I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how we fell into homeschooling.
Here’s how it started: I went to the doctor to get my iron checked, and she asked me about babies.
My doctor always asks me about babies, and I always say that we are leaving that window open, even though every year I can feel it closing just a little bit more, and so far no baby has been tossed through it like a loaf of hot bread.
“But I am almost 40,” I heard myself saying.
“Yes,” she said nodding serenely. (She is always very serene).
“You don’t want to be up all night again? Or is it being the oldest mom on the playground?”
“No …” I started. It’s not any of those.
It’s that before the new Gilmore Girls episodes came out, my friend and I discussed the possibility of Loralei having another baby – could she have another baby?
We Googled it. At 48, it’s pretty hard to have a baby without some serious medical intervention.
(And yes, I know about Janet Jackson, and I’m pretty certain she’s got an experimental robot womb.)
“It’s just that the window is closing every year,” I told my doctor, “and I’ve stopped feeling like I have any control over this situation.”
“Ahh,” she said. “In His hands.”
And I’ve settled into that, and yet every once in a while I’m still sad that the babies didn’t come – at least one or two more. And now my babies would be a decade and more apart in age …
On the way home, it really sunk in.
If I had a baby right now, I would be homeschooling until I am almost 60.
Unless of course, I sent a third child, whom we’ll call, “Ricky” off to school.
But why would I suddenly change course like that? I mean, I *believe* in this homeschooling business.
Why would Mythical Ricky deserve any less?
We didn’t come to homeschooling quickly or with any certainty at all.
I had in-laws who did, and as much as I respected what they were doing, it simultaneously terrified me a little bit.
And so when my son was 3, we signed him up for church pre-school. It didn’t work out exactly as we had planned, and instead of doing another year of pre-school when he was 4, we decided to give homeschooling a shot.
I went all in and it was just a different kind of disaster, so in December of that year we enrolled him in a Montessori-based private school.
He went three half-days a week, but the next year was meant to be full-time. Even with a generous grandparent offering to pay half the tuition, there was no way to swing it without me going back to work full-time.
And we had another child to consider. How would we afford both fancy private school and quality childcare? Could she sit in a box under my desk? Do my filing?
And so when it came time to sign up for Kindergarten in our district, we went. We went to an old school building, no longer used for classes, but filled with long tables … A-D, E-H, etc.
Surrounded by lockers, I submitted our top three choices for schools.
And then we left, and I tried not to cry. Because it didn’t feel right, but homeschooling had sort of back-fired.
So it all seemed a little hopeless.
My son didn’t get into the public Montessori school. It was a lottery system and all the parents were trying for it. His number didn’t come up.
He got into a couple of nearby schools. I secretly thought of them as “good enough schools,” as in good enough, but not what I want for my kid.
My kids, really, because I knew once we started down the road, my daughter would follow in line, and then that would be our path.
In some ways it was very comforting. The whole thing was laid out for us. There wouldn’t be much thinking. No big decisions.
I could simply follow the bouncing ball.
So why did it feel wrong?
I began this post by saying that we fell into homeschooling.
We sort of did. Twice.
But it was more than that. We actually leapt in. It was a decision both times.
Let me tell you how it went: We said we’d try it.
And every year, we keep trying. Every year, we re-assess.
I ask my kids, and together we make the choice to stay at it, even though it’s messy and imperfect.
It’s a decision we keep making for a million reasons – some of them academic, but many of them fall into the “other” category.
We like our days together. We like not having to pack lunches or wait for the school bus on cold mornings. We like swimming on Mondays.
I like that we’ve thrown out a lot of the standards – each of my kids can learn at his and her own pace, in his or her own way.
When we try something and it doesn’t work, we know it’s the curriculum, not the kid, and so we pass it along or donate it and begin again.
There are days when it’s hard and days when I question. So I curl up with Holt or Teaching from Rest, and I remember how I felt leaving that old school building, holding my 5-year-old’s hand, with a baby strapped to my chest, trying to keep the tears from running down my cheeks.
It didn’t feel right.
This isn’t us, I remember thinking.
And so I don’t think it ever will be.
(Mythical Ricky will probably be homeschooled, if he ever shows up at all.)
And if he doesn’t, at least I’ll still know that when it came time to make the hard decisions, I did what felt right for my kids.
With fear in my belly and tears in my eyes, I chose a different way.
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