I never thought I’d be questioning the institutional form of schooling. Honestly.
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 kids would go to school or not. School it was.
Or was it?
As my daughter’s 5th birthday was approaching, I wasn’t so sure about school anymore. It was almost annoying that I had to think so hard about something so simple.
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. Or I could just listen to my gut and keep her home. I’ve always done things a bit differently. What’s one more thing…?
I honestly felt like my daughter would do well at school. She is smart, friendly, outspoken, and a pretty competitive extrovert. She has no health issues. But…
The more I learned about the school system, the less I wanted my kids 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 our free time much 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.
Where was time for other activities? For family? For herself?
She might have been able to handle it (meaning she would get used to it), but it seemed unnecessary and even unhealthy at that age.
Other issues kept emerging…
First of all, I didn’t like what I kept hearing from other parents.
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 her age, not the “drill and kill” style I kept hearing about.
Early childhood is a crucial developmental stage in a child’s life where rapid changes in cognitive ability play their part. We’re not all exactly the same, right? Just as children don’t grow in the same pattern, their cognitive and social-emotional development varies as well. Yet we’re attempting to mold our kids into the exact same shape and at the exact same time…
- 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?
The more I thought about it, the more I was sure of what I actually wanted for my kids…
It was MORE freedom and LESS school. 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 wished, focusing on who they were, not on who others viewed 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.
- 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.
I guess at that point I KNEW I wanted to homeschool. But…
I mean, HOW does one actually do it? Is there a homeschool manual out there???
To be honest, I questioned myself if I could really do it. If I was good enough. I also wondered if my kids would benefit from being homeschooled or if I was just siting on 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.
The truth is, 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. In the end I only retained the content of subjects I’d been passionate about (or at least some areas of certain subjects) while the rest managed to quickly disappear in 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!?
For the first time, I seriously considered homeschooling.
Well, let’s just say I never found the secret homeschool formula. (In reality, that’s one of the great things about homeschooling!) I just decided to go with my gut feeling and against all odds and social norms. It felt right.
Most people we knew weren’t supportive, and I could have sworn I saw a bunch of eye rolls as well. In all honesty, even my own 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?! But in the end he was on board as well…
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.
We decided to homeschool…