The Homeschool High Dive

Picture this…

You are 8 years old and have climbed the ladder of the high dive at the local swimming hole. Buzzing nerves have you shivering in the scorching heat. Your toes curl around the edge of the roughly textured board, your swim suit is caught in your crack; sunscreen burning your eyes.

Though you have talked a good game from the safety of the pool deck, you have climbed this ladder numerous times always to back down. As you peer over the edge you see your best bud has already bravely leapt to their fate moments before. And though he or she has already bobbed to the surface smiling down below and proving survival, you just cannot seem to take that last step of no return.

All the kids in line behind you are sighing impatiently. “Will you just jump already!” Oh, the shame of backing down in failure. Again. But what if you step off and the pool moves and you land head first on the pavement? Or worse, you land atop that big pot-bellied hairy guy in the speedo sweating into his nachos?!

So you are frozen in place. Panic and bile rising and stinging the back of your throat!

You have come all this way. It is just one more step. Should you leap to the unknown, risking it all? Back down and try again next summer? The lifeguard blows the whistle signaling your time is up. The bully behind you groans, “Go already or get out of the way!”

You almost want someone to just nudge you on over that edge, or maybe talk you back down from that dizzying height. But which do you want most?

Why Do You Need a Push?

Now it may be my imagination, but I believe there are a handful of people who contact me every summer in hopes that I will talk them into homeschooling. They are stricken with indecision and the approaching end of summer break is like that lifeguard’s whistle signaling time is almost up. Either jump off the homeschool high dive or climb back down to the status quo.

I think they are reaching out for me to push them into taking that plunge.

And we all know it is a plunge for anyone choosing to homeschool, but especially for those of us who were not homeschooled growing up. And it is a leap off a rocky cliff for those of us who had to pull our kids out of public school under scrutiny.

When your kids are tucked neatly in school somewhere, there is always a safety net to assign blame for the shortcomings in their education.

  • Kid can’t multiply? It’s the school’s fault.
  • Kid never learned cursive? School’s fault again.
  • Kid eats glue and thinks Thomas Jefferson had a pet dinosaur that invented electricity during WWI? Definitely the school’s fault!

However, if you homeschool and things are just not working out, or your kid cannot tell that nosy stranger when the war of 1812 occurred, you will get all the blame! There is no safety net.

But if you can get someone to talk you into homeschooling, or better yet, push you into it…ahaa!

In all fairness, I do not think these folks are even conscious of their desire to be strong armed into homeschooling. And the attempt to get me to push them to homeschool is certainly not done maliciously.

It all comes from a place of insecurity. The fear of being wrong. The fear of the unknown. The fear of being that weird homeschool family their old public school friends will talk about when they are gone. The fear of not having any like-minded friends.

Fear has them paralyzed with indecision.

The Subtle Plea to be Talked Into Homeschooling

  • It all begins with flattery; which of course suckers me in every time. I mean, I am a homeschool mom. I just finished teaching every subject in two grade levels to three boys without a pay check or end of the year teacher appreciation gift. By all means, flatter me, please! No, I don’t know how I do what I do either! I just get up and splash some coffee in my face and continue one step at time, one foot in front of the other.

  • Next, the conversation turns to how they wish they could homeschool too. This includes a list of the reasons they feel they should homeschool.
  • When I agree with those well thought out reasons, then I get a list of difficulties they foresee will cause them to fail.
  • Of course I empathize with and understand their fears, so they go on to explain how they could probably manage to work through those possible issues.
  • And when I say, “Of course you can!” they call themselves selfish and shamefully explain why they might not really want all that responsibility and no free time. There is no shame in wanting time for yourself, I counter. We all have personal interests and a desire to use the restroom without having to give instructions or threats through the door. Occasionally.

This process sometimes continues through multiple conversations and text messages. I am not complaining, as I enjoy the company. It is good to hear from them. And I like to talk about what I do as much as the next working gal with an illustrious career! (It all boils down to perception. Work with me here.)

I actually enjoy being their sounding board, answering their questions and explaining how we do our thing; the good, the bad, and the ugly. But no matter how much they hem haw around, I simply cannot give that shove over the edge they are subconsciously wanting me to provide.

hem and haw: discuss, deliberate, or contemplate rather than take action or make up one’s mind

I will not say, “You should definitely homeschool. It will fix everything.”

What I will say is that time is wasting. Every year your child is older and their slate is being written upon. You clearly feel something is not as it should be. Do something to affect your dissatisfaction with the status quo or let it go and work with what you’ve got.

My grandmother had the greatest line for these kinds of moments. It went like this:

 or get off the pot.”

I know, right? She was brilliant.

It was these words of inspiration, and her precise sense of urgency that convinced my husband to pop the question of marriage and eternal bliss. (Ahem…you can read about that undying devotion and understanding here: He Said. She Said. A Homeschool Marriage.)

 Why I Refuse to Push Anyone Into Homeschooling

  • To put it simply, I am not coming to your house every day to teach your kids math. That will be your job. I doubt you would want me to pick out the spouse you have to sleep next to every night either.
  • I do not know your kids well enough to know how they will learn best or how you will get them to listen to you and stop bickering over pushing the elevator button. So, the way we do things may not work for you at all.
  • It will be hard and exhausting even on the good days. Something you are not required to endure.
  • Homeschooling is not the only way to raise great kids.
  • I want us to remain friends. No grudges or resentments.
  • There is no cash back bonus or free month of HBO for every person I get to sign on to homeschooling. So just know that I am unbiased in my refusal to push either way.
  • While I’ve totally got your back with homeschool critics. Your extended family’s reaction will be yours to contend with.
  • If you aren’t sure you can do it, well, neither am I. If you are honest with yourself, you know best what you are capable of doing.
  • If you aren’t sure you really want to, well, neither am I. You have to want to homeschool even more than your kids may want to be homeschooled.
  • When it comes down to it, I really don’t care if you homeschool or not. I’ll still like you either way. You are still a great parent. And even if we both homeschool we will probably still have trouble finding time to get together for dinner.
  • I cannot be responsible for your happiness with homeschooling. I am desperately devoted to finding my own and holding onto it.

So How Does Anyone Decide to Just Jump?

Once upon a time all of us homeschoolers stood on that board, toes curling in hesitation. It is an exciting and scary prospect. And I am sure many a public school parent has teetered over the edge only to walk back down the ladder.

I remember calling a mom friend of a friend I barely knew and asking her questions that seem silly when I think about it now. “What do you do all day if lessons only take a couple of hours? Do you do P.E.?” I doubted myself out loud for her to reassure me. But she did not push. She just told it like it was and left me to my inner turmoil.

My kids were not getting younger. Time was flying by. I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I could do it. But it was so…Not me!

I longed for something to happen, a sign that would give me definite assurance it would work. I joke that I asked God to hit me upside the head with a homeschool catalog if this was what I was supposed to do. And just days later He hit me upside the head with the words my child cried one morning before public school.

So I jumped. And though I continued to worry the whole way down, the reasons I wanted to homeschool outweighed the fears of failure and alienation.

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

The fact that you are considering homeschooling means you care deeply about your children, their education, their view of the world and their place in it. If you never feel more of a calling to homeschool than you do to continue with traditional schooling, you will still most likely do the very best for your kids leaving them where they are at.

But if the nagging in the back of your mind keeps you up at night and on the phone with your homeschooling friends all summer, well, just jump already! Tell everyone it is just for a season. You are traveling with a Broadway show for a semester. You are working to save the polka-dotted bearded mosquito population in Zanzibar. Make up a family excuse. Make up whatever you need to save face in case you change your mind, but just try homeschooling for a spell!

The worst that could happen is you realize homeschooling is not what you thought and you put them back in school. But at least, having given it a shot, you will know.

And if, by chance, it does turn out to be everything you hoped and more, despite pure exhaustion and unshaved legs, you will be so proud you jumped on your own. And like me, you will wish you had done it sooner. Then you can call me and complain that I did not push you off the homeschool high dive three summers ago.

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