I have now been teaching our own children at home, commonly referred to as homeschooling, for about 26 years. Of course, the exact numbers of them being at home has varied over time, since there were seven of them and they were born over the span of 13 years.
- Five of the children have graduated from high school level studies,
- four have gone on to college studies,
- two are still making good progress on obtaining specific, marketable degrees,
- two have obtained their college degrees and are working in their field of choice,
- one non-college graduate works part time in management for a local company,
- one died from leukemia just shy of age 14,
- and the youngest child is finishing her last year of totally parent directed studies.
- I also co-taught (3 days a week) and coordinated the study plans for a nephew and niece for 2.5 and 2 years, respectively, from approximately kindergarten to 2nd grade.
In other related facts, or at least things that people often wonder about,
- three of our kids are married
- two of them have children of their own
- they still like to see us frequently
Aside from one short experience of having our oldest take a band class at the local public high school, none of them were ever enrolled in what is considered the “normal” institutional model school. As convinced as I am now of how beneficial a home based education is, it is strange to remember the unlikely way it all started…
I was not researching educational options for the only 2 children we had at the time (ages 3 and 1 years). I was, in fact, simply going along working half time and then some as a nurse, employing babysitters with what in retrospect seems like carelessness, and thinking it was all as it should be. My husband and I were thoughtful enough to think it was better to have one of us with the kids as much as possible, so we alternated shifts and rarely saw each other. I wasn’t unhappy, but I do know there was a particular sort of stress on the family and the schedule because of our choices.
Then, one day when we were driving, my husband, Greg, casually said something like, “What do you think about homeschooling the kids?”
I was speechless for a moment, but only because it was a completely novel idea. I had never heard of it and I didn’t know anyone who did it. I finally asked, “Where did you hear about that?”
“Oh, just this guy on the radio. They teach their kids at home and it sounded like an interesting idea.”
And that was about all we talked about it for a while. However, it sparked something in me that I didn’t even recognize at the time. I hadn’t really thought about staying home with the kids full time. I wasn’t trying to avoid them and I wasn’t searching for deeper meaning in a career. I just had fallen victim to my own public school guidance that everyone gets a job outside of the home. It wasn’t on the government school agenda to teach any priority for family life.
When I think back, I realize that I had no concept of who ran public schools. I felt neutral about my time there. It ‘had to be done’. I liked learning, but I disliked the monotony of the process. I’d had a pretty much middle of the road experience with the government educational system, probably only as positive as it was because I was considered a ‘good’ and ‘compliant’ student. That made the teachers generally like me. I was fairly quiet socially, but had a few friends. I had good teachers and bad teachers. I do have one grammar school locker room fight under my belt when a couple of girls physically attacked me, and in 6th grade I practiced my judo on a boy stealing my purse once. Since I was already labeled one of the good kids, these incidents did not cause any lasting trouble. I graduated with high scholastic honors and a scholarship, so you can see that my choice to teach my own children cannot be attributed to my own struggles with the system. I do now understand how it affected me then in ways I hadn’t identified, but at the time of our initial discussions about ‘homeschooling’ I wasn’t against public schools.
We began to make plans to move to Idaho to be near family, and out of obviously crime saturated Los Angeles. I discovered I was hoping to stay home as a full time mom! Why should someone else be paid to spend all that time with and influence my children. We were thinking about having more children, so it also made sense for me to be home more. Our idea of family life began to change. Unfortunately, at first it looked like I would be the only one of us who could find work there. Nursing jobs were plentiful. Not so much for engineers.
One day, while Greg was up there job hunting, I got on my knees and quietly sobbed, praying very specifically that I didn’t want to be working full time outside of the home. My heart had come home. With audible words, I told God that I knew that if that was what needed to be for now, He would give me the strength to do it. Those were my exact words. Within minutes, Greg called and said he had just been offered a very promising engineering job. What did I think about him accepting it? I started crying again.
Soon I was in Idaho, somewhat unexpectedly, but wonderfully, at home with my 2 youngsters. I started interacting with them on a different level, building relationship in ways that was limited when I barely had time to wash their clothes and hug them before I went out the door to work. It didn’t occur to me that the government would be unhappy with me taking responsibility for my own children. I only learned about government regulations later, when I began to read everything I could get my hands on about resources and ideas for teaching them.
I never liked the term ‘homeschooling’. (But I continue to use it some because that is what many people recognize) I wasn’t sending them to school. I was being with them, guiding them for their benefit, now and later in life. The word ‘school’ has definite overtones of detached conformity. It lacks the implication of personal attention that a parent can give children over the years, while being involved so closely with these matters of education. I wanted to teach my children to explore, create, and be responsible. I wanted to know them and I wanted them to know us. I had a lot to discover about how it would really work over the years, but I could sense the possibilities and I was ready to get started.
You might also be encouraged to read: How to Survive Being an Ignorant First Time Homeschooling Mom.
(Coming: Learning to Articulate Our Homeschool Educational Goals and Philosophy, Separating Homeschool Goals from Public School Standards, and more)