By Camille Williams
We are in the 7th inning of our first year homeschooling Boy 1 (age 8). We are taking this year-by-year, and who knows? A brick and mortar school may again be the best choice for our family at some future time. For now, though, this has been a great decision for us, and Boy 2 will be home next year for kindergarten as well.
Since we started this adventure, I get a lot of questions about the challenges of this educational choice and lifestyle. While we have had our challenges, many of the things people understandably assume must be really hard have not been big issues for us. The most common questions I get are some version of the following:
- What about social opportunities? It does take a little effort to make sure he gets enough time with other kids, in the sense that a pre-assembled group of kids does not arrive at our door daily. But it is very doable. The homeschool community is growing, and we have met some amazing people. We belong to a great homeschool group, and there are plenty of activities available within and outside the group, both for free play and more structured activities. And, of course, we still get together with friends outside the homeschool community.
- How do you make sure he learns what he is “supposed to” learn? Kids are natural learners, and there are so many curriculum choices out there, there are almost too many options! I don’t have an education degree, but neither do a lot of private school teachers. I am in awe of what teachers accomplish meeting the needs of so many children. There is no way I could manage a classroom like that—not even on the level of averting total mayhem, never mind inspiring and educating each child! And I know there are teaching strategies that could benefit my child of which I have no knowledge. What I may lack in this area is balanced by the fact that I am facilitating the learning of only one child (soon to be two), I know him better than anyone else, and this set-up allows him to have a completely individualized education. Besides the more structured curriculum work, this lifestyle allows plenty of time for self-directed projects and endless hands-on, experiential “world schooling” opportunities. (That is a whole other post!) Now that we are in the last quarter of the school year and I can look back on what he has accomplished, any fears I had in this area have been put to rest. All the people I talked to when we were researching this decision were right—it’s not as hard as it sounds, kids are hardwired to learn, and homeschooling is very efficient.
- I could never do that—isn’t it stressful and demanding on you? Well, sure, sometimes. Just like life in general. I certainly have some responsibilities I didn’t have when my child was in school. At the same time, other stressors have been removed. We aren’t doing the relentless hurry-up morning routine. I don’t have to spend the afternoon or evening pushing homework to happen after he’s already been “working” all day at school and just needs to play. There is a spaciousness and flow about our days that comes from being at home more, together more, following our own rhythms. I’ve lived both ways now, and having kids in traditional school versus homeschooling are just different lifestyle choices. I don’t have much time to myself, but really, how many of us do? I work part time and homeschool my kid(s). I’m almost always either with my kids or at work. Mothers who work full time are either at work or with their kids. Same boat, slightly different proportions.
The bottom line for me about stress and homeschooling? I’m a lot less stressed in general since we started homeschooling. That’s not because Boy 1 was having a bad experience at school. He had a pretty typical, mostly good experience by most standards. It also has little to do with the details and logistics of the two lifestyles. It’s really about the energy that is freed up and the happiness that is created the more we travel our path of living our very own handmade life.
It was scary to make this huge decision to do something so far out of the mainstream. There were a lot of logical and rational reasons for our choice. Those factors aside, I knew intuitively it was the right thing for our child and our family, at least for now, and I simply felt called to do it. I thought homeschooling might feel like swimming upstream against the current of societal norms. What I found is that continuing to resist doing this was swimming against OUR current, and that’s the much bigger stressor. Taking the plunge = living in alignment with our truth.
Camille Williams is a mom of two boys, wife, and midwife who loves living, working and playing in Providence. She blogs about home, family and parenting, midwifery and women’s health, homeschooling, and life in a bicultural family at www.camillewilliams.net. Whatever the topic, her focus is making the most of the opportunities life hands us to learn how to live and love better, and connecting with others trying to do the same.