We are on day two of the fourth quarter in our fifth year of homeschooling. We've made it through newborns, toddlers, and tantrums. We've made it through super busy phases and super lonely phases. We've made it through, but today I almost threw in the towel.
Do a little research on any homeschooling site and you will read that traditionally February is the month when most homeschoolers will give up. This has never been true for me. In our house it is always March, and March just slammed into our basement this morning.
Homeschoolers, books on homeschooling, and homeschooling sites that pop up on google searches all do a great job of shouting the pros of homeschooling from the rooftops. They will tell you all about how smart your kids will be, how much better (yes better) socialized they will be, how your children are going to be BEST friends, and on and on. After almost five years, I call their bluff.
I'm also not convinced that the whole world is out to get homeschoolers and shut us down. I bought into that one for quite awhile, and in all fairness, it was probably very true a decade or two ago. The reality of my five years of experience, just shouts a different story though. The number one reaction that I get when I tell people we homeschool is, "Wow, that's awesome." This is usually followed up with, "I wish we could do that, but we can't, I could never do that," or some form of admiration. There have been a much smaller number of times when I can tell the person isn't in favor of our choice, but those interactions are far less frequent, and I have never felt threatened. Teachers, coaches, the school district...ALL of our interactions have been positive.
All of this leads me to this post today. I believe that homeschooling is great. It can be all of those things advertised above. It really can. However, I do see a lot of people almost putting a halo on the head of the homeschool movement, and while the support is needed and very welcome, the halo needs to come off. It needs to come off because people discerning homeschooling need to know that it does not come without hardship, tears, and struggles. So here goes:
What you will read: Your kids will be brainiacs and love school!
Yes, my kids are pretty smart, but no smarter than they would be if they were in a regular classroom. I do see a little more zeal for learning than they might have in a regular classroom (like they all come running for history even if it is not their history lesson), but they also complain about school and don't like doing the work. This may be in part because our homeschool is very much a school at home environment. I would venture a bet that a more laid back homeschool environment really can produce a greater love for learning, but again this can also happen in a traditional classroom with a motivating teacher.
Socialization: Your kids will be socialized better than their peers!
My kids get lonely. Most of the time they are okay. We do a lot of stuff outside the home, and my kids even go to regular school once a week, BUT they still get lonely. So sure, they are properly socialized (in the true meaning of the word), but they don't have the same opportunities to develop friendships as their traditionally schooled peers. No, they are not having to deal with all the junk found in a regular school, but that can also be a downside. They are not LEARNING how to deal with all the junk. Oh, and about my kids being best friends...they are, BUT they are also the bullies and the bullied, and instead of being hurt by someone outside of their family, they are getting hurt by the ones whom they love the most. Socialization is more of an issue for our family than it might be for others because my older two children are lacking children their age in our homeschool group. I don't see this as much of an issue with our younger boys, and to be completely transparent neither of the older two really complain about playing with younger children, they enjoy it. However, as a mother I know they NEED a bit more interaction with their peers. I am often reminded that children in a regular classroom can be lonely too, and this may not necessarily be a homeschool issue, but since we have chosen to homeschool I have to wonder what if.
Which leads me to...
The issue that brings me to tears:
The stress of knowing that this is a choice that we have made for them, and the possibility that it might not be the right choice. The what ifs are never ending. The pressure is high. When your child isn't getting math, YOU are responsible. When your child displays some awful behavior, YOU have been the role model. Insecurity in my head runs rampant. Raising my children is the most important job I will ever have and messing up something so big is completely overwhelming. In all fairness, I am sure this goes through all parents' heads. If I had my kids in public school or private school I am certain I would be wondering if I were ruining them by that choice as well. Worrying about what ifs is just what I do.
At the end of the day, or in the middle of the afternoon after a horrible morning, it just comes down to trusting God. I have to trust that we are following His will for us, because He really did make His will very, very clear for us on this issue. I have also learned not to make any rash decisions in the midst of a meltdown. By noon today I had researched and mentally noted the pros and cons of our public school, the closest private school, and the private school our kids currently attend once a week. I was a ball of tears and ready to send our oldest to the yellow bus tomorrow morning. Two hours later the tears were gone, replaced by hugs and smiles. Our kids were gathered around me listening intently to the state capital quiz taking place between myself and my son. I looked up at that moment and said, "Guys, THIS is what homeschooling is all about." For me, for us, it IS worth it. I really do love homeschooling. It's just after five years, and a really bad morning, I just strongly feel that other parents need to hear about the not so sun-shiny moments too.