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Why We Abandoned the "Ideal" of Public School

A lifetime ago I had a child in public school.

(could 7 years be a lifetime? sure feels like it.)

My husband and I never questioned the path our children would take.

Preschool, then public school. 

It had been good enough for us. It was what everyone else was doing. 

We now laugh out loud as we recall our decision to move our family to the "ideal"school system; to find the house where our children would be districted for the "best" elementary school. 

I, of course, was the expert on such things, because I possessed 10 years public school teaching experience, and a Masters Degree in Education.

You could say  I was "invested" in the system. I believed in the "ideal" of public education. If well-educated parents (such as my husband and myself) would abandon the system, what was to become of it? Surely we didn't want the system to collapse?

A lifetime ago my priorities were vastly different. My eyes hadn't been opened to a different way of life. 

I was living the American dream, but there was just one problem: it didn't feel so dreamy.

There was this nagging feeling that my kids just deserved BETTER, that our family was meant to be TOGETHER, and that our decision to send our oldest to school was WRONG. 

I quickly discovered I couldn't sacrifice my own CHILD for an IDEAL.

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The Decision to Leave Public School

That initial period of questioning the public schools was quite uncomfortable. After all, if THEY weren't going to educate my children, who would? 

We had two choices: private school (not financially possible at the time) or homeschool. 

HOMESCHOOLERS.  What a bunch of weirdos.  They were those moms that just couldn't let go of their children so they decided to keep them at home so they would have something to do.

(I know. It's embarrassing - such harsh words. I made so many judgments and said so many things I now regret.)

In my daughter's third grade year I volunteered A LOT in her classroom. I watched as my daughter grew increasingly frustrated with being BORED and having to deal with some behavior issues in her class that really disrupted others' learning.

We would sit up late at night and read lovely books (I later came to discover these gems were called LIVING BOOKS). 

We would fight about ridiculous math homework - after she had already been in school for 7 hours. 

We would try to find books to read in the school library from one particular section - because she could only be tested at her "reading level".

I was watching the school standardize my child - little by little, year by year, and it scared me to death.

Thank GOD my Anna got a stomach virus in the beginning of that year, because then she was HOME. I started to think about what it was like if she would be home all the time and I LIKED that thought. 

I knew a friend at church who had such wonderful (homeschooled) children. She sensed my restlessness and gently encouraged me.  She gave me three books to read.  

I devoured these books on a long car trip we took as a family. I vividly remember talking my husband's ear off about homeschooling. 

The last straw came on a day when I had a conference with my daughter's teacher. We were talking about testing for the gifted program (which Anna had been through the previous year). The teacher told me (and it pains me to type these words) - 

Anna is by no means ‘gifted’, but she is a sweet girl and does anything to please me.

Wow. Talk about a sucker punch. I could handle the "not gifted" part, but I could NOT handle the fact that all this teacher saw in her was a well behaved child that was willing to please.  When I really stopped to think about it - who was a school system to tell me if my child was GIFTED or not? Moms told me they would be in a lower "track" of classes in middle school if they weren't in the gifted program.

It was as if they were determining her fate from the age of 8. 

Ridiculousness. Total ridiculousness. 

What was I doing at home all day (I was a stay at home mom who was working part time) that was MORE IMPORTANT than nurturing my precious child? 

It was at that exact moment that I KNEW we had to get her out of there.

We pulled her out of school at Thanksgiving break and NEVER looked back. 

How I "Started" Homeschool

I still had a son in a sweet little church 4 year old program, so I had Anna to myself each morning from 9-12.

Do you know what we did those first few months?

We READ. And we read some more.  

Charlotte's Web, Trumpet of the Swan, The Borrowers, The Cricket in Times Square & A Wrinkle in Time were among our favorites books during that first year.

And SHE read- the entire Harry Potter series. Twice.

She even read to therapy dogs at our local library - this child loved (and still does LOVE) to read!

We took nature walks. We played at the park. We enjoyed playing games.

I guess we did some "school" those first six months, but I was advised to let her detox from school - and I needed to get to know my little girl. What kind of a learner was she? What really made her tick? I couldn't believe there was so LITTLE I did know about her.

The following year my son was home for school, too. I purchased Sonlight curriculum and the living literature was a perfect fit for us.

He thrived on nature study, the freedom to explore the outdoors, and creativity.

 

We joined a fabulous co-op in our area and I found out that I had MUCH MORE in common with homeschoolers than I used to think! 

I had turned into one of those WEIRDO homeschoolers, and I LIKED IT! 

Those were magical times. They weren't all easy times (nothing ever is), but I do look back on them fondly, and if I am honest I am SO THANKFUL  my husband and I had the COURAGE to step out of a system that doesn't care one bit for my children. 

My husband encouraged me to start a blog because MAYBE I would want to document what we were doing.

Here I am - a little more than six years later.

Bless him.

Why YOU Can Homeschool

If you've been homeschooling for any length of time, you know  the conventional institution of school is completely UNNECESSARY if you want to educate your child. In fact, conventional school is actually a STUMBLING BLOCK in your child's education.  

It's full of standardized tests, silly requirements (hello - Common Core?), and hours and hours of wasted time. 

*I need to interject that I know MANY fabulous public school teachers who care deeply about their children and are good at their jobs.  I know there are some instances that simply prevent homeschooling from being possible. I do not advocate homeschooling as the answer for EVERYONE, but I do believe more people could - and SHOULD - be homeschooling. 

You only get ONE SHOT at educating your kids - why abdicate that tremendous responsibility to others? 

You can do it on your own. 

If you are contemplating homeschool, here's why I know you CAN homeschool:

  • You love your child and know them better than anyone else.
  • You are your child's best advocate.
  • There are ABUNDANT resources - both online and in your local community.
  • Any worries you have about homeschooling will pale in comparison to the worries you will have leaving your child in a system where you have little to no control over what they learn, who they are exposed to, and they ideas that are poured into their little minds.
  • You will learn and adjust and RISE TO THE CHALLENGE - and your child(ren) will learn from you in the process. 

Free eBook - You CAN Homeschool

I've written an eBook - You CAN Homeschool: Encouragement for the Journey.

This book will equip you for the journey ahead, rejuvenate you if you've already been on the journey, and hopefully make you laugh a little, too. 

It's my gift to you, because I want to see you homeschool. I KNOW you can do it!

Simply subscribe to Homegrown Learners to receive your free download. 

Are you on the fence about homeschooling?

Have you been homeschooling for a little -- or maybe a long -- time?

Share your experiences with me in the comments below and let's get a discussion started!