Dear Suburban Mom
Whew! You wrapped up another school year and I know some of you are wondering if you’ve really got it in you to do this all over again in a couple of months.
Let’s face it, it’s been a rough year. You can’t even count the number of nights you spent wrangling with your kid about homework and trying to spin the idea that, yes, this is all necessary despite their protests. Because truthfully, you have your own doubts. All those “necessary” classes and subjects from your own school days – long forgotten! Besides, no one ever asked you about the Pythagorean Theorem or the date of the Battle of Hastings. Heck, you don’t even use your degree! Neither do I! (Talk about a waste of time and money.) Yet you’ve spent the year deputized by the kids’ school as their “Homework Police.,” making sure they memorize all those same irrelevant facts. And that was not fun.
But what are you going to do? You used to remind yourself that this is simply what everyone must endure until they’re 18 and graduated. But school these days? It doesn’t look like your school days with so much emphasis on testing, the pressure and the stress. The bullying that happens has really gotten out of hand and the teachers seem incredibly frustrated. I don’t know whether the system got too big or too removed from what really works… I don’t know how it has gone so wrong. But you’re pretty sure your kids are not going to look back on these days with a lot of happy memories.
So as you’re wringing your hands and wondering if there are any viable options at all, you’ve started to notice a few more families deciding to homeschool. They’re not all ultra-religious or crunchy granola types either.
And it has you’re wondering:
Do regular people like me homeschool their kids?
And as soon as that question slips in, the flood of counter-questions surface!
- Is homeschooling even legal here? Are their a ton of hoops to jump through?
- Would I even be qualified to do this?
- How would they make any friends?
- How would they learn anything?
- What if we can’t stand each other?
So I just want to tell you,
Yes. Regular people do homeschool their kids.
I did. I had no plans to homeschool as we were trying to make school work for my little kindergartener. But as first grade rolled around, it became clear that the classroom experience was not a good situation. His enthusiasm for learning was already starting to wane. His curiosity was being squashed. His individualism and self-expression – well, there was no room for that. So I started to investigate the homeschooling option. It was the 1990’s and the landscape looked a lot different! Ha!
But the times have changed. And more and more moms like me (and you!) started leaving the local schools venturing into this learning no-man’s-land. Interestingly, there were plenty of people choosing home education back then and thousands more now. It’s a subculture that exists in every community.
To address the questions that popped up first:
1. Legality. Yes, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Each state decides it’s own rules for what hoops homeschoolers must jump through to legally homeschool. A quick google search can take you to your local and/or state homeschooling group and they will have an explanation as to how the community is dealing with the compulsory attendance laws. Some states require nothing of homeschooling families. Others want periodic testing, some want an end-of the-year evaluation. Send me an email if you have trouble finding out about your state and I can help you out.
2. Are you qualified? Of course you are! Do you know everything? Of course NOT! No one said you have to know everything. You simply have to be a good resource finder. Being able to tap into the local community (libraries, museums, friends with skills, the Internet, etc.) is all you need to be able to provide a wonderful rich learning environment.
3. Ahhh… socialization! That question always pops up. They make friends the way any of us do that aren’t sitting in a classroom – shared interests and experiences. These are the real friendships anyway. I can remember being “best friends” with someone for a year while we sat beside each other in class. And then the next year, we had no shared classes and that friendship was gone. :::poof::: Homeschooled kids aren’t missing out on anything by skipping those kinds of shallow “friendships.”
Remember earlier I mentioned a subculture you may not be aware of? All over the country, homeschoolers are getting together at parks and homes, libraries and recreation centers. They’re off on “field trips” together, meeting for “game days,” pool parties, and mid-week (gasp!) sleepovers.
4. How will they learn? Life provides SOO many opportunities – many you can’t even plan for! But when you’re open and flexible, you can stop to learn more about whatever is crossing your path. Between the internet, books, movies, conversations with people “in-the-know,” you will be shocked at how much your kids will learn. And, you’ll probably learn a little along the way too! Learning really doesn’t have to be dull drudgery to get through – it can be exciting and fun. That’s what will make your little learners engage! Not a stack of worksheets.
5. What if it’s too much togetherness? If this is really the case – and not just one of those unfortunate social kid-slams people say – then you will have the opportunity to work on it. You’ll be able to create rhythms in your day that work for you and for your kids. You don’t have to be side-by-side 24 hours/day! But when you remove the rushing around and the pressure that happens in those precious hours after they come home from school and before they hit the pillow, you’ll be surprised how much everyone’s attitude improves! And, if it’s a big concern of yours, I have an awesome book reference – Parent-Teen Breakthrough: A Relationship Approach by Mira Kirshenbaum.
So there are my quickie answers to the first five questions that popped up. I’m sure there are more percolating in there. And we have all summer to talk more. I’d love to be able to help you figure this out. There’s nothing worse than feeling you don’t have any options. At least in this case, that’s not true. You do. 🙂