On one of my local homeschooling lists the topic of “Why do YOU homeschool?” came up last week, with everybody happily sending out their uplifting touchy-feely and typically godly reasons for homeschooling. I would never respond on the list to such a thread, because, like most places in my life, I do not fit in. It isn’t that I particularly care about being even more the black sheep than I already am, I don’t. Our kid has to function in this community though, so I tend to keep my mouth shut a lot. That, and I don’t really care to waste my breath.
I was aware of homeschooling long before I had a kid. I moved a lot while growing up. I went to 17 different schools before getting out of high school. I saw a lot of different forms of education. I went to some great schools, and some crap schools. I went to alternative schools, private schools, religious schools and schools that were nothing more than holding pens for children. I had a few great teachers, a lot of marginal teachers and some really crappy ones. I had teachers that liked me because they thought I was smart. I had teachers that hated and feared me because they suspected I was much smarter than they were.
I was also homeschooled for three months when I was in the third grade and my mother knew we were not going to be living in a particular place for very long. She didn’t feel like bothering with enrolling me in school, so she just taught me herself. We spent long hours at the library. It was wonderful and awful. My mother demanded more of me than any other teacher I ever had, and more than a few times lessons would erupt into screaming tears. At the same time when something was interesting to me, I got to keep on following that path. I didn’t have to stop because we didn’t learn the deeper details until fifth grade. I learned things during those three months that we didn’t cover in any depth until high school, and even then I still knew more about those subjects than they covered in high school.
My daughter missed the cut off to start kindergarten in the fall that she should have by a couple of months. She was completely ready for it. She was academically ready. She was emotionally ready. She was socially ready. She even looked old for her age. The kids she was friends with all started. She was not allowed to because she wasn’t old enough.
We looked at several preschools, but each time came away disgusted. I just started teaching her at home. We didn’t decide to homeschool, we were just doing what came naturally at the time, which was providing her the information she was asking for.
By the time the next fall came and she was old enough to start kindergarten, she was reading on a fourth grade level and doing math on a second grade level. We decided not to send her to kindergarten. Kindergarten is not mandatory in our state, so we didn’t need to decide anything or do anything, we just kept on doing what was working for us. However we were strongly suspecting that we would be homeschooling, and I began to get involved with the local homeschooling community. That was almost enough to make me not want to homeschool. I had so very little in common with those people.
Of course, that is unfair, in that I have little in common with most people. It isn’t as if sending her to a traditional school was going to give me a large group of people I really saw eye to eye, and got along well with.
Anyhow, I began doing volunteer work for one of the state homeschooling organizations. I tried to become part of the community, for her sake. Anybody familiar with homeschooling, at least in milder climates, is no doubt familiar with Park Day. The local support groups each pick a day on a regular basis to meet at the park. The parents (mostly mothers, which is a rant for another day) sit around and talk, and the kids play. In general the mothers are so wrapped up in their social time that the children are not very well supervised (also a rant for another day). In an area like mine, which is completely overgrown with humans, there are also a ton of homeschoolers, and a bunch of different support groups. One could easily be on a field trip or a park day each day of the week. A lot of the families do this. I HATE PARK DAY. I hated the first one I went to. I hated the last one I went to. I’ve hated every one in between. I hate grass. It makes me itch, inside and out. I hate sitting around in the sun. I hate sitting around with a bunch of people chattering about whatever. I especially did not enjoy most of the types of conversation that the majority of these people had.
Luckily I found a few wierdos here and there. They were not weird LIKE me (who is?), but they didn’t exactly fit well with the herd either, so at the very least I had somebody to sit quietly near and occasionally roll my eyes at. (I could not go sit by myself because that was guaranteed to bring people to me, to engage me in conversation).
Despite all this, when it came time for first grade, and compulsory education we stuck with homeschooling. It was working for her. It was working for us as a family. It was working for me- as in I was capable of doing it. Was it enjoyable? Well parts of it were. It was great to see her make a leap forward in her comprehension of something. Parts of it were frustrating as hell. When I had a kid I committed to doing the best I could manage at raising her and turning her into a decent person, I didn’t commit to having fun. Let’s face it- fun is really not my strong suit anyway you look at it.