Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To homeschool or not to homeschool? Part 2

So the start of a new school year was looming over my head. It was August and I was busy buying backpack, lunch boxes, and everything on the teacher's supply list. I didn't really have time to stop and think about anything. I hadn't considered the impact of what was about to happen. When you enroll your kids in school, it's almost a no brainer, that's what you do, that's what everybody does. You don't really think about how that simple non-decision impacts many years of your and your child's lives. I was blissfully unaware of the impact it would have on me, especially this being my youngest child.
Suddenly one day, it hit me. I will be all alone, all day. What will I do? How will I occupy my time? Do I go back to work? (I knew this wasn't an option because the kids get out at 2:45 and 3:15 respectively and each has their own afterschool activities). At first, I welcomed the idea of "me" time. Time to read a book (I haven't done that in years), organize the house, clean out closets, etc. I had big plans.
But something else happened. I realized that I wouldn't be spending all day with my child. I hated that thought, mainly because I knew she didn't need to spend so many hours at school to get the education she needs and deserves. So I felt cheated and it turns out so did she.
So I started to think about homeschooling. I knew based on prior experience that I could teach her more at home than she would be getting at school. Knowing my child, I also knew the flexibility of homeschooling would be very good for her. But I wasn't convinced. I didn't think those were reasons enough. After all, you're supposed to send your child to school, right?
School started and off we went for the first weeks with high expectations and positive thoughts. But I noticed a change in my daughter right away. The usually happy, outgoing child who loved school, suddenly did not want to go. She cried everyday from the moment she woke up to the moment she got to school. Actually, I heard from her teachers that she cried throughout the day. I had a hard time leaving her at school because she clung on to me. This was breaking my heart but I thought she'd get over it.
In the meantime, the homeschool idea kept nagging at me. My husband and I talked about it constantly. He was all for it. He also knew she'd get a better education at home. I still wasn't convinced. So off to school we go. And it's the same thing everyday. I wanted to be sure I was making this decision for the right reasons. "I'll be lonely" wasn't the right reason.
At the same time, I noticed that the work she was bringing home was very basic and way too easy. She wasn't being challenged. She began to complain that she was bored at school. That was the reason I needed. I told my husband I wanted to go ahead with homeschooling. My next step was to contact the school district. They were very supportive and even shared their curriculum, so I would have a guideline to follow in case I decided to re-integrate her at some point.
It's been 2 months now, and she's a totally different child. She's happier, she's eager to "do school" and she's learning at her pace, pursuing what she likes. I am so glad that I made this decision. Although I gave up "me time", I have gained so much more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To homeschool or not to homeschool? Part 1

The decision to homeschool a child is very personal. Everyone has different opinions on the subject and there are equally as many reasons to do it or not. For me, it was both simple and complicated.
Here's my story. I have two daughters and they were born 10 years apart. When I had my first daughter, I was a single parent. I struggled to make ends meet and had no choice but to work to earn a salary. As a consequence, my daughter had no choice but to go to daycare full time. Then when she reached school age, she spent her entire day at school including after school care. Since I worked full time, I could only pick her up around 6:30 pm. This lifestyle was devastating for me as a parent. I hated the idea of spending so much time away from my young child. I often cried from the time I dropped her off at daycare until I arrived at work. I'm sure I wasn't a very good worker, since I had a hard time focusing on work. I was riddled with guilt. I know a lot of moms can't wait to go back to work after having children. But I was never one of those moms. The minute I decided to have children, I decided that I would devote myself to them, raising them myself, taking care of them, etc. I vowed not to leave my children in the hands of others. So being forced to do just that felt like punishment. But we got through it. Eventually I married a wonderful man and had another daughter. I finally became the stay at home mom I always dreamed of. (I know people dream of winning the lottery or having a big mansion, but not me. I just wanted to be a mom.)

My youngest is very bright and loves to learn. When she was 3, I put her in preschool for socialization. I had no expectations that she would do anything of value academically. She loved it and had a great time. The following year, we decided to keep her home. At that time, I hadn't made a conscious decision to homeschool, but looking back we did just that. We spent our days reading, playing, going on adventures, and all the while my daughter was becoming brighter and brighter. She was a sponge, soaking in everything around her. Her preschool teacher had noticed that quality in my daughter and advised me to really challenge her. Her teacher was so wonderful and even gave me some guidance since I had never taught preschool before. By the time my daughter was at the right age for kindergarten, we enrolled her in public school. She got a wonderful kindergarten teacher and had a great time that year as well. It was such a gift. I truly believe that teacher made all the difference in the world for my child. By the end of kindergarten my 5 year old was reading. We enrolled her in first grade and that is when trouble started.