Shopping with the kiddos on any given weekday, I am approached by at least one well-meaning adult wanting to know if school was dismissed early. My daughter, a precocious 9-year-old, puffs out her chest and announces that, “We are home-schooled.” While this often defensive comment does say it all, I thought I’d take a moment to tell you more about our decision to home-educate.

There once was a day when “home-school” was a creepy word. A practice once only credited to hermits or religious zealots, educating children at home wasn’t a popular notion. I personally shuddered at the thought of taking my daughter away from the institutional environment she had grown so accustomed to during her preschool years, and had serious doubts that I could teach her as well as her devoted team of early childhood educators. After a series of moves left us puzzled as to where to send her to kindergarten, we decided to delay her enrollment and work on a few skills at home – just until we got our bearings.

What started as an experiment in school preparation ended up becoming a blessing for our family. We enjoyed the time with our daughter, and were pleased at the progress she was making (especially in areas that were difficult for her early on.) She thrived in the environment we created for her at home. Quality time with mom and dad, carefree play with her siblings on the farm, a few hours of concentrated written work, and a few selective play dates during the week gave her just what she needed to breeze through kindergarten without the public school system.

When we reached the crossroads of whether to enroll in public school, the answer was simple. Why fix what wasn’t broken? We purchased a curriculum acceptable to our state education board, and began the “official” process of home education. We have months where we don’t do much formal teaching -- days when there is more to be learned from planting flowers, baking bread, or digging for earthworms. Other times, we dig into our workbooks and fly through a month’s worth of curriculum in just a few days, because it is that exciting to learn more and more. Days spent with a great-grandma are more valuable than those memorizing multiplication tables. Time invested shoveling walks for a neighbor builds more character than a chapter of social studies curriculum. Life has become our lesson plan.

These are the reasons why we home-school. There are a hundred more, as well. I could never expect anyone to patiently listen as I recite all of our ideals and convictions in the two minutes we have standing in the checkout line, however. So for now, we’ll just smile and allow my daughter to proudly do the talking for us.