I remember when my first child was three, my husband and I contemplated the idea of homeschooling. As a former classroom teacher, I knew exactly what life would be like for my perky little red-haired boy who would soon be expected to be present in a classroom from, say, 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. five days a week. Nicky was reading at age three and a half. I can still hear him reading a short story called, “Who Will Bell the Cat,” in his tiny little voice as I sat on the floor with baby Taylor and sweet little Lauren, age two. I have a tape I recorded that day which preserved for me the sounds of young motherhood and childhood. Talk about priceless.
It really was the thought of putting Nicky on a school bus and not having the pleasure of his company all day long, five days a week that caused me to think seriously about homeschooling. Call me selfish. I had been conditioned to think that sending a young child into a big, strange building with complete strangers was a cool thing to do, that age segregation was the only way to learn, that someone else should be teaching my child the alphabet and teaching him to read. Wait. He already was reading.
Tim and I had just met our first homeschooling family about this time. We were Northern transplants to the South. I had never even heard of homeschooling before moving to the South in 1987. There was one family we knew who homeschooled their children. The mom was an elementary ed-degreed parent like me. Tim and I observed their two boys who were probably ages 8 and 10 at the time, and the first thing I noticed about these boys was their behavior. They seemed extremely mature for their ages and had *gasp* respect for their parents and other adults. They got along well and acted like they liked each other. I was impressed. After observing this family in their natural habitat on different occasions–meaning we hung out at their house–we decided that homeschooling could only be a good thing.
I knew I could teach my kids the educational stuff, but beyond that, I wanted to be the one to influence their hearts AND minds. I wanted to be together as a family. Tim felt the same way. I would say that our educational journey began at that point, but that would just not be accurate. I had already been educating and training my children! Of course it is “normal” for parents to teach their children how to dress themselves, to feed themselves, and all of those life skills that develop early in life, you know, like how to crawl and how to walk.
Wait a minute. I didn’t teach my babies how to crawl or how to walk. They learned those important skills on their own. When they were ready. There is no classroom environment necessary for what pediatricians term “Developmental Skills.” Seriously, think about that.
Why suddenly, when Nicky was age five, did I then wrestle with worry about whether or not we were doing the right thing by not turning our child over to “the professionals?” Isn’t that kind of silly? It seems silly to have worried now, but back then I lacked confidence. Before long, however, it was apparent that we were doing what was best for our family.
The thought of teaching my young children at home soon became a reality. I think that having a college degree gave me more confidence to “teach my kids at home,” but come on! I had been teaching them since birth! I had never had a course in that part of parenting, and 21 years later, I can see that the early years of child training are of the utmost importance in building character and forming lifelong habits. I’d never had a course in that stuff. We just trusted our instincts and prayed. A lot.
Trust your instincts.
If you feel called to keep your children out of the public school system, if you want to be the one to experience the joy of teaching your child to read, to see the spark of joy when all the phonics pieces come together, and most of all, allowing it to happen at your child’s own speed and readiness level, then do it with confidence! You can raise extraordinary kids who impact the world!
Children are naturally curious, and they naturally want to please their parents. Working with my young children and watching them learn, being a part of that process, has been a source of great joy! Mentoring our young adults in the high school years has been relationship-building to a degree that we never imagined!
To have had the privilege of being part of our children’s lives 24/7 with no interference from well-meaning educational institutions has made an enormous difference in the relationships we have with our kids, and that is PRICELESS! That is the bottom-line value to homeschooling, in my opinion.
I have no more babies to teach to read. Lilie just turned nine, and Nicky–excuse me–Nick will graduate from college this year, with six other children in between those two. I have been so blessed as a mom to be able to be with my children, to ENJOY them daily. Sure, I have a bad memory and forget the really hard parts of the early years of lots of babies and lots of diapers and all of that potty-training fun, but some things are best forgotten.
What is so cool and something I will remember the rest of my life is this incredible sense of freedom I have as a parent who is not tied down to a school system’s schedule. My husband and I have total control over our children’s lives and so do you have with your children. You can direct them in the way that you see fit.
Every family has a distinctive flavor all its own. Some families are willingly fragmented each and every weekday from breakfast until dinner time. That is the norm. That is “normal.” If parents choose to outsource the education of their children, so be it. That is the glorious freedom we have as Americans, right? I am not one who would say that every family should home school. It is not the right choice for every family, just like public schooling is not the right choice for my family.
But if you want to educate your children at home, you can do it!
That is my message to you: you can educate your children with excellence in the comfort of your own home! Heck, after about the third-grade level, they even teach themselves!
“But Joanne, how do they learn chemistry? I did terribly in chemistry when I was in school!”
My answer is: you give them the book, or you give them the online course.
I want to raise extraordinary children who grow into extraordinary adults! This is much easier to accomplish through the medium of homeschooling these days for many reasons I don’t have the space to go into at this moment. I know and am convinced that parents can teach their children better at home than teachers in a traditional schooling environment can. How do I know this?
I’ve lived it! I’m still living it!
If my first child had turned out to be a socially-shriveled-up, educationally-stunted piece of work, I wouldn’t be writing this. He didn’t have to score perfectly on the SAT to prove anything to me. I knew he was extraordinary before that happened! His perfect score was merely an outgrowth of his desire for excellence. And our next three kids have all wildly excelled in their respective realms as well, with four more guinea pigs to go. (Extraordinary guinea pigs, mind you.)
Why settle for normal when you can have extraordinary? Every child has the potential for extraordinary! Your children have the potential for extraordinary, and I bet you already know that because you see it in them already. Nourish that potential! The public school system is not likely to do so.
My final thoughts:
Extraordinary is not random; it is the result of attitude, motivation, and mentoring.
You as a parent can provide the attitude to model, incite motivation, and be the best mentor on the planet for your child or children. Homeschooling provides the format for doing so.