“People are often very curious about why we chose to homeschool our children. I think this curiosity is peaked by the fact that it’s not what we’ve always done. We sent our children to a private school until their mid-year of 3rd and 4th grade. After a difficult year of our children feeling burnt out, bullied, and unsupported in their education, we made the choice to bring them home. I wish I could say it was an easy transition or that it immediately felt like the right choice. If I’m being honest, at the time, it felt like the only choice.
We were living in our starter home in a rough area with a failing school district, so public school was not an option we were willing to consider. The economy was still recovering from the recession and we were upside down in a mortgage on a house we no longer wanted to live in. We had outgrown our home, our kids’ school, and so much of what we once found comfort in. Seeing our children struggle to go to school each day and seeing their usual passion for learning dwindle made us realize something had to change. We took a long hard look at what we could control, and their education was one of those things.
Those around us were extremely apprehensive at first. One thing any homeschooling parent knows is that you will be asked what seems like millions of times about ‘socialization’. People were concerned our kids would become isolated. Despite my husband and I both being fairly intelligent and competent people in our own right, they wondered how we could ever teach our kids what they need to know. There were a lot of questions about how this path would prepare them for the ‘real world’. While their concerns may have seemed valid to them, we knew we were making the right choice for our family, so we asked for their respect. Thankfully, they gave it to us.
We spent many evenings having open dialogue with our children, as we wanted them to have input on their own lives. We are big believers in guiding and trying not to dictate, whenever possible. Eventually, due to situations in their classrooms, we knew we had to act fast. We made the swift decision they would be done February 17th of 2017. I dove even further into research about homeschooling, curriculum options, and how to make it all work. I reached out to friends who were on this path already and absorbed whatever information I could from them. Many of them told me the most important thing was to take it slow, and to allow the kids to have a sort of detox from the brick and mortar school they were used to. Unfortunately, slow isn’t in my vocabulary, so we dove right in after a short period of grieving what we were leaving behind.
The first year was very difficult. I found it hard to connect outside of the house with other homeschool families, and it was so tiring to be running a business, going to school myself, and teaching my kids on my own. We didn’t really find our groove that year, but enough got done for us to feel confident in sticking it out the following year. We decided to continue schooling a bit through the summer as we knew losing what they had learned would be a real issue. We were already having to work so hard to get anything done and I was not willing to risk any setbacks. It felt like a lot of pressure, but I thought that’s what we needed to thrive and make homeschooling work.
At the end of that first full year, in February of 2018, we were in the process of purchasing a new home in a better area. We had finally worked long and hard enough to get out of our starter home and into our dream home. We purchased a large farmhouse with acreage. We would finally have more space in a safe area and be able to start a small homestead like we had always wanted. The stress of our lives at that time was so immense that we considered putting our children into the new public-school system. We went to check it out and while the school, children, and staff seemed lovely, it did not fit in with the way we had decided to raise our children.
There were cell phones everywhere. The kids in the hallway never once looked up from their screens. There was little to no recess. There didn’t even seem to be what I considered the appropriate level of supervision. One of the biggest behavioral concerns noted by a staff member when I asked was bullying, in person and online. While they ensured us they took these issues very seriously, they were issues I did not want my kids to have to deal with. We maintain a tech free home for our kids other than for schoolwork and television, so combating that environment 5 days a week was not something I felt I could handle as a parent. I wanted to stay the course and that pressure may have broken my will to parent in the way I saw fit.
When we left the school, my kids made an astute observation about the fact that everyone worries about homeschoolers being social, yet with no time to play and everyone starring at a screen, how were the kids in school being truly social? After deciding as a family that was not the choice we wanted to make, we got very lucky and found a great program in our new community. It offers many different courses for homeschoolers and it has helped take some of the pressure off all of us. As parents, it is nice to have our kids doing some outside learning a couple of days a week and, for our kids, it is a great way to have some interesting experiences. My kids are still home the majority of the time, and I still teach them much of what they need and want to know, but this program has been a great fit for us, and I am thankful.
Because I have health issues and my husband works a very atypical schedule, it is also much easier for us to spend time together and go slowly when needed. Now, if my husband has a Monday off work, we can take that day as a family and do what others might do on their weekend. Or if I need it, we can take a day off to rest so my body can heal. Before, it was nearly impossible for all of us to spend time together regularly due to them being in school and my husband rarely having a weekend off. And rest was difficult because we always had to be on the go and were completely over scheduled. Homeschooling also makes it possible for us to run our homestead. Our kids are such a great help, and the practical skills they are learning are invaluable. When asked now, I tell people that is how they will function in the real world, because they already are.
They are 11 and 12 years old now. They get up and feed animals, as we have 17 of them. They cook and clean, along with helping plan meals and grocery shop. They help maintain our land and our home and we include them on all sorts of repairs and projects. They are learning to use tools and are developing skills they will have for a lifetime. I often include them in our budgeting discussions and planning. They help me write our blog and make videos for our YouTube channel, which yes, they are allowed to read and watch because they helped to create them. They also get to spend more time with many of their retired grandparents, learning about history and life from them as well. To see them sit with their grandmother on a Tuesday afternoon learning about her childhood is something so special and invaluable to us. The relationships we have cultivated within the homeschool community are deep and meaningful because we all have this shared journey, even if we are all doing it a bit differently.
We are now into our third year of this journey, and while so much has changed, we are just finally hitting our stride. I have seen my kids go from being little anxious, depressed shells of humans into these creative, curious, and thriving beings coming into their own power. There are certainly some downfalls to homeschooling. One of them being that quality time must be intentional. We are together so often and working so hard that we sometimes forget to carve out special time for each other. Another downfall is our sleeping schedule. We stay up to late and struggle to wake up early unless we know we have somewhere to be. Having a spouse who works 3rd shift for 12 hours a night throws us off even more. I am making peace with it though because if my kids have somewhere to be in the morning, they set their alarms and always show up on time. They are responsible, respectful, and admittedly so, they often times wake me up to get me moving with coffee and breakfast in hand.
While I know homeschool is not a journey everyone wants to take, I do know it is so much better than I thought it could be. I am glad we felt there was no other choice, because now we know there is no other choice we would want to make. We certainly miss some of the things from our past, but where we are now is so much better. We are all happier and healthier. We have slowed down and enjoy our lives a lot more. We aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere, because we are content right where we are. Those around us comment regularly on the social skills, growth, and maturity of our children. Growing up in the chaos I did, I would have never imagined being so blessed as to raise my kids in this type of environment full of love, laughter, wonderful people, animals, books and a real sense of tranquility. It’s been a transformative process for us all, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. We will continue to evaluate what is best for our family often, and while I can’t say it will always be homeschool, I can say that right now, in year 3, it absolutely is.
It’s not a perfect system and we have a lot left to learn, but don’t we all? Might as well enjoy the process.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by a woman who wishes to remain annoymous. You can follow her journey on her blog here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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