It just isn’t. Calling what’s happening in homes across America right now “homeschooling” is like calling a piece of bread, birthday cake.
One of the things I love most about our lifestyle is the fact that we are not constrained by the four walls of our home. Math can take place in a garden. Science class can be held at a planetarium. Our P.E. can be early-morning swim lessons. We have homeschooling friends that we’re able to have spontaneous play dates with just because the weather’s nice that day and by golly, we’re feeling a little picnic-y.
There’s an enormous amount of flexibility and freedom in homeschooling. So yeah, this isn’t exactly the chocolate cake with sprinkles that we’re used to, but we’re still thankful for our daily bread.
Now, I know it’s not my responsibility to hold the heavy weight of homeschooling’s reputation on my shoulders… but when you’re on the other side of something unconventional, it’s hard not to be defensive. Before I continue, I want to make something clear…
I am and always will be an advocate for public education. My children may find themselves in public school classrooms next year. Or maybe the year after that. Or maybe never. But even if we do this thing for the long-haul, I will always be a supporter of public schools. I will be cheering for and inspired by all of the tireless educators who dedicate their lives to bettering the future of our nation. I may even want to rejoin their ranks some day, and I do NOT believe homeschooling is the right choice for everyone.
But having said that, I now want to tell you a little story about a woman we shall call Judgy McJudgerson.
Honey, this self-appointed expert on all things education was in especially rare-form when a friend asked for her opinion on homeschooling. She was considering it for her up-and-coming kindergartner.
Now, the friend DID ask. So Ole Judgy, true to form, didn’t hold anything back. She told her friend it was quite simply a terrible-horrible-no good-very bad kind of idea, and that she would NEVER consider homeschooling her own children.
I mean she had to protect her friend’s child, right? So Judgy let her friend know real-quick-like that if she made this mistake, her kid would inevitably become a social pariah. And she felt quite satisfied with herself afterward because she knew she’d saved that poor child from certain doom.
Ladies and gentlemen, I AM Judgy McJudgerson. In the flesh. And by the grace of God, that sweet friend still speaks to me.
I made that ill-informed and asinine assumption based on a handful of students I’d interacted with over the years. I was a real jerk-face. I had NO clue how many types of homeschoolers existed.
But the fact of the matter is… you don’t know, what you don’t know.
Now listen, I have read Tara Westover’s heartbreaking account of homeschooling in her memoir, “Educated“ (and you should, too). There are some truly sad homeschooling situations, and my heart goes out to those children. But I can tell you from experience, there are equally sad situations in the homes of children who sit in classrooms all across America.
It’s accurate to say that I have always been very serious about education. But my passion for teaching has sort of went through its own special brand of metamorphosis over the last few years. I have devoured book after book in hopes of better understanding the ways In which children learn. I have explored out-of-the-box approaches to education that I never before considered.
I have soaked in the words of Charlotte Mason and John Holt and Susan Wise Bauer. I have basked in the wisdom of veteran homeschooling parents whose grown children are BETTER than well-adjusted. These parents raised confident, self-sufficient, amazing humans. They were able to provide their kids with the freedom and time to pursue their own interests in a really deep and meaningful way. Their children were given social stimulation and opportunities for personal growth, AND their kids’ lives were filled with play, and rest, and wonder. I fell IN LOVE with this unconventional lifestyle.
I mean who knew homeschooling was more than denim skirts and granola bars?
But taking the leap of faith to do it, that was another thing entirely.
I try my very best not to care what others think, but I project their concerns onto myself from time to time. Am I doing enough? Am I enough? There are things I fail at every day that public schools could better provide. But I simultaneously know I am providing them with something that public schools can’t.
Nothing is perfect. We’re all just doing what we think is best.
But because I made this choice, a choice that I believe is best for my own children at this time in their lives, I have lost friends. I have been treated with disrespect by fellow educators (that actually hurts the most). I have been accosted by people in public when we are out during school hours, learning in an unconventional way.
Can you believe people would be so judgy? Well friend, I sure can… because I was one of them.
Even though there have been some negatives along the way, there have been hundreds of unexpected blessings in this journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m certainly a lot bolder and braver because of it, and I pray my children will be, too.
And this really isn’t about homeschooling… it’s about support. It’s about supporting the people in your life even when you do not understand their choices.
Homeschoolers aren’t okay right now either. We miss our community during this quarantine, too. We miss afternoon extracurriculars and going to the park with friends. And Dear Lord in Heaven if we don’t miss the library. Nobody loves the public library like a homeschoolin’ momma.
So to my quarantined friends: what you’re dealing with… it’s not homeschooling. Not really. It’s only the bread.
But the simplicity of lying on your backs and studying clouds… the joy of being cuddled up with a good book…the laughter that comes from art projects gone wrong…and the freedom of a day that’s mostly unencumbered by the ticking clock… THAT is homeschooling.
And although our lifestyle choice may not be for you, when all this is said and done, I hope you remember the beauty of those things. Because that, y’all… that is the chocolate icing and sprinkles.