This is, by far, the most common question I get when I tell people that we homeschool. So why did we decide to homeschool our three children? It was not a decision we made easily, quickly, or took lightly. Here's how it unraveled:
I met a homeschooler for the first time when I was in college. She had been homeschooled her entire life and started college at age sixteen. I had never met someone who had homeschooled before and was fascinated by her description of her childhood. It was so very different than what I had experienced growing up. While she was able to fully explore her interests and talents, and have input in her own education, I was trapped in the mass-produced, one-size-fits-all factory of public school, where I was told what to study, when to do it, and for how long. This former homeschooler had a different outlook on life. She was smart, talented, ever optimistic, and wasn't afraid to take risks when pursuing her passions.
Don't get me wrong - I ended up getting a very well-rounded education in public school. I read Dickens and Dostoevsky, learned how to create a thesis and write a coherent paper, speak Spanish, understand the basics of math and science, and participate in a good music program. I'm certainly not anti-public school and I have tremendous respect for the many dedicated teachers who work there, but I realize that like any system it has it's limits. There is a different, more meaningful way to learn and I guess that is why we homeschool. We're able to focus on the process of learning, to find the joy and wonder in discovery, and to let go of the product - the grades, the gold stars, and the rewards.
Still, it took many years for us to finally make the decision to homeschool. My oldest child went to preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. Though I was seriously interested in homeschooling him, I was extremely nervous about even trying it. Would he like it? Would he be lonely? Would he be bored? Would I be patient enough? Would I go completely insane being home with three young children full time? When we seriously started looking into homeschooling after D's first grade year it felt like we were jumping off a cliff. Despite all the research and soul searching it still felt like we were taking a risk. And ultimately for me, the most difficult decision lay in whether or not I should put my career on hold for a time in order to be home with my family. That was a very difficult decision to make, but I'm so glad that I did make it!
I asked my nine year old, who has been homeschooling for a year and a half and took to it like a fish to water, why he enjoys homeschooling. Here are his top five reasons:
1. It is fun.
2. At our homeschool co-op I get to play with my friends and take fun classes like cooking, theater, and rocket science.
3. I can sleep in and eat whenever I want!
4. I get to choose what I study.
5. I get to choose when I do my work.
So there you have it - from the mouth of a nine year old homeschooler.
At a recent field trip I met a lovely homeschooling mom from California who said, of teaching our own children, that "we teach their hearts". This statement is so simple but it means so much to me. As homeschoolers we teach so much more than the 3 R's. My children are learning so much, all the time, and I am lucky enough to be a part of it.