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The Reluctant Homeschooler

It seems to me that families who homeschool can be defined by type. There is, of course, some overlap, and always those pesky exceptions. But for the most part, homeschoolers come in three flavors: religious, alternative, and last resort…
The religious homeschoolers are the best-known by non-homeschoolers. Most of them are Christian, most but not all tend toward conservative politics, and most share the conviction that homeschooling is a way to keep their children from being exposed to parts of the culture that they don’t like.
I actually relate to this group, not in a religious way, but because of my dislike of some parts of our culture that have asserted themselves at our schools. The cultural forces I’ve seen at work that I’d love to shield my children from are many, including: the premature sexualization of children, the violent media that children are exposed to that they then express to each other, the rigid sex/gender roles that serve to marginalize kids who don’t fit in, and the glorification of ignorance and the vilification of intellectuals, especially scientists. I don’t believe that we should shield our children from everything — that leads to children who will be unable to cope in the real world. Furthermore, I do believe that families can counteract a lot of what kids get at school just by having healthy family relationships and discussing what goes on. So this alone wouldn’t be enough to make me a homeschooler.
The “alternative” group is the group I have met the most of through homeschooling my daughter. They are generally well educated, often with a smidgeon or more of counter-culture tendencies. Sometimes they are not highly educated but just thoughtful people. They have looked at their options (often they can’t afford private schools that they might have considered), and they’ve decided that standard public schooling won’t work for their family, for their kids, or both. There seems to be a larger percentage of former teachers in this category than in the general school population. Also, these parents are more likely to have been homeschooled themselves.
I definitely feel that these homeschoolers are my kindred spirits, because ever since I started looking at schools for my son, five years ago, I knew that I wanted something different for him. I went to “good” public schools when I was a child, and I was hoping that I could offer him something better. I was chiefly concerned about the lack of creativity in our public schools now, the emphasis on testing, the dropping of non-core subjects like music, art, and physical education. On top of that, I wanted a positive social atmosphere, which seems to be lacking in so many schools.
But because of the variety of charter schools and private schools in our area that offered options, I didn’t consider homeschooling my son. I had a baby in the house when he entered kindergarten, and the overriding factor was how exhausted I was!
I have to admit that I’m a member of the last group, what someone I know calls “the reluctant homeschooler.” We came to homeschooling not because we were drawn to it as parents, but because our children dragged us kicking and screaming into it. Some of our children refused to go to school at all. Some wanted to go to school and quickly found that it wasn’t their cup of tea. Some tried desperately to stay in school, but just couldn’t handle it emotionally.
This third group is probably the most fluid in the homeschooling community. We might have one child in school and one child in homeschool. Or we might end up homeschooling only when it’s convenient. We might homeschool, then try school again. It’s hard, though, to move from homeschool back to school. Everyone I’ve talked to had regrets for one reason or another. Lots of families have to put their children back in school for financial or health reasons. Some families are committed to homeschooling only when there are no other options.
But some of this group become the strongest homeschoolers of all, the converts. I’ve heard at least two former-teacher homeschoolers say that now that they’ve homeschooled, they’re not sure they’d want to teach again… They don’t feel confident that they can reach so many children the way they reached one or two.
I’d like to say that I’m firmly in the homeschooling camp now, but I find myself still straddling the two worlds I’ve been in. On the one hand, my daughter is happier, learning more, and more in love with her school now that she doesn’t have to be there five days a week. On the other, these little moments that I steal time to write are like teasers for me. A little part of me keeps saying, Maybe next year… I know this makes me a bit of a homeschooling heretic, but it’s where I am now. Next year? I don’t know. Ask me then!

Posted in Homeschooling, Parenting.


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