I was at a party today with my daughter A for the 5th and 6th grade club at our church. It was the first event for the year, so A and I were introduced to people several times. I found it a little odd to reply again and again to the question, "Where does she go to school?" with the answer, "I'm home schooling her this year." I'm not embarrassed about this choice. I don't think it makes us weird. I don't think it means we've turned into - or will turn into - social recluses. I didn't do it to pull her away from the diversity of public school. It's just that I really have no idea what I'm doing. Or what I'll be doing three or six months from now. Or what decision we'll make about school next year.
I found as I researched and prepared for this school year that it was pretty easy to get excited about home schooling. There's a lot to like:
- The freedom to choose subjects and curricula that suit my daughter,
- The opportunity to fill in the gaps in my own learning,
- The ability to challenge A in her reading in a way that would likely happen at only the most competitive of middle schools,
- The chance to go more slowly for math, where she needs her confidence to grow,
- The time to strengthen my relationship with A before we hit the turbulent waters of adolescence.
My excitement has grown as we've gotten into the school year. A is learning a great deal. Our schedule - especially A's schedule - is far more relaxed than it would be with three children at two schools. She never has any afterschool work (I would say that she doesn't have any homework, but B has pointed out that all of A's work is homework!). We've discovered great materials, read interesting books and had discussions we never would have had were I not A's primary teacher.
There are down sides:
- I continue to be very, very tired, despite working out, despite having my daughters shoulder more responsibility for chores, despite trying to take care of myself.
- I lack subject knowledge. A has struggled to master pronouns - especially indefinite pronouns - and I've exhausted my knowledge on the subject. I'm not trained in grammar and don't know another way to explain the subject other than the two or three approaches I've already taken.
- It's hard to strike the right balance. Am I pushing A enough? Am I pushing her too much?
But if you asked me whether I am enjoying this journey, the answer would be yes. In fact, I'm enjoying it so much that it's difficult not to plan how I would do things differently next year. (For one, I would buy an actual history curriculum instead of doing so much of the work myself. Then I'd just modify the curriculum to suit my needs.) Or how I would do it differently with B. (More science, faster paced math, the integration of more fantasy books into literature.) I can do those things - I can mentally play them out in my mind - but there's a great likelihood they will never come to pass because this one year experiment may be the only time our family ventures into the world of homeschooling.
As we entered A into the magnet school lottery last November, my prayer was that God would make it clear what we should do for school in the coming year. I had reservations about each of the options available to us, so I didn't feel confident that it would be wise to pray towards a specific outcome. Her name wasn't selected for any of the schools we wanted and she was very far down on the waiting list. It seemed pretty clear what the message was.
I'll be praying the same prayer again this year as we enter not one, but two, daughters into that lottery. If both of their names are drawn, I'll sell the home school curricula we've accumulated and move on. Because I'm trying to hold on loosely to what I want for my children and do what is best for them. If that means they are better served in a classroom than in my home, I'll give them that relative freedom. It seems a fair trade off if it helps them turn into the women they were made to be.