But she seems so normal.

Home schooling just seemed weird.

Not normal.

I pictured families with 20 kids, living on farms, who argue via Bible verses, sew their own clothes and participate in food co-ops. Home schooled children must have awkward social skills, skewed ideas of gender roles in society and a limited ability to work well with others. They also struck  me as families that must be extremely judgmental and unable to respect others’ religious, political or personal beliefs. I also assumed that home school families stuck together like a cult, built thick walls to keep all of us “main-stream”, public school, non-religious minded families from negatively influencing their flock.

Yes, I was being judgmental by procuring such a ridiculous stereotype.

Not one of my prouder moments.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of talking to another gymnastics mom while we waited for our kids to get out of their summer practice. I had seen her in passing a few times, but since our children generally did not practice on the same day during the school year, we hadn’t had many opportunities to speak. Ironically, it turned out that we live just a couple blocks from each other. After visiting with her a few times, I remember  saying to a mutual friend, “Man, I really like that mom. She is so funny and stylish. And her kids are amazing, so articulate, smart and witty!”

“You know she home schools, don’t you?” my friend replied.

“Really? But they seem so normal.” I said stunned.

Open mouth. Insert Foot.

The Hare sporting a sassy haircut

Fast forward four years and picture a worn-out, red-rimmed,  frustrated fourth-grader sitting at my dining room table at 10 o’clock at night. She has just finished a full day of school, a four-hour gymnastics workout and an hour of homework. Almost everything has been completed, even the make-up work from missing school for a gymnastics competition. Everything, except the mind-numbing task of coloring in a map that she has already studied and labeled correctly.

“Can I just do this in the morning over breakfast?” she whines, blurry-eyed.

“Yes, go to bed sweetie. This coloring is just busy work anyway,” I said scooping up my sleepy child.

Within minutes of tucking her in to bed, she was sound asleep. I couldn’t help but think about the increased anxiety, emotional outbursts and sleep walking The Hare has displayed this school year. She has cried many times about how much she hates fourth grade. Don’t get me wrong, fourth grade is a tough year, especially for girls. It’s the year that they start getting real grades and graded homework. It is the year that clicks start forming, personalities clash and responsibilities increase, but my daughter’s personality just seems to be taking a bigger beating this year than her older sister.

“Do you think The Hare’s schedule is too overwhelming?” I asked DW while we snuggled in bed.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean, do you think that maybe we need to reconsider this gymnastics thing?”

“Of course not, she loves it and has potential to reach the goals she has set for herself. If she truly wants to compete in college then we have to stay on this path.”

“So what if we stayed on this gymnastics path but changed something else?”

“What in the world are you talking about?” he said sitting up.

“I’m talking about home school. Maybe we should consider our options so she can have a better quality of life right now and less stress.”

I fully expected DW to tell me I was crazy for even considering the thought and start laughing out loud, but instead he was silent for a moment.

“It’s a thought,” he said laying back down.

We didn’t talk about it again for a while but it consumed my every thought. I started talking to every home school parent I knew and researched curriculum. I even asked my mom, a retired teacher and Academic Dean, what she thought, again, expecting her to tell me I was crazy.

But she didn’t.

Here’s the thing, I have a kid who is ultra organized and focused. She is not overly social and has one close friend who happens to live down the street from us. Her grades are the highest in her class and even qualified for the Gifted and Talented program. But she loves gymnastics. As she progresses in the sport, which she wants to, she will continue to spend almost as much time in the gym as she does in school. How long can a kid burn the candle at both ends before they burn out?

DW is very concerned about how a decision like this will effect me.

“How will you write? Or volunteer? Or even have a lunch date with your friends?”  he has asked me several times, to which I respond, “this really has very little to do with me, I think. It has everything to do with giving our daughter the best tools to succeed in whatever she wants to do.”

Of course, he thinks it has everything to do with me, especially since I would become her educator. And that is a scary thought, but a role I know I am capable of becoming.

I have started gathering more information and am amazed at how many different avenues there are for home school. The curriculum options alone are overwhelming, but now I also realize how strong the cooperative home school groups are in our area. There is definitely no shortage of social opportunities and exposure for my daughter. I have also been pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and informative home school moms have been as well, completely supportive and non-judgmental. It’s clear that each family has chosen their path for a multitude of reasons, from religious to academic to artistic to even athletic. What ever the reason, the decision was made simply for the betterment of their child’s future, focusing on their individual personalities and strengths. It’s obvious that it is not a good choice for every family, and maybe not even every child in the family. The Tortoise has blossomed in the public school system and I think we would have driven each other crazy if I had kept her home for school. The Hare is a completely different kid.

Although we are no closer to making a decision about next school year, I feel like I have some valid options.

And most people would consider me pretty normal, right?

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About My Pajama Days

I am Emily Okaty Wilson, freelance writer, blogger and public speaker. It sounds better than saying I stay in my pajamas all day eating salt and vinegar chips. I claim to be a wife, a mother, a homeschool teacher and a musician. Sometimes I'm funny.
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19 Responses to But she seems so normal.

  1. janine says:

    Right, indeed. Go Emily.

  2. Pingback: One size does not fit all « My Pajama Days

  3. gen321 says:

    I used to have a similar prejudice about home schooling (much of it coming from my being a public school educator), but a close friend of mine decided to home school her daughter during her last year of high school, because she really only needed to complete one course for graduation and her daughter was really ready to take college courses. Her experience opened my eyes to all the options for parents and students (like your child) who may be ultra focused or may not be academically challenged in the traditional school setting.

    Ironically, my daughters college roommate and best friend was home schooled and I find her to be socially adept and academically well prepared.

    This was a great post and hope everything works out great with your child. :)

  4. Miriam Joy says:

    I think it would be hard work but possible. And there are so many internet courses and ways you can work with other parents, you wouldn’t have to do it all alone. There are interesting things you can study that day schools just don’t cover because they’re limited by what they’re told to teach, and you never have to ‘make up’ work because you can just reschedule it for another time.

  5. I’ve done a ton of researching into homeschooling as well and have many friends who do so (I also have many friends with children in public school). The thing is the stereotype you have is one born from 20-some years ago when those were the predominant type of homeschooler.

    That is not the case anymore.

    It is not about being “on” 24/7.

    Yes, you will be her predominant teacher, but I know at least here, there are many other options, such as various co-ops, you can do where you are not the teacher.

    It is also not an all day thing. There is no need for busy work to get a grade. You don’t have to balance the needs of 19+ other kids. You can get done in 4 hours what it takes the public school an entire day.

    Unless the student learns best that way, you also don’t have to sit down at a desk and do things. You can adapt to what works best for her. Maybe it’s using movement to learn physical science, or cooking to learn fractions.

    I know the Hare has other issues that could also be aided by homeschooling.

    Either way, I know you will make the best choice. I’m certain the juggling will only get tougher as she ages.

    Much love to you.

  6. alchemyofscrawl says:

    The more I see parents considering it the more I want to do it. Today may have been the clincher. She’s been gone for an entire week of school and she said today was boring because she learned nothing new! Just went over the stuff she already knew and her progress report card had high As. lol Maybe she won’t get sick as much either! Thanks for your post!

  7. No wonder the poor kid can’t remember the lock for her locker.

  8. Connie says:

    I have no kids, but I went through the school system and I am awkward around other people, because i am quite introverted with a touch of social phobia.. probably thanks to being bullied nearly senseless by the kids in my class. Since the Hare is active in gymnastics it isn’t like she isn’t going to be socialized with other kids from this point forward..

    You are brave for broaching this subject on a public forum, and it is nice that you are getting a lot of support. And it is nice you are putting a lot of thought into it.. but I didn’t see anywhere what the Hare might think of this.. She might hate the idea and put an end to it right then and there..

    and really it won’t be 24/7.. cause she has gymnastics.. it will be like a really long summer break but with learning :)

  9. Mom says:

    Since the 24/7 things appears daunting, I’ll start researching gymnastic studios here in so you can send the Hare here for extended periods of time. Her grandfather is absolutely amazing in the history department and we’ll take her to D.C. For field trips.

  10. Kir says:

    Wow! I find this so refreshing and thoughtful Emily. I know before I had children I would often “talk out of turn” about what was right for “children”…but now that I am a mom of two very different little boys I can tell you that I read it and I get it. I think the Hare (who is beautiful BTW) would flourish in this environment and how much GOOD that would do her in the long run.

    I applaud you for even broaching the subject and look forward to seeing how and why your decision is made. Good stuff!!!!

  11. julieemoore says:

    I know lots of homeschooled kids and they are some of the best I’ve ever met. I tried homeschooling my son once he began middle school for many different reasons. He must have a personality like the Tortoise. We didn’t make it. But its a great idea if you and the Hare are compatible. It usually only takes 4 hours a day if that, then you would still have time for yourself. As you said too there are lots of opportunity for socialization. Just my thoughts.

  12. Aren’t stereotypes great? It’s a mega decision and I wish you the best for it. I’m just scared how much pressure children are under so young, am I getting old?! :)

  13. I don’t know, all I know is that when that show Kid Nation was on, you could see the difference between homeschooled kids and non-homeschooled kids right away. The homeschooled kids were just AWKWARD. They were often bright and smart and friendly, but had no clue how to act in the world with other kids. And that becomes a liability.

    Personally, I wouldn’t do it unless I absolutely had to. Look into alternative programs in your area – private if you can afford it, or public if you can’t. Many school districts have some great options. If she can make it too high school, and hates high school, have her drop out and get her GED and enroll in college early. But I think it’s important for kids to have the normalizing, socializing experience of being around other kids – even if it’s painful sometimes. I know when it’s painful that your instinct as a mother must be to want to end her pain, but sometimes, a little pain now causes less pain later. We can’t protect our children from all pain in the world, much as we would like to.

    Just my two thoughts.

    • I appreciate your honest opinion Real Super Girl – truly – and believe me, social skills are a HUGE part of why I have always been an advocate for public schools. I have considered private schools, charter schools and Montessori schools but none of them would solve our problem with “not enough hours in the day”. Although I do believe The Hare could stand to be challenged a little more academically, that isn’t the driving force behind my thought process. It boils down to giving her more time to sleep, alleviate some unneccessary stresses that she will out grow as she matures, and pursue her current dreams of perfecting her athletic skills. There is certainly a lot to think about.

  14. Mrs. Weberr says:

    I love this so much. I too have had those thoughts about homeschool being cult-ish and crazy religious folks. But I have quickly learned it’s so not true! You cannot judge a family’s decision until you are in those EXACT shoes. I think you being open-minded and dipping your toes in uncharted waters says a lot about you as a mom – you just want what’s best for your daughter. And what mom doesn’t?

    Keep doing your research, and I’m sure the answer will come to you in due time :)

  15. alchemyofscrawl says:

    My daughter is in the 5th grade and I’ve contemplated the same thing. She was out for a week really sick and the party they had at school someone smashed cupcakes on her desk and spilled juice and she had to clean it up and miss eating breakfast… And she has a really good teacher!

    But beyond that she’s smart and bored in school and says she wants to study and not be interrupted. I have a MA in Education so not worried about it except being with her 24/7. lol

    • I feel stuck too, because I like our 4th grade teacher too. This decision actually has very little to do with her current academic situation. Oh my, and middle school is tough. We are finishing that journey with my oldest. I’m actually looking forward to her starting high school next year. Your daughter is lucky to have such a great resource in you! I have a degree in English, have taught some music and luckily have a mom who is a retired teacher and Academic Dean – so yes, I feel like my daughter has a strong support system too but the 24/7 is daunting! LOL!

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