Many people think of home schoolers as a generic lot of Luddites who nix technology, lack social skills, grow their own food, live off the grid, and want to be around their kids 24/7. In my estimation, that describes, maybe, 5 per cent of home schoolers. “Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m a recovering home school mom,” I say to my imaginary 12-step support group of parents who survived home schooling their own kids.
I say ‘survived’ because it was not all fun and games (although a lot of the times, it was exactly that). Home schooling for my family, with both its pros and cons, was one tough gig.
People often asked how I ended up down this alternative life path? I certainly didn’t plan it. In fact, when my friend Livie said she wanted to home school her twins, I said, “Are you kidding? I would never want to home school my kids!”
The thought of being around my still-going-through-the-terrible-twos-even-though-he’s-now-three son all day long sent chills down my spine. Plus, I had an infant. I was exhausted from just being a mom. How could I be a mom and a home schooler?
Yet, just a couple years later, I made the leap into home education. Why? After a very bored two-year stint in public school, my son clearly needed more of a challenge. (We had to sneak Magic Tree House books into his classroom because they weren’t on the ‘approved’ first-grade reading list.) Plus, when his teacher spelled “Santa Clause” on the chalkboard, my faith in public school took a bit of a nosedive.
So, we pulled him after first grade and home schooled him (and his younger brother) for almost 10 years.
Over the years, people asked me what home schooling was really like, as if we were escaping from a dictatorship and they wanted the insider’s secrets of what we did beyond the demilitarized zone. But I get it. They were curious. We were ‘educational deviants,’ and they wanted to understand what we did and if we ever left the house.
Let me pull back the curtain to show what home schooling was really like, at least for my family.
We started school later, sometimes in our pajamas, because I’m not a morning person. (We often made morning runs for bagels and coffee.)
We ‘did school’ everywhere: At the kitchen table, on the couch, in the pool, on the back porch, in the car, at the park, at the science centre, and wherever else the day’s activities took us.
We filled many days with beyond-the-worksheet fun: Field trips, co-op classes, library visits, hands-on activities, science experiments, concerts, plays, recipes, home school support group activities, music, games, and art projects.
We custom-tailored our curriculum to what the boys enjoyed learning about while still covering the basics. For example, instead of just making the boys memorize the parts of speech, we let our artist son write and illustrate a grammar booklet based on Mario, his favorite video game character.
We adapted the environment to our boys’ special needs. The oldest (on the autism spectrum) liked a structured, quiet environment with lots of reading and art projects. The youngest (with ADHD) liked noise, movement, and hands-on activities.
We ‘skipped school’ whenever we felt like it. If we wanted to go to the beach for the day or head to the theme park when it was less crowded, we could and did.
We read thousands of books, which helped instill a love of reading in my boys.
We fought. A lot. My two boys, three years apart and polar opposites, were masters at sibling rivalry. And my younger son and I battled constantly with power struggles over snacks and pencils and petting the cat and making too much noise and... everything. Just because we home schooled didn’t mean we all got along all of the time. Stereotype shattered.
We questioned the decision to home school our boys at the beginning and the end of every school year - and sometimes even in the middle if we were going through a particularly rough behavioral patch with our boys.
I’m not the kind of person who thrives being around other people all of the time, especially when those people are my own demanding little kids who often exhaust my patience. I regularly needed some ‘me time’ and sometimes felt guilty about taking time for myself or going out with my friends.
As the boys got older and busier, home schooling wasn’t nearly as fun. In high school, everything counts on a transcript. We had much less free time to go on field trips and pack in all those ‘beyond-the-worksheet’ fun activities like we did when the boys were younger.
We finally realized home schooling wasn’t a good fit for our younger son. While we home schooled our older son through twelfth grade, we realized that our younger son needed to answer to someone else in high school. Plus, he thrived around more people, noise, and activity, so our quiet little home school drove him a bit stir-crazy.
The veil has now been lifted off the shroud of home schooling secrecy - at least from our family’s perspective, since no two home schoolers ‘do school’ the exact same way. Home schooling is as individualized as every family, and you must weigh the pros and cons of home schooling for your family.
Lisa is a freelance journalist, copywriter, and former home schooler. Check out her writer’s website at lisabeachwrites.com. Originally published on parent.co. Reprinted with permission.
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