06 September 2012

Not-Homeschooling 101

Knowing that our Adventures in Homeschooling have recently taken a detour (i.e., our two oldest are attending the local public school this year), Rebekah sent me this link, which instantly became my new favorite blog post on homeschooling.

Why? Just because someone else was “dropping out of home school?” No. Because Simcha Fisher wrote it so…freely. Because it is so matter-of-fact. Because it’s real, and it’s funny. But above all, because it feels almost entirely devoid of the sometimes-crushing guilt too often associated with homeschooling and/or not-homeschooling.

So much of homeschooling talk is so…ultimate. Final. Decided. Case closed. Homeschool or bust (even if it turns out to be homeschool and bust). We attended a statewide homeschooling conference a couple years ago, and I’m really glad that we did. We came home newly inspired, with tons of ideas and resources and encouragement. We crossed paths with some really wonderful people, and also with some people who are really militant about homeschooling (those categories of course not being mutually exclusive :D).

We’ve never been terribly militant about homeschooling. (Our charity of speech in this regard was learned partly of necessity, as a rare homeschooling/pastor’s family in small towns in which schools and teachers comprise important parts of community and parish.) Are there a lot of things that are ideal about homeschooling? Yes. Is homeschooling The Ideal? Perhaps--but our world isn’t exactly idyllic, and I’d have to put so many qualifying and explanatory asterisks after “Ideal” that the word would become, for all practical purposes, devoid of meaning.

Was sending our kids to school an easy decision? No. Heck no. But it could have been a lot easier, had I allowed myself, in the throes of the “gut-wrenching decision” (aptly described by Fisher in another hilariously true article that Monique recently sent me), to accept three simple truths: We began homeschooling because it was the best thing for our kid(s) and our family in that town at that point in our lives. Now we’re sending two kids to the community school just down the road because it’s the best thing for our kids and our family in this town at this point in our lives. Furthermore, should any of those factors change, this decision is immediately reversible.

Those statements sound so much simpler than the hopes and fears and prayers that cluttered (and to some extent still clutter) the mental space occupied by this decision. But that’s the honest distilled truth of our present situation, whether I like it or no. As Fisher wrote elsewhere,“The best advice I got about homeschooling? Do it one year at a time.” And, I would add, evaluate it one kid at a time. Boy, do I wish that more people on both sides of the homeschooling fence, even public school teachers, even people at homeschooling conferences, were wise and brave and kind enough to give and/or heed that advice. While I might still secretly envy stalwart homeschoolers’ twelve-year master plan, I must live in the reality of my family—these children, in this place, at this time.    

Whether we’re back at homeschooling in a year or three years or never, I pray that I will become wiser and braver and kinder all the while—confident (but not militant) about the educational choices we make for each of our children. And above all, confident in the mercy that covers my sinful shortcomings and in the grace that blesses my children in spite of my mistakes.


Cheryl said...

Great post. We have been homeschooling since my college sophomore was in second grade, but we have always approached it one year at a time. All of our kids went to preschool and a few went to kindergarten because I am not good with glue and scissors and glitter. We are still taking it one year at a time. Favorite line in the first article: "If I’ve learned anything in the last twelve years (and I haven’t), it’s that you never, never know what your life will look like this time next year– so who knows?"

Truer words were never spoken.

Cathy said...

Both articles by Simcha are hilarious! Thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm both a Grandmother and a mother with children at home and I can tell you that the angst which sometimes drowns today's younger mothers is heartbreaking to see. I feel like I'm standing on the Baby Boomer shore wanting to send the lifesaver to the Generation X'ers.

As a woman in my 50's I have, through the Grace of God, somehow flourished, remained in the faith, married up, raised Godly children and remain forgiven - even though my parents (and their peers) spent between little and no time anguishing over the many choices that the X'ers belabor. If a decision or choice did not work out as our parents had imagined, then a course correction was made. The neighbors did not speak of it. Our parents did not lose sleep. They just moved on. I'm relieved that our children are almost raised. I can only hope that I can impart to my adult children the value of making a course correction, moving on, and not looking back. The grace of God covers us parents in oh so many way. Now, enjoy the extra time you'll have with the little ones while the bigger ones are at school.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for this, Reb. Mary! It's something I have been contemplating a lot even though my oldest is 2.5 (or maybe because she's so precocious). The guilt and angst I can totally understand...and relate. We are in a very similar situation to you, which is why also why I've contemplated this "decision" more than I normally would have - pastor's family in a small town... It often feels as though sending your children to public school - or home schooling them - is the ultimate sin, depending on what side of the fence you sit. Thank you for the "free-ing" nature of this fabulous post and articles! :)

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you posted this. As my girl started preschool today I was agonizing over my failure as an aspirant homeschooler. It is what she needs now. It is nice to hear some a non militant perspective! MZ

Reb. Mary said...

Do you know, I'm feeling better about the world already, just hearing from all you wise and brave and kind people :)

Cheryl, I totally hearted that line too.

Elizabeth, if it's any encouragement, we've found that the people/parishioners in both small towns we've inhabited while homeschooling were prevailingly curious rather than antagonistic. And nearly everyone is willing to accept a decision that's presented in relation to a common goal, "what's best for our family/our particular kid(s)" rather than in relation to the local school or the American education system in general ;P

And Anon, thanks for the needed reminder that every decision need not be so...heavy. There's such a danger (at least in my own beleaguered mind) of making homeschooling or whateveyou into the Ultimate Good or the Only Way, when of course we know that Ultimate and Only are adjectives to be reserved for the One who graciously covers our failures and lets us begin new every morning.

MZ--you already know this but I'll say it again for you, since I have to remind myself: Not a failure! Rather, a measured decision based on your current situation. And plenty of time yet to aspire--to homeschooling, perhaps, but more importantly to what's best for your daughter and you.

Melrose said...

I am thankful that I have so many friends and relatives that homeschool in so many different ways to help me when I feel like I'm frantically climbing a tree to get away from whatever guilt is trying to eat me in the moment. My oldest sister sends her kids to preschool and elementary and then brings them home for middle school. High school is a case by case basis. She has also occasionally brought home a child in elementary for one reason or another and has sent some of them back before bringing them home for middle school when the issue was resolved. She takes it one day, one year at a time and her children and household amaze me. They are one of the most selfless, flexible households I know.

Thank you for this post, thank you for your bravery, and God bless you Reb. Mary in your mothering.

Rebekah said...

I've never been able to understand a knee-jerk reaction Against School. I'm no Dewey fan but school (not just education) is a pretty ancient and proven concept.

I hope all your people have a really good year. :)

Dakotapam said...

This resonated with me, as I feel like I've dabbled in all of the systems. I've homeschooled, our kids have attended a Lutheran School, and our oldest four attend three different, wonderful public schools in our community. When we decided that the public schools were not only better for our children, but also our family's financial bottom line, we received pity, yes, pity, from our Lutheran school comrades. Some thought we were throwing our children to the wolves. However, the boys are all thriving, growing and have intact faith. I now homeschool preschool with the twinnies and toy with kindergarten in the future as well, if we can afford for me to be home with them along with their oldest brother attending college. One year at a time. . .that is how we make our educational decisions.

Anonymous said...

I know this is a somewhat light-hearted post, but I am the angst-y one in this predicament. I love homeschooling my children. I know why I want to do it. But as child number 4 approaches, I am terrified. I don't want to do a crappy job because I'm exhausted and overextended and lazy and unmotivated. And I hear from homeschooling moms all the time "We don't need time off from our kids! We LOVE our kids!" Which is sweet and all, but with a newborn and home to maintain and a husband to love and support, you bet I'd like a little time off! But I'd feel like a lazy failure. My husband means to compliment me when he says that I'm doing a fantastic job and no school could do what I'm doing and no child of his will ever enter a public school, etc. But, boy, does that weigh me down! I just long for the comparative luxury of sending them off onto the school bus and knowing that the education side of things is being taken care of....

Reb. Mary said...


I hear your angst. Sigh. There's angst a-plenty on both sides of the fence, and in the middle too.

You know why you want to homeschool your kids [i.e., you know how you want to raise them/ what you want your family to be like], and your husband supports and encourages you. With those elements, no matter where future roads of schooling lead your family, your ventures have an excellent chance of being successful.

And allow me to suggest, that if all the homeschooling moms/blogs you hang around are always and only raving about the joys of 24/7 togetherness, it's time to find some other homeschooling moms/blogs to hang around too ;) Just keeping it real.