Sunday, October 11, 2009

A risk, a decision.

I started researching homeschooling a few months before EJ started kindergarten. It was my fear response. What if he hates it? What if the school is awful? What if his teacher is a hag? (Sorry, his teacher was wonderful as I believe most are. Remember this is my fear talking). Could I, would I want to...dun dun duuunnn, homeschool!

What I've found along the way has changed my previous perception of what homeschooling is and who is doing it. Much of the curricula marketed to homeschoolers is Christian or Bible based which is in line with the common perception that most homeschoolers are strongly Christian. But what I immediately discovered, thanks in part to people I've met online, is that there are more parents choosing to homeschool from a secular perspective. They might be Christian (for example) or atheist/agnostic, but their reasons for choosing to learn from home are varied and don't necessarily involve religious belief. Learning this helped me to understand that homeschool is an option for us if I want. However, as much as I have changed my tune on homeschooling it still feels like a risk and I have until now kept the idea in the back of my mind, mainly as a back up plan.

I've been thinking and reading about homeschooling quite a bit since then. I ordered a book called "Homeschooling and Loving It", it was free (for a limited time with coupon code LSS). I told myself I can order this, it doesn't mean I've decided to homeschool. I also picked up (for the second time) Alfie Kohn's "The Schools Our Children Deserve" and a new book by Todd Farley "Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry" (seriously, this is a must read if you have kids in public school).

I also had an epiphany. It occurred to me that I tend to avoid making decisions on issues that feel risky to me. And let me leave no doubt, deciding to homeschool is not a decision to be taken lightly, it is a risk. The risk isn't whether I am capable of teaching my children, I know that I am. The risk is that I or my kids will hate it. That I won't be organized enough, that I'll miss teaching them something crucial, etc. In the case of homeschool, I would tell myself "if he starts to dislike school", "if his teachers cross the religion line", "if he and his teacher just aren't a good fit", THEN I'd homeschool. In a nutshell, I was looking for an excuse to present itself that would make the decision easier, less risky.

Armed with a better understanding of the failings of traditional school and my new found self awareness, something odd happened. I realized that I had already made the decision. I wanted to homeschool EJ next year. I let that roll around in my head for a week or so barely believing I had made the decision. I wasn't ready to approach my husband. I didn't know what he would say and it wasn't the right time. He was in the midst of looking for his first job after residency, we didn't even know where we'd be living this time next year. Happily I can report that he was offered and has accepted a job in Northampton Massachusetts. We are ecstatic! We feel it will be a great area for us to live although it's still far from our family. This job doesn't start until next summer, he still has to finish his last year here, so that gives us a lot of time to think about the move. We were talking about renting a home while making dinner the other day and T said we'd have to think about where the good schools are before we decided. I immediately blurted out "well, I've been thinking that I'd like to homeschool EJ next year so if we did that it wouldn't matter". Without even skipping a beat he told me he thought I'd be an excellent teacher to our kids. That was it. No convincing needed, no incredulous "are you kidding me?"  I don't know if he's totally on board, but once again I am reminded that for the most part he trusts me to make these big decisions about the kids even if I don't always trust myself. I haven't talked to EJ about this at all yet and of course I need to. He loves school and I know he loves the friends he's made. Moving is going to be hard on him and I don't know whether he'll accept my plan to keep him home. I'm going to have to think carefully about how to approach him and when, most likely it won't be until after we've moved and settled in a bit.

Have I mentioned before that I'm a researcher by personality? That I analyze everything? That I always try to be objective and see different perspectives? It will probably take me the next 9 months to feel fully confident in this decision and to get T in on the plan so that he and I are on the same page. I want him to be involved too, there are things he would teach much better than I could, a different perspective is always a plus too. But yes, I think this is what we will be doing. I might change my mind, but if I do it will be because of my fear and that's a bad reason. So for now I am operating under the premise that EJ will be homeschooled next year. Most likely I will keep JD in school through Kindergarten, although I expect after that I'll keep him home as well.

Soon I will write on the some of the specific reasons I have decided home learning is what I want for my kids. But enough for now.


S said...

I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. :)

One thing to keep in mind is that many homeschooled kids, at some point, want to go (back) to school. FG begs me to let her go and she's not even old enough :) What the parent needs to figure out is: Is this a decision that the child gets to make at this time? and Do they really want to go to school or is it just the idea of school?

One of my friend's son was asking to go back and she decided that he's not old enough to make the choice (2nd grade). When asked, he doesn't want to give up the homeschool activities either. He really wants to do both but it doesn't work that way.

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