This summer, when my husband and I decided to homeschool our oldest son, who will be starting Grade 3 this year, I received an onslaught of texts, Facebook messages, emails and phone calls as to why we made this decision. Being that I serve on our son’s private school board of directors and taught part time in the high school program that is also part of his school, many eyebrows were raised at our decision to homeschool.
I would like to preface this blog with a few things. First of all, I do not believe that home education is the end all, be all, one shoe fits all solution. However, I do not feel the school system is either. I do not think that one system is better than another as a whole. I respect both home education as well as the school systems offered to families. I realize that every family is unique, has different styles, needs and cultures. What works for us, may not be what works for another family.
We considered so many different things and tried to evaluate our situation from every point of view before we ultimately decided home education. There were many reasons why I did NOT want to homeschool.
We love the school that our son attended. The teachers were amazing – truly, some of the best educators I have had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with. The principal knows the name of every child, wearing his love for education and the school on his sleeve. He is truly someone I quickly grew to respect. My son’s class also exceeded my expectations. They were a great group of kids and the parents in the classroom were so easy to get along with as I became friends with many of them. I knew that I would miss his school and the community we had become very involved in.
Another reason we needed to consider when choosing home school was whether or not my children would survive me. I am a Chinese Tiger Mom, amongst the Crazy Asian Mom description. While I am constantly striving to change and improve, there is an “uptightness” about me that I like to camouflage as “excellence”. I was scared that I would make my kids hate learning because I would have unrealistic expectations for them and push too hard. I was scared I would that I would impulsively scream things in frustration like, “What’s this, Sam? 3 wrong? We are not B-sians, we are A-sians! Do it again!” or “If I’m yelling it’s only because you’re not doing it right!”
You know those mothers that seem to love spending copious amounts of time with their children? The ones that seem to have endless amounts of patience and prefer to cuddle and play board games with their children from the time they wake to the time they go to bed? The ones that only go out for “Girls Night” once a year or once every season because they just don’t make time for it? Well, I can say with 100% certainty that I am NOT one of those moms. In fact, I was sure that only those types of mothers (bless them) were the ones that homeschooled. I am the kind of mom that sends them to Nana and Papa’s for half the summer, who live across the country, so they can make memories. That’s right, “making memories” is my cover for, “Mommy needs an extended period of alone time so I don’t go crazy and will continue to love you for the rest of the year…so BYE BYE! Have fun in the woods for a month!”
Lastly, of course, I was nervous that while I was a teacher (but taught high school and never elementary), I would screw these kids up royally. I mean heck, it took me googling the spelling of homeschool versus home school before I even started this blog! Which, by the way, was no help! Official home education sites even had them spelled both ways, so I pretty much just closed my eyes and pointed and chose to go with homeschool (plus it saves me from typing a space in between every time I mention it). And if not academically, I was scared I would raise one of “those” homeschooled kids…you know what I mean. We all know one or two of them. Screw it. I’m not going to be coy about it. I was scared they would be weird. Nobody wants weird kids.
Alright…so many reasons NOT to homeschool. So why do it? Especially since I’m Asian. We typically like to spend the extra money to make sure they are in great programs so we can be hands off as much as possible. That’s how I was raised!
After 3 years in the school system for Kindergarten, and then grades one and two, we found that slowly and surely, we saw some behaviors in our son that we weren’t fond of. There was a sassiness that started to develop. He became more and more irritable with his younger brother as the school year went on, eventually making comments like “Sigh. He’s such a baby. He’s so annoying. Why does he have to play with me all the time?” My son also happens to be quite bright, so academics were never a challenge for him. We found that his time in school gave him all the time in the world to pick up bad behavior and learn to be socially manipulative. Now, none of these things are earth shattering events that would make us believe that had we left him in school, he would be a criminal. No. In fact, quite the opposite, many of you would read this and say, “Okay. This just sounds like a little boy being a little boy, figuring out his growing up years.” So, this was not THE reason why we chose to home educate, but it was definitely a little red flag that started to wave in the back of our heads. If his behavior was acceptable as “normal” growing up, boy behavior (stressing that this was not his norm, but certainly did happen during the year), then we needed to decide as his parents if this was something we were going to accept as OUR family standard of acceptability.
This led me to seriously consider how much I was actually raising my kids. When I add up the hours that they are in school, sleeping, in the car, in programs, in church, at activities or visiting family and friends, there really isn’t much left for time where we are investing in our children and spending quality time with them. For someone who prayed and fasted for both of my pregnancies, and became overjoyed when we were finally blessed with each of our boys, I simply saw that I wasn’t parenting the way I had imagined I would. I simply didn’t have time!
For my husband, he ended up having a very loving, but frank conversation with me about our family culture. He shared that while he can appreciate everything that goes on in the run of a day, he expressed his frustration about “being like everyone else”. He observed how every morning was a rush to get the kids to eat their breakfast, get ready for school and get in the car so we weren’t late for school. Everyone was a bit grumpy and everything seemed like a fight. Then after school, it was a rush to get home, to quickly get our homework done, dinner into them (and then dinner became a fight to eat everything on their plate quickly), then rush off to their sports programs or other extra curricular activities. After those activities, it was a rush to come home, have a bath, do some reading before bedtime so they would get to bed on time so they would get enough rest to do this all over again the next day. It was exhausting. We realized that we spent more time mediating behavior, shuffling them from one thing to another, all the time being too busy to have a quiet and relaxed meal together where we would talk. Quiet family evenings where we played games or enjoyed each other’s company became allusive. In our reflection this summer, we quickly agreed that we did not like what our family had morphed into. We were always too busy and we were always in a rush.
During our prayer time in this decision-making process the Lord really challenged us as to what we wanted to sow into our boys. We realized that while we did the best we knew to do and would spend as much as we could teaching them, disciplining them, loving them and showing them our values, in our heart, we wanted to give our boys more. We wanted to have the time with them to live our life together WITH them. We didn’t want moments with them. We wanted a life with them. They are young and impressionable for such a short time, and we realized that as their parents, we wanted to give them more of us and really be hands on in shaping who they will become.
Here’s the thing: in all of our reasons to hesitate with home education, my husband and I came to realize that we were using the word “reason” to disguise the word “fear”. When we said our fears out loud and prayed for the grace, wisdom, and strength to step out in faith, we found (to our surprise) that we were actually quite excited to journey this new path with our children and take ownership of not just their academic learning, but their character education as well.
These are the main reasons why we ultimately chose to homeschool our boys. We realize that there are so many more arguments for and against home education or conventional schooling – and all those reasons are totally valid for other families! Again, we are not promoting one method over another, we are simply sharing why we decided to go the homeschool path for our own littles.
Will we homeschool for the rest of their school years? We don’t know the answer to this. We know that we are taking this one step at a time, and one year at a time.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (Amplified)
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