Earlier this week, I wrote about getting rid of the last of our home school books, which we hadn’t touched for over six years. I talked a bit about why I kept them around so long, and why it was so hard to make the decision not to home school anymore — especially considering that the photo above was taken on the first day of school, while I was teaching in the next room.
The feral kid is fine, by the way. Wears pants and everything.
I was wondering if you could say a few more words about how sending your kids to school is helping your family. What are the benefits that those of us on the homeschool side are missing? I have always wondered what it would be like to send the kids to school. How has your family benefited from this choice?
I would be really interested to hear your specifics: what were your fears and why they weren’t rational, why didn’t you feel that the “blessings” that are supposed to accompany homeschooling were being realized, how traditional school has benefited your kids/parenting, and how did you discern the difference between frustrations that indicate homeschooling is the objectively wrong choice for your family and frustrations that are simply tempting you to give up something worth it but hard. That last one is, I think, the crux of people’s conundrums.
First, I want to be clear that I’m talking about my and our experience. I don’t have any grand theories about education in general, and I know there are as many different ways to do it as there are people, and then some. I write about our transition mainly to help other people sort through their experiences. I never encourage people to quit home schooling! For many people, home schooling is the best choice (and for many others, it’s the least bad choice). I only encourage people, especially unhappy parents, to realize that change is not necessarily the same as failure.
But you’re busy, so I’ll condense my thoughts into a quick pull quote:
I think that all home schoolers are arrogant, repressed weirdos, and I am gleeful about turning my children over to the state so they can catch atheist HPV from Dungeons and Dragons. And I say this because I’m bitter and feel guilty. Now leave me alone so I can give my kids their Adderall-n-bits, which I serve them with a side dish of not learning cursive.
I was afraid we would be scorned and rejected because we’re a big, weird, Catholic family and we dress kind of funny and our van is dirty. This didn’t happen (or maybe I just don’t know about it! Either way, no worries). Well, the high school kids think our van is creepy, because they’ve been told that vans are creepy, but oh well. The high school kids do have to put up with some trash talk about religious people, but they can take it. Not a bad thing to get used to dealing with. In our charter school, which goes up to grade 8, there is nothing of the kind. We feel right at home, we have guests over, the kids have friends, the other moms talk to me, etc.
And I’ve learned that lots of people, even those who look like they’ve really got their act together, feel like they don’t fit in, so I try to work harder to be welcoming, rather than being defensive against people who I’m afraid won’t welcome us.
Why weren’t the blessings of homeschool being realized?
I knew that I couldn’t do everything, and that home schooling meant that other things would be sacrificed. But at a certain point, everything was being sacrificed, and nothing was being done well. The kids weren’t learning as much as I wanted them to, they weren’t having good extra-curricular experiences, the house was a wreck, dinner was out of control, we were broke all the time, and I was in an agony of anxiety at all times, and would have emotional breakdowns regularly. It wasn’t just that some things were getting the short end of the stick — it was that there was no long end.This being the case, I started asking some hard questions about why we were still doing it, if the benefits were so few and far between. I realized that it came down to pride, guilt, and fear: those were my main motivators.
Pride: I wanted to be That Amazing Home Schooling Family, rather than That Family With Happy, Stable, Educated Kids. That’s-a no good.
Guilt: My sister once said that someone gave them a couple of pretty white couches. She immediately covered them with slipcovers, to keep them from getting dirty. Some time later, she realized that the slipcovers had to stay on, or else everyone would see how dirty her couches were. She had no idea when the transition happened, but there it was. I was home schooling, in part, because somewhere along the line I had transitioned from protecting my kids from the outside world, to hiding my kids from the outside world. And as it turns out, I had some things to regret. There were some ways that I hadn’t done well by my kids, it hurt for other people to see this. But it had to happen, if I wanted things to change.
Fear: Well, I think I’ve covered this one. I also had a lot of fears about the kids getting shot, getting kidnapped, etc., if they were out of my sight, and I really had to be weaned off this. We are still careful about safety, of course, but I no longer feel like it’s inherently dangerous for my kids to be away from me.