Our Decision to Home School

I'm a lucky woman. I get to stay home with my children and raise them myself. Not because it's easy, or because I can't get a job, or because we don't need/want a second income. I do it because I believe that my most important role that I will ever fulfill is that of mother. I believe that NO success can compensate for failure at home.

Am I perfect? NO. Do I have days when I wish I could go to work and leave the chaos at home? YES. But don't we all?

When my oldest child reached school age I had to make some really tough choices about her education. When last September rolled around and it was time to enroll her in kindergarten, I just could NOT do it. I had been putting it off for months. I felt at my core that public school just wasn't the right place for her.

There are lots of reasons to both love and hate public school. And sometimes it's hard to really put your finger on those reasons. But if you've ever had misgivings about having your children in public school, it might be for one of the following reasons:

1) You worry that your child's academic needs are not being addressed. They may be way ahead, or way behind. In either case they aren't getting the attention they need and deserve. The schools do NOT cater to the fast learners. Unfortunately, the "no child left behind" movement also means that "no child can move ahead of the pack". Teachers have to bring up the rear, not blaze trails for the gifted learners. This makes mediocrity not only the norm, but the goal.

2) Your child experiences social injustice, ridicule or harassment at school which impedes the learning process and pretty much makes life miserable for you and your child.

3) Your child's love of learning is being squelched and you can't stand to watch a thriving spirit slowly go numb and die.

4) You are concerned that your children will not be taught correct values or principles at school and will be exposed to demoralizing behavior, practices, theories and personalities.

5) You are concerned that public school is more about forming your child's political opinion while their young minds are susceptible to liberal agendas. Some conservatives go so far as to call public schools "liberal re-education camps". That may be a drastic statement, but I support it...at least to a degree. Just take a look at this clip from a Finnish documentary:

WOW! Yeah, Glenn Beck had a few comments to add to that. You should check his site at www.glennbeck.com and go to the archives for November 7, 2008.

Now, I am not saying that every teacher and every classroom is bad! I have some really fond memories of my education as a child. I went to public school until I graduated at age 18. And I lived! And I learned. And for the most part, it was an acceptable experience. But, at the risk of sounding very much like your grandparents, I have to say that the public school system has continued down a liberal, unionized path over the past few decades that I cannot endure. School just isn't what it used to be even 20 years ago. And my gut told me that public school is simply not where I want my children to learn.

It was a tough decision, but I listened to my gut and did NOT enroll my daughter in public school. So then I had to look at my alternatives, which included private school and home school.

Well, like I said, we're a one-income family and private school is pretty pricey, especially here in the Seattle area. And I had misgivings about home school. I just didn't know if I could do it. I didn't think I could be patient enough, or knowledgeable enough, or fun enough, or dedicated enough, or organized enough to get it right. I mean.....this is my child's education we're talking about! Shouldn't I just leave that to the experts?

I agonized over this decision for a very long time. I consulted friends, teachers, parents, and also my daughter to get her input. Here's what we ended up doing: First, we learned that kindergarten is totally optional in the state of WA. Our state does not even require a child to be in school until age 8.

ISN'T THAT RIDICULOUS? Yes, but true nonetheless.

We ended up taking a multi-faceted plan of action. We made some adjustments in our family budget that allow us to put our daughter in a private Montessori school for just 2 mornings a week. And we also take advantage of a home school program provided by our school district at no additional charge. They will tell you that the program is "free", but really it's just your tax dollars being spent in a different way. You pay for school whether you are there or not! Again...ridiculous. Who else but the government can get away with forcing you to pay for something that is unwanted because it is so sub par?

But this new trend of "public school at home" does seem to be on the rise as parents demand more control of their tax dollars and their children's education.

We chose this path because 1) our daughter is vivacious and extremely social....almost to a fault. And I do have concerns about being able to meet all her social needs with out regular contact from her friends at school. 2) While paying for 2 days at the Montessori school is a stretch, it's doable with a few adjustments to our current habits. However, paying for five is completely out of our budget. 3) I like having 3 days a week when I don't have to rush out the door to school. We can set our own pace and take our time doing home school! So it's been a terrific blend for our family. A really incredible balance of a brick and mortar "school" setting combined with our home school.

If you live in WA and want to check out the "free" online school (virtual academy) you can go to www.wava.org I know they do have online schools for various other states (such as Colorado and Georgia for example).

In March of this year, our budget finally hit the breaking point and I withdrew my daughter from the Montessori program with heave heart. But we have found ways to make up for that in other ways. A future post will explain in more detail how we've been meeting her social needs.

I'll be honest, homeschooling is hard work, even more than I anticipated. We got off to a very rocky start and I had a huge learning curve during the first couple months. But it's getting better, easier, and more fun. And if I had to do it all over again....I would! I can definitely see making home school a permanent lifestyle choice for our family, as long as we continue to find ways that supply social experiences for our children as well.

If you've thought about home school, but you're not sure if you can do it I would just recommend that you start researching, talking, and praying about it. And remember, you don't have to do it forever! You can do it for one semester and see what you think. But do think about it. This is serious stuff that we're up against in the public schools and parents MUST take an active, central part in their child's education.