So I Started Homeschooling My Kids (Sort of)

Of all the things I’ve ever written about on this blog, I am most afraid of what people will think of me about this one. And that includes the time I wrote about flashing everyone at my daughter’s ballet class while breastfeeding and the time a bee stung me on the ass.

I’m afraid you’ll think I’ve been drawn to the dark side of a crazy cult that has convinced me that my children might “catch sin” at the public school. (Not true, they are exposed to child-level sin at home. See how I said ass?)

I’m afraid you’ll imagine me wearing prairie dresses and sporting that spectacular hairstyle with the ’80s bangs pouf up front and crazy long waves to my waist. (Also not true-I currently have a raisin-colored pixie cut and am wearing sweat pants. Although that does make me seem crazy in a different way..,)

I’m afraid my decision will be interpreted as my giving up on the public school system in some way– that by choosing a different option, I’m saying that I don’t think my local schools (which have some of the highest test scores in the nation) are good enough for my children. This isn’t true, either. I loved being a public school teacher and had I gone back to teaching this year, my children would be enrolled in the one down the street.

I’m afraid that you will think that I am irretrievably damaging my children because they will not have field day or eat in a school cafeteria or some other aspect I haven’t thought of yet. And I’m very afraid that you might be right about that one.

Why am I doing this, you ask? And what does “sort of” mean?

“Sort of” means that my kids attend a school called a “non-traditional education center.” They attend classes two days a week in four core subjects–History, English/Language Arts, Science, and Math. There are no specials (P.E., music, art) and we are expected to provide our children with opportunities to do those things ourselves.

They each have three different teachers–one for math, one for science, and one for both history and language arts. They complete their tests, present projects, conduct experiments, and learn new material while at school. At home they work on projects, papers, and all practice work. I grade all of their homework for accuracy and their teachers check it for completion. Their test and project scores then become the bulk of their grades.

So, sort of. Not a regular public or private school, but not exactly completely homeschooling either. In homeschooling world this option is called a “hybrid” program and I had never heard of it until a good friend of mine began this option a few years ago.

But, why? This is a little bit harder to explain.

I have had a dream for as long as I can remember to one day travel extensively with whatever family I had. In my dream, we would leave our lives for a year while I taught the children through an online program or something and we would just travel around the world as we saw fit. At the end of this imaginary year, my children would re-enroll in public school and I would resume my job as a teacher.

Actual life hasn’t exactly gone that way. I had a couple more children than the average (by choice, on purpose, that close together, thank you for asking). I decided to quit teaching for a few years while my children are little and our childcare costs are prohibitively high. Thus, our household has four kids, one income, and not enough money to pick up and leave any time in the near future.

In this last year, as we got set to move, we had to make a decision about what to do with our kids’ schooling for this semester. We didn’t know if we’d still be living in the same school district or not, let alone the zoning area for the school they were attending. Given all the options, Jay and I decided to enroll them in this hybrid option for the rest of this year. They wouldn’t have to switch schools mid-semester if we moved school districts and our family would get to experiment with a different kind of schooling.

With only these few months behind us, it has been incredibly fun. We’ve gone on field trips to see a Monet while one kid was studying Impressionism (art and music history are included, just not actually making art).

Boy Contemplates Impressionist

We climbed the Etowah Indian Mounds during a unit on early Native Americans. We are headed to the Georgia Aquarium in May as a review of marine biology. And we’ll be stomping through shallow ponds (with a guide) at the Chattahoochee Nature Center this week.

Etowah Indian Mounds–Cartersville, GA

I’ve gotten to see how our children learn and what their strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve enjoyed more leisurely mornings (we begin school at 8:30 instead of catching the bus at 7). I love that they’re excited about what they’re learning because there isn’t any wasted time, really. And I certainly enjoy that this schedule allows us to travel more and explore our country and its history.

Our view of the Lincoln Memorial last week

But I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. Maybe they need to learn something at traditional school that I’m not thinking of. I didn’t particularly get a lot out of extra-curriculars (sports, clubs, saying the pledge every morning), but a lot of other people did. What if I’m denying them something they’d love? When I panic the most I remind myself that I actually have a Master’s Degree in Education and am perfectly qualified to determine what they need to know and how well they know it. Also, I breathe into a bag.

But what if they’re weird? What if they go back to school and people make fun of them? What if everyone else already has friends and they don’t fit in anywhere? What if they never go back to school and they are launched into college as totally sheltered dorks?

And, at the base of my fear, is that I really chose this because it seemed fun. And it IS fun. Super fun. We’re having a great time. But is that allowed? Are we allowed to make parenting decisions based purely on life enjoyment? Or should I be making MORE decisions based on life enjoyment?

FUN is not what our Puritan ancestors expected of us. FUN is not what most people use to describe their school experience. I don’t know what I’m doing. I pray a lot. I ask the kids a lot of questions about what they like and don’t like. I obsessively look up the common core standards for their grades to make sure I know what they’re expected to know in public school.

But mostly I’m taking one day at a time and attempting to accept that “for the fun of it” might be an o.k. reason to do something I never really thought I’d be crazy enough to try. 

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