I feel like homeschooling families get a lot of questions, simply because we aren’t doing the “normal” thing. The top of the list is of course, “Are you crazy?”. The other question that is asked a lot is, “Why did you decide to homeschool?” It seems like it should be such a simple question to answer and a lot of homeschoolers I have met give short answers about the school system, the teachers, or possibly just that their child was too far ahead academically. Rarely are these answers the full story, but we know that society as a whole isn’t usually interested in the full explanation of why the choice to homeschool was made. For my guest post on Hip Homeschool Moms, I decided to write about the whole adventure that lead to our choice of homeschooling. I hope you enjoy!
When we were getting ready for my now 6 year old, Big Kid, to start school I gave thought to homeschooling from the start, just based on instincts, plus my being insecure and upset about him being big enough to go to school. I eventually decided to send him to the public school because I didn’t want MY issues to “hold him back” and the reality was I didn’t know how he did in school so it was important to me to see how he did. In addition to all that I didn’t feel secure enough in myself that I could give him a proper education here and was completely overwhelmed at the idea of curriculum.
Kindergarten went well enough for him. It was a hard adjustment for the first trimester for both him and me. There were a few rough times and one day where he refused to talk at all despite the best efforts of the teacher, assistant, and his classmates. I still kept having him go because overall he was happy enough and he loved his teacher and he was learning a lot of other things from being in the classroom.
Keeping him in kindergarten came with negatives too. We couldn’t do ANY extracurricular stuff at all. No basketball, soccer, or fun things and we always ended up with what I called a “case of the Saturdays” because he was SO exhausted from being “on” all day from 7:30am until 3:30pm. He was grumpy and difficult at home after school no matter what I tried in order to fix it. I only saw the “bad” times, and it was extremely difficult for my relationship with him.
All that said, I sent him starting 1st grade too. I hoped that maybe the second year would be better since he was used to the routine. Homeschooling still seemed completely overwhelming to me, and I honestly wasn’t sure I had the patience to deal with it given that I could barely handle him from 3:30pm-7pm every day. I really worried if I could handle him all day AND manage to teach.
1st grade saw the exact same behavior after school, but amplified times 10. He was completely impossible in the afternoons. The weekends were difficult and it was affecting everyone in the family, even the ones that don’t live here.
Added to the behavior, he wasn’t telling me ANYTHING that happened at school. This happened in kindergarten too, but I was so busy trying to adjust that I didn’t really notice. He didn’t want to talk about school at all no matter what way I tried to ask. I relied entirely on his teacher to tell me anything. It was like he was holding this little ball of “dislike” (I hesitate to use “hate” only because of his age) and just wanted to ignore it completely and pretend it wasn’t there.
He also wasn’t learning anything academically. He was ahead in reading and math in kindergarten too, but it was even more obvious in 1st grade. Still, I kept ignoring my gut and just passed it off as the teacher figuring out where everyone was at the beginning of the year. Then I found the “end of the year goals” for all the 1st grade classes, and was astonished. By the end of the year they were going to be covering material that my 4 year old knew 99% of already. It is the state implemented goals as well as the district. It is where the kids are supposed to be by the time they get to 2nd grade. This isn’t to say that Big Kid is brilliant, he isn’t; smart yes, but prodigy? No.
Around the second week of school he also started coming up with reasons he couldn’t go to school. He was sick, his head hurt, his eyes hurt, he was too tired, he had to pee as SOON as the bus pulled up to the driveway, etc. It was every day, non-stop. I tried to talk to him about it but he refused. My husband tried, my inlaws tried, even his sister tried. He wasn’t talking about it. Also, for the record, I made him go every one of those days unless he was ACTUALLY sick with a fever or something. I didn’t coddle him or let him get out of it, no…you go to school, you are GOING to school.
That was the point when I started looking more into homeschooling. I needed to figure out the state regulations, paperwork, etc. I also needed to figure out what curriculum we could use where he was having a lot of fun, but here I also felt like he was learning the things I considered important. I knew in order to homeschool I needed to find material that I felt comfortable teaching. I also talked to my husband a lot about it when Big Kid was in bed so that he would have no idea it was even an option. I did NOT want his behavior to change based solely on the fact that he *may* be homeschooled soon. I didn’t want what was already going on to be amplified.
My husband and I eventually decided that we would try homeschooling for at least this year and see how it went, re-evaluating each year and going from there and always keeping Big Kid’’s preferences in mind as well. If he wanted to go to public school he would be allowed to, with the understanding that if he says “I want to do 3rd grade in public school,” that it meant that he did ALL of 3rd grade at public school.
We asked Big Kid what he thought of the idea, and he said it seemed neat. It was all still completely hypothetical to him. He had a day when he was sick, actually sick, and he wanted to “do school,” so I threw together a bit of a lesson and we went with it. He loved it.
At that point I got together all the paperwork, got the curriculum, etc…but never told Big Kid that it was GOING to happen until the day the paperwork came in. I told him on a Monday, and that Thursday was going to be his last day (it was a short week). He was SUPER excited.
Now that we have been homeschooling, I see that it is absolutely the right choice for us at this point. His mood has completely changed, and I actually really ENJOY spending time with him vs before when I was just waiting for the next freak out or tantrum. Being homeschooled hasn’t left him constantly overstimulated by the goings on around him and has let him focus on learning things, which is what he REALLY enjoys. We get to do cool things like drawing in clay tablets after learning that Sumerians and Egyptians wrote that way, and they were the first 2 sets of people to have writing (that we know of).
It wasn’t one single factor that lead us to homeschooling; it was the combination of all of them together. Any few here or there would have been one thing, but all of it together was what pushed us to it. Big Kid and I are both much happier as a result plus he can do things like basketball, piano, music class, martial arts, and other activities now that he couldn’t before. He really enjoys these activities, and it is great to see him be able to have different experiences.
Little Kid (now 4) is due to start kindergarten in the fall and we are yet again faced with the choice to either homeschool or not. I am going into this process with much less reservation only because we have been homeschooling and I know I enjoy it. I know I can handle it and am feeling more comfortable with it every day. Of course Little Kid is a very different kid when compared to Big Kid. In fact she is pretty much the polar opposite of him in just about every way. She may enjoy public school and being with other kids every day, or she may not. We will have to see when we get there! My husband really would like her to at least try kindergarten so she can see what it is like. I am more on the fence about it so my husband and I still have a bit of talking to do!
There are many reasons families choose to homeschool. When people ask at the store, they typically don’t want the “full story,” but I thought there might be those out there that were interested in it!
My name is Shannon and I am a homeschooling mom from Vermont. I homeschool my 6.5 year old and my 4.5 year old, as well as run a small side business when my husband is home from work. In my free time I enjoy reading, baking, and hanging out with our four cats. You can find my blog at http://newadventureshs.
wordpress.com/ , and you can find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ NewAdventures4.