As new parents my husband and I talked constantly about the childhood we would give our son. Our plans, like so many new parents, were good-intentioned, but not always in touch with reality. Homeschooling did come up in the conversation, and we thought it sounded like a good idea, but with a tiny infant in my arms, the decision seemed ages away. The idea got put on the shelf of good intentions and gathered dust.
Suddenly, I was the mother of a child who needed to be enrolled in kindergarten. The deadline for registration was fast approaching. All the normal people said “Have you enrolled him in school yet?” and “When are you going to register him for kindergarten?” So, I enrolled my son in a public kindergarten.
It’s not like I didn’t want to homeschool. I just had no idea how to do it, where to start, or even if I could do it. A child’s education was nothing to mess with, and perhaps it was best left to the experts. After all, I could barely remember long division. How could I possibly give my child a quality education?
My son graduated from a preschool program soon after enrolling him for kindergarten. He had a lovely time at the school. His teachers were nice, and he had so many cute little friends. However, I felt really under-whelmed by the whole thing.
In his kindergarten prep program he learned very little. Almost all the academic advancements he achieved during the year were due largely to me drilling him at home. In all that, he was still ahead of most of his peers. I didn’t want kindergarten to be a repeat of that, but I feared it would be. I had seen my education partly wasted by the public education system and didn’t want the same for my children.
It’s not that my son is some sort of gifted genius. I honestly would place his intelligence somewhere in the neighborhood of average. He certainly wasn’t ahead of his peers due to some sort of intellectual advantage. I wouldn’t say my own mediocre experience with the public education system was based on my own stunning intellect either. Due to the nature of the system itself (not to mention all the politics that bog it down), I really didn’t believe that public school could offer my son the best education possible. However, I truly believed I couldn’t do any better.
Then, in early summer, my father, a fierce libertarian, asked, or more correctly, insisted that I wasn’t going to ruin his grandchild by sending him to public school. I replied that the idea of homeschool was lovely, but I lacked the proper education to actually make it work. He called bullshit on that, and we tossed a few emails back and forth about what was best for my son, and by extension, his younger brother.
Long story short, after untold hours researching homeschooling, curriculum, and childhood education, I dove into the world of homeschool. I was overwhelmed to say the least. I was confused, full of doubt, and totally clueless. My intentions and determination were high though. I wasn’t going to fail my children.
Our school year started in September. It was a hot mess. Well, a lukewarm mess. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I disliked some of the curriculum I had selected. The lessons I wrote myself were boring. My son hated homeschool. My husband wasn’t able to be as involved as I hoped. Scheduling crises kept cropping up. I struggled with my desire to keep my son ‘ahead’ of some unknown metric.
But we pressed through. I learned a lot the hard way. Once I got less awkward, I stopped fearing I had ruined my child for life. I knew I wasn’t doing as well as I wanted to, but I honestly felt this was better than the alternative. No matter how big the mess, it was always motivation to do better.
Today, I am a wiser, much more informed and prepared homeschool parent. I’ve learned (and relearned) so much it’s staggering to think about. While I am not where I want to be, I know I never will be. But the push to do better has given me some amazing achievements. I sat beside my children and saw them learn to read, manipulate numbers, and start to unravel mysteries of the world. It has all been worth it.