveyor belt education doesn’t support that.
- I didn’t want learning to become a chore.
- I wanted to be there for them, to help them feed their hungry minds.
- No. I didn’t want to shield them from the real world. On the contrary, I wanted to keep their eyes open. I wanted to make them aware and show them the real world that they might otherwise miss out on while spending long hours in the classrooms.
Intuitively, I KNEW I wanted to homeschool. But…
HOW does one actually do it?
“As soon as get my hands on the homeschool manual, I’ll have a better idea about the process,” I thought.
Because only then I’ll know how to homeschool…
I questioned myself if I could really do it. If I was good enough. And I wondered if my children would benefit from that kind of experience or if I was just putting myself onto a cloud of illusion and setting us all on a path to failure.
How would I actually teach my children? Me? It’s not like I’m a teacher!? What if I mess up? I’m certainly not perfect?!
I went back in time and paid attention to my own experiences.
I aced through school.
I’ve always had good grades (with the exception of German – sorry Germans, I’m not meant to speak your language. I tried!).
I was able to memorize easily and consequently made good grades.
But I didn’t always understand the concept.
I was taught to MEMORIZE, not learn, and I was rewarded for just that.
My grades weren’t relative to what I really knew.
I only retained the content of the subjects I’ve been passionate about (or at least some areas of certain subjects) while the rest managed to quickly find a way into the black hole of my brain. Considering how many years I had spent in school, how much I had to learn over the years to pass all exams, and how little I actually ended up remembering…there must be so much in there!? (I suspect that the dark side of my brain contains more information than the rest.)
For the first time, I seriously considered homeschooling.
Let’s just say I never found the secret homeschool formula. (In retrospect, that’s one of the great things about homeschooling.) Regardless, I decided to go with my gut feeling and against all odds and social norms and kept exploring and researching.
Most people we knew weren’t supportive, and I could have sworn I saw a bunch of eye rolls as well. Yet, I kept having that nagging feeling that homeschooling was the right option FOR US. Maybe not forever, but at least for now. And that was good enough.
In all honesty, even my husband wasn’t too thrilled at first since he thought we were already kind of weird enough. Pfft… Like THAT was going to stop me?!
We certainly had the option to try our public school and see where it takes us, but the quality of education just didn’t seem to justify the effort.
Private schools seemed expensive and not significantly better in the areas of concern, so they were crossed off the list.
In the end, it was my disagreement with Common Core that helped me focus on my priorities and do what felt right for our family.
Homeschooling it was!!!