For years, I have been the quintessential homeschooling mom. At one point I homeschooled a high schooler, a middle schooler, a third grader and a preschooler -- with another in high school, a toddler and another on the way. I had all of the books (still do). I have textbooks and software and workbooks and worksheets and lapbooks and ebooks. You name it -- if it has to do with homeschooling, I own it.
I was a homeschooling junkie and a guru all at the same time. I attended classes (yes there are CLASSES to teach you how to homeschool), wrote articles on the virtues of homeschooling, bought planners, joined homeschool groups, went to conferences -- spoke at conferences and even looked to the Duggars for homeschool advice! And now?
Well, this year, for the first time in at least 10 years, all of my children are going to public school. All of them -- except the two-year-old and the newborn. Even my four-year-old is going to 4K for half the day.
Why the sudden change of heart? Well, it doesn't hurt that we recently moved to a place where the schools are tops in all of the state. But also, after going through fifth grade again and starting to work on kindergarten work and doing algebra for the third time, I realized that it is not my calling to teach. Yes, of course I teach my children -- all the time. But the constant, curriculum-based teaching they need? I hate it. Hate it. I bored myself. I can only imagine how my kids felt.
Find other methods you say? I did. I've done all kinds of things to liven up different subjects. But what it ultimately comes down to is that homeschooling is supposed to be the joyous exploration of learning -- and I was anything but joyful.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love being a mom. I love everything about being a mom. I don't mind driving to activities and practices. I like to cook and bake for them. I don't mind doing their laundry or picking up their toys (OK, well most of the time), but the standing at the dining room table teaching thing -- it drives me crazy. I'd much rather be doing other stuff. Burned out? Sure, maybe. But truthfully, after meeting with the teachers at my kids' new schools, I was really excited for them.
They would be able to take advantage of opportunities and methods of teaching that I couldn't dream of providing. And there is something to be said for getting up everyday and going to school or work.
I know, I know. I'm not supposed to cave to the idea that getting up in the morning and being a productive member of society is a big deal. The unschooling world would have my head! But there is something to be said for knowing how to get up every morning and just go do your stuff. If 95 percent of success (or 80 percent or whatever it is) is just showing up, then my kids didn't know how to do that. Because as much as I tried to stick to a schedule -- invariably things got left behind. Kids slept in, chores were missed and schoolwork was left undone.
I'm sure there are some homeschooling moms who do it all right. Michelle Duggar for example is one of those moms. Perfect kids, perfect schedule, everyone learning and helping and doing.
We are not nearly that good! I'm way too laid back. Unlike Mrs. Duggar, I have to work too (I work from home, but still...) and it's almost impossible to keep a house clean, feed kids, work, homeschool and not go insane! At least it is for me.
I'll also admit that there is a measure of relief in not being solely responsible for their education. While I drive more during the day, there is a comfort in knowing that someone else has their math, reading and spelling lists covered. That I don't have to figure out a science experiment for this week.
I can nurse and snuggle the baby in the afternoon without feeling guilty that we didn't complete lesson 7 in geography.
I also think it's important for them to hang with other kids. Now, this goes against my huge argument of socialization and homeschooling, but let's face it, unless you have to deal with other people everyday, you never really learn how to do it.
Being with other kids all day every day (that you aren't related to) helps you learn about personalities and conflicts. These are all skills my kids did not have because I was too busy shielding them from other people and conflict.
I'm not sure when we decided that conflict among children was bad, but we should stop. Kids are going to have to deal with all kinds of personalities all of their lives. We need to guide them through that process, not protect them from it.
What I hope my children will always know -- and hopefully have learned from homeschooling -- is that they have a mother who is ultimately interested in their whole lives, not just little bits of it. My life has been dedicated to making sure my children are educated, thoughtful, interesting people.
For now, that means going to school. Am I saying I will never homeschool again? Of course not (never say never). But if I've learned anything it's that kids deserve a mom who is at her best, and likes what she does...because that's what I want for them -- to like what they do.