Thursday, 23 August 2012

For Her, Not for Me

As I'm sure most homeschooling families can attest, choosing to educate your children from home seems to invite a certain amount of discussions, questions, and criticism. Sometimes these conversations are eye opening, sometimes they make me want to close my eyes and shake my head. I have no doubt that if I had chosen private school for my child we'd still get questions, but it would be more about the uniforms and tuition fees than whether we were doing right by our kids. On top of that I know that if we had chosen public school, it would be treated as so matter of fact that the most we would have been asked was which school, what outfit for the first day, and what school supplies we'd purchased. No one would be asking me if my curriculum was sufficient, if the teacher was capable, or if I thought my daughter would thrive in either public or private school.

I appreciate there is a certain amount of curiosity surrounding homeschooling as it is not as common as the other alternatives. Most of the people that I had heard about being homeschooled were those who were taken out of public schools as the result of bullying. It's only now as an adult that I'm meeting those who choose not to join the public school system in the first place. A few of my friends are actually homeschooled children, and seeing what bright and socially capable they are, I'm actually very encouraged by our choice. I think that the so-called "weird" or "awkward" homeschooled kids aren't that way because they're homeschooled. I met plenty of "weird" or "awkward" kids in public school. All the socialisation in the world didn't change that. Often times those kids became magnets for bullies and spent more time trying to survive school than actually learning. If there seems to be a greater proportion of "weird" kids that are homeschooled, I'd suspect that's because their parents have pulled them out of public school so that they could focus on their education rather than on how to avoid being bullied or ostracised by their peers.

I know many people think I've drunk the special kool aid and that I've bought into some sort of hokum about how public school and teachers are evil, and I need to protect my kids from society so they don't turn into hoodlums and axe murderers. Seriously folks, that's ridiculous. While I see the difficulties of our public school system, and have even discussed them before, I do realise that some kids thrive in that scenario. I know lots of kids who excelled in the group learning scenario, made lots of friends, and came out the class president and valedictorian or whatnot. I value so highly what our teachers, principals, and other staff are doing for the kids in the system. They have tiny budgets, varied learning styles, complex material, and not enough hours in the day to connect with each and every student. They are incredible people, taking on the mantle of educating young minds, while receiving flak from students and parents alike for their teaching methods, quantity of homework, marking, etc etc etc. Over my years in the public school system I had many teachers who I realise now were experiencing an unimaginable level of burnout because they had tried so hard for so long to do what was best for the kids entrusted to them and simply had no more to give.

The fact of the matter is that while all of this came into consideration, the real reason we are home educating our child isn't because of our opinions about the public school system. I'm sure that if we sent her to school she'd do fine. Make a few friends, get a passing grade, and learn what she needs to learn. She'd have opportunities, experiences, make connections, and probably meet that one special teacher she'll look back on for years to come. All good stuff. All admirable and desirable. Plus, I'd get the pleasure of having one less duty around the house for the bulk of the day. But it's not about me. It's not about getting by or her being fine.

For me, homeschooling is a parenting choice. A choice based on each child and their individual needs. For lots of kids, public school is really the best thing. For others, private school is the way to go. For still others, homeschooling is the best avenue. Our choice to educate her at home isn't to shelter her from life, but to educate her in the way we think will best help her to excel, grow, and become who she is meant to be. After a lot of thought and prayer, and some initial resistance from both of us, we realised that the unavoidable truth is that homeschooling is not what we want, per se, but what she needs. That I can offer her this opportunity to learn in the way that is best for her is amazing and humbling. I am not unaware of the incredible responsibility I'm shouldering as her primary educator. I also know that with a lot of hard work, and by the grace of God, I'll look back and be happy we chose to accept this path for our family. This is a choice we're making as a family, for her sake, not for our own.

At the end of the day, questions are normal, especially with something so different from the norm. I still find it difficult to be given the third degree about this parenting choice from friends and strangers. (Not that everyone is giving us the third degree! So many of our friends are very excited for us!) As I was saying to a friend, you'd never corner a woman and berate her for breastfeeding or using a bottle (or for heaven's sake you shouldn't!). As strangers to the situation and the process behind the choice, we need to sit back and realise it's simply not our business. No parenting choice is taken lightly, from feeding, to diapering, to schooling. Each choice a parent makes is for their child, not for themselves. By all means, ask questions as a means to educate yourself on the choice. I'm more than happy to answer any and all questions in that light. However, if your question at any point starts with "Don't you know that...", "How could you..." or "What about..." or other judgement heavy lines, perhaps we would all be better served if you took to the internet or a book to find your answer. If a parent has come into a choice with prayers, discernment, and lots of research, all you're going to do by asking judgemental questions is to alienate them.

What I'm left with in all of this is that no matter what people ask, or how they ask it, we can keep our heads up because we know that this really isn't about us or what we want, it's about our daughter and what she needs. No amount of doubt or concerns from others can change the fact that we're doing the right thing for her, even though though we may not be doing right according to others.


  1. I found this to echo a lot of my own thoughts on the subject. Just wondering then, if it's specifically for your daughter, are you planning to homeschool your other children as well, or will you make an individual choice for each of them when the time comes?

    1. As she is our oldest, this is clearly just for her for now. As our boys and younger daughter reach school age we will evaluate what their needs are then. Every year we will re-evaluate the choice as well for each of them. If we no longer feel called to homeschool, we will promptly enroll them in public school. In the end, it's about what we feel called to, and what's best for each child's needs.