Homeschool. We're doing it.
Starting next year, or really anytime we want to, once school lets out next month. I can hardly wait.
We have been slowly inching towards this choice for almost three years. We finally decided about two months ago, and I have been writing, scratching out, and rewriting this blog post ever since. How do I put succinctly all the reasons, all the thoughts and experiences that have led us here?
Then tonight, while washing the dishes, I had an epiphany. It's actually easy to explain because there is really only one reason. Everything else (which is a long list) is bonus.
Our reason is: lifestyle. Our current one is pretty miserable, and has been for years, at least during the school year. We are stressed in the morning and stressed at night. There is always too much to do and not enough time to do it, which leads to nagging, whining, fighting, and total family fatigue. We are all always tired. We are only together when we are at our worst, and we miss each other when we're not. I greedily anticipate school breaks like a predator drooling over prey - I finally get my kids back for a few days or weeks. Those times are my favorite. Not that life is idyllic, but that life is natural again. This feeling is what told me there is another way.
I never gave homeschool a single thought until we actually started school. When I left Hazel at kindergarten for the first time, I thought I was going to die. I thought, how does everyone do this? Oh, it's just because it's your first, people told me. You'll get used to it. I tried to. I gave it a chance. I told my mom how I was feeling, like a part of me had been cut off, and the rest of me was chained to something large and immovable. She told me she knew a woman in her quilt group that homeschools. She got me some literature. It sounded nice, but I was overwhelmed with a new baby, and could not fathom being able to teach my girls everything they could learn at school.
Fast forward to last August, when Hazel started second grade and Ginger entered kindergarten. No easier the second time around. It felt like my heart was cracking, and I could hardly breathe on the way home. I felt anguish, while parents around me rejoiced. Ginger would come home exhausted and completely fall apart, throwing our whole household into tension. Hazel brought home a whole new set of obnoxious "second grade" behaviors we had not seen up to the day school started. Homework, and signing things that came home, became what felt like our only shared activity. I returned to my homeschool research in earnest.
I read books and checked out blogs. Talked with people that had done homeschool, as either a parent or child. My misconceptions slowly reformed into an understanding of how extraordinary a life it can be. And, most importantly to my confidence level, I found hardly any two homeschoolers are exactly alike. What works for you is what works best, seems to be the general attitude. By Christmas, I was considering it. By March, leaning toward it. Then we went on our amazing road trip, and I was hooked on being with my girls, and taking more trips like that one. I just needed to be sure. A week after we got home, I attended the VA Homeschoolers conference, and that was all I needed. The presenters were intelligent, experienced, and eclectic. Their children, those that I saw, were mature, polite, well-socialized, and seemed very...normal. I seemed surrounded by normal, independent, happy people and families. I loved it.
Once we made our decision, I started to think of other "fringe benefits" of life without school, and the list became long, fast. I actually really like our school. I have loved all the teachers we've had. I like the principal and other administrators. We've made some good friends, and the girls have done well. But here are a few things I'm looking forward to:
- No homework, parent/teacher conferences, drop-off/pick-up, mountains of papers to sort through, fire drills, fundraisers, PTA, school district agenda, busy work, teacher gifts, playground drama, mean girls, behavior charts, love triangles, SOL's, peer-learned behaviors, popularity, lice scares, uninformed peer sex ed, mass-pacing, reward systems, security hoops to jump through just to enter the building, bullies, "programs", report cards, parking, lost and found, and social pecking order, just to name a few.
- On the plus side, more freedom, flexibility, time to connect, chances to give the girls attention, peace, meals together, adventures and field trips, learning together, trying new things, self-pacing, traveling, down time, working together, reading together, rest, giving them time and space to be themselves, helping them follow their interests, being our own bosses, making our own agenda, playing, intuitive living, and enjoying childhood.
Do I sound like a hippie? Maybe I am, a little. (Always have been, a little.) We'll still do work. Learning and education will still take place. It's just going to be on our own terms. When I think about the possibilities, I feel an intoxicating giddiness about our future, like I haven't felt since we moved to Virginia, and before that, since Ed and I got married. It's the exact opposite of the feeling of dread I have each year when the kids are supposed to go back to school. I expect the going may be rough at first and at times. But this is something our family needs, at least to try. It will be an experiment.