Until this year, we were the outlaws of homeschooling.  Sure we homeschooled for many of the same reasons others do, but we didn’t hang with other homeschoolers. We did our thing, how and when we wanted to do our thing. So until we joined a co-op this year and I dove deeper into homeschool blogging, I was not aware of some of the righteous snarling between homeschoolers.

What the heck!?

Aren’t we all supposed to be about doing what is right for our own families and not what the collective public decides?  And pardon me if I’m out of line, but if you are not listed on our insurance, or know at least three nicknames for each member of this household, you do not get a say on how we do things. No matter how many years you have homeschooled or how many thousands read your blog daily, you have no powers here, Broomhilda.

I brush off most of the snubbing comments I hear and read; such as articles on why I should never worry about testing.  Because I do. It is a big part of how I got into college with a scholarship.  And I want my boys to go to college if they can. And pay for it themselves, or better yet, have a free ride.  And so we practice testing, so they don’t show up for the SAT with a dry erase marker and some bingo chips expecting the fun of a weekly game quiz.

And I also grin and writhe internally as I listen to other homeschool moms bullet list their kid’s weekly activities while I’m left wondering when it is that they actually ‘homeschool.’  Though I am guilty of listing our agenda, it is mostly used as a way of getting out of a request to join yet another group or extracurricular that I probably won’t even mention to my boys for fear I would have to drive them there and spend more of my life sitting and waiting.

But I have been hung up about something I read on a blog a few weeks back.  Something that struck a nerve with my outlook on homeschooling and probably many others who decided to homeschool a little later than the gurus.  It was a condescending remark aimed at those of us who had one or two kids in public school, where everything was going wrong, and we felt we were being socked in the stomach by the outside world. Those of us who had to go in dukes up and shaking in our yoga pants to rescue our babies and bring them home to try something we maybe still are not certain we are doing right!

So her statement went something like this (I’m ad libbing for safety’s sake)…..I can’t stand when homeschoolers say they are taking it one year at a time!  It’s like they already plan to give up.  Homeschooling should be a commitment.  If we really have our child’s best interest at heart, we’ll follow through till they graduate.”

Whoa..whoa..whoa…What?  I don’t remember standing before God and having my family and friends witness me taking a vow to homeschool until graduation or death! I do remember standing in the elementary school front office before a sweet lady I had known for years and seeing the disappointment in her face as I withdrew two high achieving students from the school who needed their scores for funding. I remember the exhileration of freedom as we almost ran from the building in case they were waiting to arrest us or there was a firing squad taking aim when we passed the orange cones at the pick-up line. And I remember thinking “what have I done” for weeks. And still, four years later, quite often I question myself. “Did I do the right thing?”

I did not, however, take a vow to homeschool till the finish line.  Instead, I made a silent promise that day. A promise that I would never quit seeking the best road for raising and educating my kids. No matter how uncomfortable, against the grain, or what looks or comments came my way, I would continuously seek the best educational opportunities I could provide my boys.

But this woman’s haughty comment ridicules homeschoolers for leaving the future open to where it may lead them. And therefore, it infuriated me. Mostly I felt heckled. Because when someone asks me how long we plan to homeschool; which incidentally is a question I find intrusive, my go-to answer is,

“We’re taking it one year at a time.  I don’t know if we will homeschool through high school. But, we will do what is right for us.”

This answer works for homeschool skeptics for two reasons:

  1.  They like to think that there is hope that you will change your mind and see the error of your ways in time to save your poor children from certain doom with a homeschool transcript.
  2. And it proves that you are always looking for the best for your kids and not so close minded that you ignore problems that may arrise. It ensures them that when something doesn’t work you will find a new way. It takes massive amounts of humbleness to admit you do not know everything and are not shutting out the world.

Of course, finding a new way does not necessarily mean you will put them back in public school either. It may mean a new curriculum, enrolling in a university model private school, or even something as small as changing brands of map pencils, because the really expensive ones you bought at the art store keep breaking off in the sharpener!

Some families try homeschooling and find out they just cannot do it for whatever reason; finances, illness. Oddly, too much togetherness seems to be a common dislike among those who say they cannot homeschool.

Still some families realize that they really do not want to homeschool. Maybe they realize the freedom and responsibility to chose curriculum and schedule everything is overwhelming and it puts too much pressure on mom. Perhaps they just miss the pick-up line and perfectly square servings of chilli-mac.

And lets be real, we all know at least one family that really should not homeschool. There is a certain level of organization required to homeschool effectively.  It falls well below the level of compulsive filing and labeling, but definitely above hot mess in pajamas with a naked toddler licking the grocery cart full of beer.  But even then homeschooling still may be possible, if the beer is for a science experiment and the toddler is allergic to most western clothing fabrics. There is probably an oil for that.

So, should you stick with it because homeschool is a commitment like marriage? No way!  The only commitment you have made is to your kids. A commitment to giving them the best opportunities and education to help them become well adjusted, educated, productive members of society.  And if at some point you need outside help to achieve this, it is more beneficial to admit it than be hard headed and committed to a phantom cause that could come back to haunt you.

Basically all she had to say was that those of us going at it one year at a time are weak and just leaving ourselves an excuse for when we are ready to give up.

But to her I say, last I checked homeschooling was not an institution or cult which one signed onto with an oath, blood test and fingerprints.  If we as parents were aware enough to see that something was not right with the public system, and in turn did what we could to make it as right as possible by homeschooling, then we should continue to be on the lookout for what may go wrong. Because life has a way of taking a dump on our good intentions. And we always need to be ready to steer around the mess. (sorry for the analogy; #boymom).

So let’s not alienate the moms who fell into homeschooling out of necessity and are fearful of their abilities. I was one of them. At one point public school was our choice and we were certain it was the right thing for our kids. We were shell shocked to learn otherwise. And with wisely timid steps we have chosen to take on the task of homeschooling, feeling that it is the right thing at this time. But we are ever mindful that certainty is fickle, and needs change. So we forge on doing the best we can, one year at a time.

 

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