Home schooling just seemed weird.
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.
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?