August 27, 2012

The Homeschooling Question

I've started writing this four times.  For some reason, I've had a hard time putting it out there.  Maybe that's because I know it's gonna be a long one.  If I were you, I would go and make a coffee and then sit down to read this.  :)

In the fall of 2011 I started homeschooling two of my kids, ages 6 and 4, after two years of having my daughter in a french public school.  Those two years of public schooling were alot of stress on my daughter and I for a number of different reasons and I felt homeschooling was the only way to get out of that.  She has always been a very creative personality (not unlike myself) and her learning style does not easily fit the structure of the general classroom.

The homeschooling started out great.  I was planning my own lessons, not following a set curriculum, which I thought was the best for my daughter considering her personality.  I would tailor the lessons to her.  My main goal for the first year was for her to learn that learning is fun.  Problem was, I didn't have alot of structure (which I need), so I constantly felt overwhelmed by the lack of a system.  That's kind of ironic since I wanted to get out of the "system" of schooling.  Now I think there should be a healthy balance of structure and free-form.

Slowly throughout the semester, I started feeling more and more overwhelmed.  I felt I couldn't supply everything my kids needed as far as academics.  I mean, I think I'm pretty smart, but again, it was the structure I was lacking.  I wasn't sure how much they were learning and I wasn't sure if I was engaging them enough.

But there were more challenges than just that.  Important people in my life openly disagreed with our decision to homeschool, I was at the beginning of my fourth pregnancy (exhaustion and nausea were prevalent), I didn't purchase a complete curriculum, and to be honest, I felt a little overwhelmed by the homeschooling community.  What I mean by that is, I didn't yet feel established in my homeschooling lifestyle and I was pressuring myself to be involved in the large homeschool community in our area.  I just didn't feel like the timing was right for us, so we stopped homeschooling by the end of the year.

I asked God to help us find a great school in our city.  I know there are many great schools, but I specifically wanted the school that fit my kids and our family just right.  I detailed the most important things I wanted when I made my request.  I visited a few different schools close-by, and knew when I found the right one.  After that, everything became peaceful.  Every important detail was covered, my kids adjusted well once they started school and our entire home atmosphere changed.

I do believe I will homeschool again in the future, so I definitely haven't ruled it out.  I am so happy for the people in my life who have made the step to homeschool recently - I think it can be a huge blessing to the family unit and to the community.  There is a major misconception out there among christians that if you take your child out of school, you're taking the "lights" out of the school system.  I have heard that directed at my family when my mom chose to homeschool us almost 20 years ago and I've heard the same argument lately.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think this one in particular is a very narrow-minded thought.  I believe every family has to make their own choice according to the needs of their children, their lifestyle choices and their vision for the future.  There's so much more I could say about this, but I will leave it at that.

So when and if we decide to homeschool again, there are a number of things I would do differently.  Perhaps this will help you if you are thinking of homeschooling your children.

1.  I would make sure to do more research on curriculum and purchase the full load right away.  This sets an overall structure if you are not a natural "teacher", like me.

2.  I would ease into the homeschooling community.  I would take my time getting to know my kids' learning styles and get comfortable with that before even thinking about sharing my talents with other families.  As I said before, this was a pressure I felt from myself.  The thought of teaching other kids, combined with teaching my own kids, just about smothered me.  There are lots of opportunities within the homeschooling community - much, much more than in the public system.

3.  I would be firm in my decision and make sure it is definitely something I want to do.  On the hard days, your internal drive to homeschool may be the only thing working in your favor.  Make sure the "why" is a big one.  There are lots of opinions out there against homeschooling, and if you're unsure, these opinions could potentially pull you down.

4.  I would be easier on myself.  I've learned to give myself a chance to try things out.  If I don't like it, I can always change it.

So, for now, I love the fact that my kids are starting school in another week.  I love it that my kids get to experience different things in life.  I want them to be open-minded about learning.  Hey, even my experience with homeschooling was a great learning experience for me!  Looking back, I wouldn't change any of it.  :)

And before I go, I'll leave you with a few photos of our recent vacation to Quebec.

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