Discuss and debate the issues that mean the most to you.
I'll just get a few things out of the way, before we start.
Yes, they are socialized.
Yes, we vaccinate.
No, it isn't for religious reasons.
Yes, I think public/private school is fine.
No, I don't think I need to answer all of your questions about our decision to homeschool.
Because it is actually none of your business.
I have found that the only part of homeschooling that is difficult is the same, tedious questions people tend to ask.
"Why do you homeschool? Are you doing this because of your church? Does everyone at your church homeschool? I bet I can guess how you vote. Are you against public school? Do you hate the teachers? So, you don't vaccinate? How are your children socialized? Are they involved with any activities? Are you in a homeschooling group? Where are you going? Tell me in every painstaking detail all the decisions you and your husband have made for your family and for your children's education because I clearly have the authority to know all of this." *aneurism engaged*
I have everything under control, and we are doing fine. There are laws for every state, and we are aware of each law and are engaged in organizations learning about bills that are in progress that might affect us in the future.
But for some reason, other people think it is actually appropriate to pepper us with questions on what decisions we are making for our children.
It is actually not.
I don't mind discussing what we do, because I have invested so many days/nights/years into educating my children, I think it the entire spectrum of homeschooling curriculums is completely fascinating and I love hearing new ideas. However, at some point the questions become invasive.
All the decisions we have made for our family actually aren't anyone elses business. It is interesting that some people believe it is.
However, it has taken a while for me to understand why it isn't. I thought for a long time that I should answer all these questions about our family, because maybe, somehow, I was being held accountable for our decisions.
Fortunately, I don't buy into this stupid idea any more. I am held accountable to my family, and to the homeschooling laws in our state, and that's about it. I actually do not have to answer every intruding, meddling question random people ask me.
"What is your religious view of education?"
"It isn't your business, that's what."
When I graduated college I fully intended on going into teaching. I love teaching. I love the passing on of ideas and the discussion of subjects. I love the flow of knowledge. I love planning projects and sorting through index cards with different objectives on which to focus. I love sharing information with people and I love watching the light begin to glow within individuals when they not only understand the idea, but begin to expand upon it within themselves. When I was in school, I daydreamed about my classroom, one day. I thought about what my desk would look like and what books I would read with the class. My childhood fantasies consisted of me either winning an Oscar (once I took up acting, on a whim, and won every award within the first year so I could retire and live comfortably, reading books in front of a fireplace in my cabin in the middle of my forest...obviously), or teaching a class about how important the socio-economic storyline is in Wuthering Heights, and how it still applies to our society today.
Teaching courses through my veins, whether I admitted it or not.
So when my eldest daughter was on the cusp of her young schooling adventure, I freaked out.
The schools around us at the time weren't fantastic. The reported scores were rather low. The police blotter had a post nearly every day of a visit to high and junior high schools to arrest students for drugs or violence... and we didn't live in downtown Oakland. We moved into that quiet neighborhood because it was safe, at the time. Unfortunately, things changed. We didn't exactly have the money for private schools, and I was freaking out about what we were going to do.
So, some good friends of mine did what very good friends do:
They bullied me into homeschooling.
"You have to. It is what you do anyway. You already have hundreds of dollars worth of preschool books, workbooks, activities and crafts. That is homeschooling... you can do this!"
"Just try it. You, of all people, will love it."
So I ordered the boxes and boxes and boxes of books for our curriculum. I got notebooks, pencils, binders, construction paper, glue sticks, paint, paintbrushes and scissors. I bought educational posters for grammar, math and astronomy. I found forums online for homeschooling ideas, and I made a teacher's notebook for myself to record attendance, grades, projects and ideas. And with that, we were homeschoolers.
And then I really freaked out.
Teaching may be my strongpoint, but organization isn't. I had no idea how to organize all these books. Where do you put them?? Is there a wrong way to organize a homeschooling room?? I don't have any wall space left to put up all these educational posters, unless I start moving our dozen or so bookshelves (so we moved bookshelves). How do I keep all the craft supplies in the schoolroom, when they keep getting lost under beds or buried in the garden? Do I need hanging folders, or do we need Work Boxes, or do we need a cubby for the kids? Do we actually need any of this stuff? Do we need a desk for the kids? How do I convince the kids this is actually school, and not just Mom harping on them to finish something? Do we need a classroom pet?!!
OMG. What have I done.
That was the first year of homeschooling. Not only did we get through it, with Madeline our classroom hamster, but we did great. We learned how to read, we learned about history, we learned about math, we did archeological digs in our backyard, we built phonics phonemes on popsicle sticks. We did a ton of stuff, and we had so much fun! Besides my intermittent crying at night when I was worried (see: terrified) that I wasn't actually teaching my daughter "school" and I was, in fact, setting her up for failure, and I am a horrible mother for doing this, and her career in college is over already, and what on earth was I thinking, who talked me into this I am going to fail them all.
So, that is the first year.
The second year is better. You know how to organize the books a little better. You have a better idea of what agenda works during the day. Laundry isn't completely ignored, and you are more confident that you are actually teaching her something when you find her reading science books in her bedroom in her free time.
After that, it is just a matter of refining the system. You can go into a homeschooling convention and not be intimidated by the rows and rows of curriculums. The pamphlets warning against brick-and-mortar school evils bounce off you by now. (They aren't evil, they're fine. Chill.) By now, you can navigate through which learning style your kid, and you, have and you know what will work and what won't. You know the difference between Unschooling and Charlotte Mason, and you can silently roll your eyes when someone starts talking (see: ranting) about government conspiracies.
One crucial part of beginning something new is to find grounded, informed and pragmatic support.
Comparing public school teachers to Hitler is not grounded, informed and pragmatic support. That is divisive, and stupid. My purpose in life is not to raise uninformed, stupid and divisive children. I want to raise informed, knowledgeable, creative, curious children who go off to college and lead amazing adult lives.
It has been helpful, during difficult days when no one remembers that we have actually been learning "what is subtraction, again?" or "what is an adjective? I have never heard of that" (ever?!! We just talked about this yesterday, for the thousandth time! gaahhhh!!!!), to talk to people who have done this before.
They survived, and you will survive. It is going to be okay.
I remind myself that many people have been homeschooled and didn't end up wandering aimless in the wilderness eating bugs out of logs for sustenance because their mother never taught them how to be fluent in conversational German, or what the 3rd declension in Latin means.
Thomas Edison was taken out of school by his mother when a teacher suggested he "was slow."
Theodore Roosevelt was sick as a child, and was consequently schooled at home.
Florence Nightingale was homeschooled by her father.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Pearl Buck was homeschooled while her parents were missionaries in China.
Alexander Graham Bell was homeschooled by his mother, who encouraged his curiosities, while the few teachers he had said he was an "unexceptional student."
Woodrow Wilson was homeschooled, entered college at 16, and soon after transferred to Princeton.
Susan B. Anthony was taken out of public school and was taught by her father at home, after her instructors refused to teach a female long division.
"You can do this. You are planning ahead for their future already. The children are growing up to be lovely, balanced, educated and curious children. You are doing great, and it is going to be okay."
This May I will be finishing my 7th year of homeschooling.
I have had 5 pregnancies, and in September I will officially be homeschooling 4 of the kids; next year, we will have all 5 enrolled in our home-based, officially registered with the Department of Education, private school. We have workbooks, textbooks, online work, library books, and projects. There is a set-in-stone agenda the kids work through every day, and I am doing better at keeping up with the laundry (maybe).
Homeschooling is now a part of our family culture, and we love it. I love it. I am able to spend time with my kids and get to know who they are and what they are interested in on completely different levels than if we weren't homeschooling. I have watched my son grow and develop a sensitive interest in stories, while my daughter has taken a competitive interest in coding. One of my preschool kids has taken it upon herself to learn art in ways I really couldn't expect:
"Hey sweetie, what are you drawing?"
Sure enough, she had pages of different sketches of my dresser from different angles. Which was... awesome, and weird. I just make sure she has sketch books and art textbooks available around the house for her, and she is filling them all.
When we started having children, I never saw homeschooling on the horizon for us. It was never a subject I thought I was interested in. However, my innate love of learning has crossed over to become an innate love of encouraging learning, which has given me more fulfillment than I could ever have imagined. I know what my children are learning, how they are growing and developing as persons, and we are on a great path towards college already.
So, all the inappropriate, invasive, aneurysm-inducing questions we get?
"We're good. Thanks."