As we've shared this news with friends and family, we've been met with a very wide range of responses. Quite a few blank stares on the in-laws side; a bit of stunned silence. A couple of "No! You must be crazy! Don't do it!" responses from friends who knew me when I was floundering as a single mom.
And then some really encouraging responses.
A few friends who I consider well-rounded and socially competent individuals shared that they were homeschooled for years. I had no idea! That was another good confirmation that homeschoolers can be well-adjusted, interesting people. One of my closest friends SarahEmily, who is a successful and talented audio engineer who shares my deep appreciation for fancy cheeses, told me that her homeschool experience was the best gift her parents ever gave her. That honestly blew my mind.
Over the last few months, we've amassed a number of reasons motivating our desire to homeschool Maggie. Her homeschool future is by no means set in stone. Even if this year is successful, that doesn't mean we will do it forever, or even that we will homeschool our future children. Our homeschool method may vary from year to year as Maggie's needs change. I've approached homeschooling with as open of a mind as I can, knowing that much adjustment and flexibility will be necessary - and also knowing that it is very possible that homeschooling may not work for us. For this year, however, it is more than worth a try!
Here's why we are giving homeschool a try:
To live at a slower pace.
A little over a year ago, not long after we moved to our homestead, we decided that it would be best for me to be a full-time homemaker rather than working part-time outside the home. Coordinating different work schedules had been stressful for us. It made much more sense for me to hold down the fort at home daily, especially as we've added on various farm responsibilities.
.Just as we had gotten into a kind of family rhythm, school began. It seems a bit overdramatic to say this, but it was true: from the very first day, the public school schedule was very difficult for our family to adjust to. Maggie was coming home from school every day completely worn out. For the first couple months she had major emotional meltdowns almost daily, mostly from being exhausted from the rigors of school. She eventually adjusted, but the routine of school never stopped feeling hectic. It felt like I barely got to spend any free time with my daughter during the week because our entire day revolved around school -- either preparing her for school, decompressing her from school, or getting ready for school the next morning with homework and projects.
We are excited to slow the pace of life a bit this year. Accomplishing things is great, but we want to take time to enjoy life and not rush through it at a breakneck pace. I hope our family pace will teach Maggie that it can be good to take things slowly and make sure to do them right. A slower pace will leave more time for reflection and growth and hopefully a space to diffuse often-mounting frustrations.
To teach Maggie our beliefs.
This encompasses not only our faith, but also our views on the environment, on personal character, on creating a peaceful and happy home, on food and health, on building relationships, on contributing to our community. There is no space for most of these things in the public school curriculum (nor would it be appropriate for a stranger to teach my child many of these things), but at home it will be natural to incorporate all these facets of life in with "book learning."
To give Maggie time to be a kid.
During the school week last year, Maggie had so little time to simply play. With homeschool we've got about 1.5 hours of sit-down book work planned for four days a week. The rest of the time is free for art projects, plenty of reading, being outdoors helping with the farm animals and garden, imaginative play time, play dates, trips to the library, and whatever else comes up. The freedom to work at our own pace is liberating!
To allow Maggie the space to excel and to learn at her own pace
Last year during the second school semester Maggie had a really rough time paying attention in class, mostly because she was bored. In a public school setting there is little space for a child to move beyond their grade level in learning -- and also little room for a child to take longer with learning something. Flexibility in both these areas is so important. Kids learn at different speeds and have aptitudes for different things. I want Maggie to be able to be unhindered in her learning if she gets excited about something. I also want her to not feel pressure if there's something she's having a tough time comprehending.
To grow my relationship with Maggie.
When I sent Maggie off to school last year, I felt our relationship become more distant in a way that made me really sad. It became easy to "check out" mentally as a parent and to gloss over discipline issues that I should have been facing.
Spending most of every day with Maggie will give me the time to build not only her character, but also my own. I'm hoping and praying that God will grow our relationship in a healthy way and teach me how to mirror for her how to live a quiet, prayerful, productive, and joyful life.
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I made this list of reasons mainly to remind myself of why we are trying out homeschooling. I know some days will be very, very difficult. There are going to be huge bumps in the road. But there will also be a lot of joy -- and this list is a reminder of why the hard times will be worth it. I'm excited to see where this journey will take us!