I’m a homeschool mom.
I know, I know, this is where a load of assumptions are downloaded and you cock your head a little bit and think to yourself, “I could never do that.” I get it. I was you. I never thought I would ever be a homeschool mom. As a matter of fact, I fought against the idea for a long time, so much so, I even became a public school mom.
My husband and I were both schooled in the traditional sense for the most part. I spent 100% of my years in public school. He spent 90% of his years in public school. The only exception for Tom was one year (maybe even half a year?) where he got mono, fell behind, and ended up having to catch up at home rather than repeat a year.
So needless to say, when my husband started to suggest the idea of us homeschooling our kids, I was caught a little off guard.
“Why?” was my first question, and “Who?” was my second question. Who exactly did he expect would be doing this schooling from home? Me? You see, Tom and I are blessed in that we are both at home parents. For the past six years, our online business we run together has allowed us the financial blessing of escaping the traditional 8-5 work schedule. So if he thought I was the natural choice for such an undertaking, he had another thing coming. When I say “we run our business together” I mean I run it. So no, I wasn’t about to pick up homeschooling. But he was welcome to knock himself out.
And he did. For a few days. He successfully homeschooled our daughter (she was in pre-school) for the better part of a week before it fizzled out. So when the time came for her to go to Kindergarten, the homeschool conversation was pretty short and ended in us signing her up for public school.
By Thanksgiving, I knew I had made a big mistake. We were going to need to homeschool. We discovered right away there were a number of things traditional schooling would never give our kids, and a number of ways it would hinder and restrict them.
We stuck it out for the school year but ultimately withdrew her and began her first grade year under my lead–God help us both. As I write this, we are six weeks away from completing our second year in homeschool (second grade) and my sons first years (Kindergarten and pre-school). We’re not just surviving, we’re thriving. Yes, I run a business that pays all our bills. Yes, I write this blog and am working on a book. Yes, we have a farm that comes with a number of responsibilities. Yes, I travel A LOT and have a complex schedule. Yes, we coach, volunteer, are involved in church, and do a number of other things. Despite it all… we are thriving.
And here’s the most surprising part for all parties involved: I love it. I really, honestly love homeschooling. Even with all the challenges, there is no question in my mind this is the better way for our family.
What I find fun, though, are the questions we repeatedly get as homeschool moms… questions I used to wonder myself as well. Questions like:
What about socialization?
What qualifies you to teach? Why do teachers have credentials if just anyone can teach?
How do you do it? I could never!
Now that I’m on the other side of these questions, I find them silly and a touch patronizing if I’m being honest.
What about socialization? Usually the people asking me this question actually know my kids in real life and know they are some of the more social and outgoing ones, so this is often confusing. But on occasion, when I’m asked this by someone who doesn’t know my family, I explain my kids–like public school kids–are in social situations everyday. They’re at the store, they’re on field trips, at museums, with their siblings, with their parents, and with their neighbors and at friends houses. They–like public school kids–play all the same sports (through the school a lot of times) everyone else plays. My sons play baseball and soccer. My daughter rides horses and does softball. All of them are also in Sunday school every week with other kids. There are also a number of co-ops and school groups they can be a part of as well. I’m not sure where people think homeschool happens, but we’re still on earth with all the people.
Most people don’t homeschool to separate. They homeschool to set apart.
What qualifies me to teach? This is my favorite… I’m their mom. That’s what qualifies me. And frankly, there isn’t a teacher on this planet who cares more about my kids education than I do. There isn’t a teacher who is going to advocate more for my child’s needs than I am. On that note, my public school mom friends are often in the school office or phoning the principle to discuss their child, things that are happening at school, unfair treatment, special needs, etc. Public school doesn’t suit the individual, it suits the group.
There is not a person on this planet more qualified than me. And because all three of my kids have a different ways of learning and different speeds of learning, there isn’t a better environment than one tailored to them specifically.
Teachers have credentials and go to school to teach because I’d imagine it’s a lot harder to teach 30 kids with different needs, learning styles, strengths, and disciplinary backgrounds, especially when none of them are your own and you will only be allowed to do so much. Being a teacher these days seems like an impossible job. Y’all are saints! But a credential is a requirement of the state and is a recent one at that. People have been teaching kids for centuries, long before the state told them how. That piece of paper will never trump the parent’s qualifications endowed to them when they gave that child life.
I mean, let’s be real, if that child of mine doesn’t end up being a contributing member of society and ends up an unhireable deadbeat… whose dime do you think that will land on? Yep, it’s mine. It’s not the teachers or the school. So I promise you I’m invested in making sure I get it right.
To this point, I have to wonder why any parent takes the gamble of lending their child over to strangers when the repercussions of a potential failure to thrive lands on them. This was alarmingly clear to me when I observed two men lamenting over their twenty-something year old, unemployed sons who were sucking them dry financially. “Where did we go wrong?” They asked each other. Handing our kids over to the world is a big gamble.
So on the flip side, while us homeschool mom’s are over here being weirdos, a public school mom will never have to answer the questions:
How do you rectify not knowing what your kids are being taught each day?What if you don’t agree?
How do you handle bullying and your child’s emotional well-being when you don’t know/see what’s happening?
How do you navigate your child being exposed to sex at such young ages?
What about school shootings? Do you worry about that?
How do you feel about relinquishing your influence as a parent?
These are probably questions you’ve never been asked as a public school mom, and you’re probably feeling a little defensive and put off as you consider them, right? Please know my heart… I’m not trying to be a butt. I’m trying to show you the other side of the coin. It doesn’t feel good to be in the hot seat.
The reason we ultimately had to leave the public school system is this: When we go with the flow, sometimes we get swept away downstream. In my opinion… and that’s all I can offer you here… this is what public school is all about. We’ve lost touch with what we’re sacrificing and giving up as parents because it’s more “normal” and socially acceptable to just follow that status quo, which of course is to drop our kids off at the bell.
Although I’m super grateful I haven’t had to be on the defensive about why I’ve decided to homeschool, I actually really want to move to the offensive. Have you thought about why you do public schooling or was it just an autopilot decision? Have you looked into homeschooling? I want to encourage more mom’s to do it. I want you to know you can! I’m here as an advocate for the non-traditional. I promise you, you’re capable!
I know homeschool doesn’t feel like an option for a lot of people, although I absolutely believe whether you work full time, don’t feel qualified, don’t think you can afford to, or even don’t want to homeschool… you absolutely can. If you can’t homeschool your kids, consider that you can absolutely still be the number one source of education, information, truth, love and even socialization for your child. I’m even going to say you SHOULD be.
But you can’t do it if you’re playing from behind. I recognized right away when my daughter entered into Kindergarten I went from being an offensive parent– encouraging my kid, leading her, guiding her– to a defensive parent– correcting her, questioning her, being caught off guard by her words, thoughts and behavior.
We can do better, Moms. We can play a bigger role. We ARE qualified. We CAN do it. We DO care the most. And it is OUR child. Their future is OUR responsibility. Please know I am not judging here… I want you to feel empowered to make a hard choice.
As to the last question I get asked all the time… How do you do it? Well, the answer is simple.
I have to.
I don’t always want to. I don’t think I can most days. I wonder if I’m doing it right and messing them up absolutely all the time. But I know I have to. God gave these tiny humans to ME… not their teachers. This is MY job. When a mom says “I would do anything for my kids” in one breath and then “I could never do that” in another, I have to challenge you…
Of course you can. If not you, then who? Who do you trust with your child’s heart and soul more? Motherhood is a tricky beast. I’m always afraid. I’m constantly doubting. It’s hard. And there are parts we’re going to do wrong, no matter what we do. But sister, you were BORN for this. God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.
He’ll equip you.
“Every family is called to teach them diligently.” Deut. 6:7 (emphasis mine).
If faith is important to you, please pay close attention because this is the piece that matters most… What is your most important job as a parent? It’s not to prepare your kids for college. It’s not actually to prepare your kids for the world either. It’s to prepare your kids for heaven. And with around two thirds of Christian kiddos leaving the church by their mid-twenties, we’ve got to wonder what the heck is going on.
As a former Atheist, let me tell you it’s because without a firm foundation, it’s just too easy to doubt. Create that foundation. Anchor in that world view. Fight the ONLY fight that matters. Our kids are counting on us.