Homeschool Chronicles: the reluctant homeschooler

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I don't remember when I first shaped the phrase, "the reluctant homeschooler." 

Maybe it was when describing my plans to continue homeschooling Aria, for whom public school is inadequate. 

Maybe it was when consoling a friend who had to withdraw her kids from the pricey private school where her husband used to work.  Her choice is between her local schools which earn failing grades and a return to homeschool. 

Maybe the term emerged first for another family who switched to homeschooling during highschool for safety reasons.

Not all homeschoolers choose this path because they want to.  In the United States, some feel we have to homeschool in order to provide quality education for our children.  

For nearly a decade I have intermittently chronicled our homeschooling journey from sweet kindergarten days to our present moment in the middle school jungle.  This fall Aria is an 8th grader and Liam is a 6th grader.  Since I rarely write about homeschooling, sometimes I am surprised how many of you characterize me as a homeschooler. 

Aria and Liam, 2011

Aria and Liam, 2011

I LOVED homeschooling when they were younger.  I chose this path because I believed I could give them a better start academically and emotionally by homeschooling.  Here in South Carolina our state sometimes comes in dead last in the nation for quality of public education.  I just felt like I could do better.   Because I work part-time from home, I had the chance to try.

Now I can't say I did better because one ever knows what the path not taken would have been like, but I did well.  We did well.  Aria and Liam score well and are socially competent, friendly middle schoolers.  However, in the past few years I have metamorphosed from an enthusiastic homeschooler to a reluctant one.  Reluctant because I no longer feel that I am the best teacher for these children. 

Yes, I taught them to love reading, to do mental math and write a proper essay.  I taught them to really think about social studies and to ask questions and make connections.  But now they need computer sciences, biology labs, foreign language and social growing experiences that just aren't within our reach as homeschoolers.  If I had more time to devote to homeschooling, maybe it would be different.  But financially I have to work and, you know what, I want to work too.  I love my job!

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I have such fond memories of our early homeschool years.  I remember singing together in the morning, reading books aloud, doing crafts and exploring nature.  Early education brought us close as a family.  But now it's different.  They work independently (yay - that's growing up, and boo - I miss them) and bring me their work to check.  I grade their tests and mark up their rough drafts with feedback.  I give them a framework, but they chart the details of their path, practicing time management and self-motivation.  Honestly these days we're more likely to connect outside of school, than during school itself.

So, let it be known, I am a reluctant homeschooler.  Next year Liam will be enrolled in public education.  He will be attending a school we accessed by school choice lottery.  My fingers and toes are crossed that this school will teach him things that I have been unable to teach him at home.  It will at least give us a breather from a mother-son relationship that is struggling in the teacher-student mode.

Aria, on the other hand, has another year of homeschooling mapped out for 2018-19.  Thanks to generous grandparents she is enrolled in an ambitious array of online classes, including her first A.P. class.  I am confident she'll have a good year.

Parents all over the United States face similar questions.  We all want what is best for our children.  All children deserve an equitable start to life, which usually requires quality public education.  I know there are good people working on this problem, but sadly change is slow and too late for many.  Wherever you are in this equation, thanks for the work you are doing as a parent or educator or concerned citizen.  And thank you for hearing our story along the way.

p.s.  Yes, we have kittens!  Haven't had this experience since I was a child. Such fun!