“What made you decide to homeschool?”
I’ve been asked this a few dozen times over the past eight years. But articulating a well-rounded answer always required more rumination than appropriate for a light-hearted conversation with a well-meaning acquaintance. Other frequent questions have been, “How do you have so much patience?”, “How do you make sure they learn everything in the curriculum?” and “Aren’t you worried they won’t have friends?” My honest answer to the first is: I don’t; sometimes I have to fake it and sometimes I lose my temper. To the second: I buy lots of books, but believe me, your child doesn’t know everything included in the Ontario curriculum, either. And to the third: shockingly, children don’t need to be among 30 other kids every day in order to make friends. Ours made friends by socializing with the children of our friends and with other kids at synagogue. This was the easiest part of homeschooling.
The misconceptions surrounding homeschooling are many and the public mystification at times seems impenetrable (the disdain of education experts and intellectuals doesn’t help, either). I remember one irritated father telling me homeschoolers were people who naïvely thought they could educate their children better than professional teachers. I was neither offended nor annoyed; I had already encountered parents who assumed I homeschool because I’m against the education system or want my children to become free-spirited, anti-establishment hippies. So I was used to being judged unfairly. But neither did I think I could out-teach the pros, nor did I want to raise a trio of misfits.
So again, the fundamental question: Why did we choose to homeschool? What did my husband and I set out to do when we pulled our sons out of preschool and rearranged our life plans by deciding to “do it ourselves”? The story began for several reasons and evolved as the years went on.
Motherhood began with a bumpy start. I was anxious and remember panicking when my son was only three months old that I had no idea how to potty train. My husband convinced me I had enough time to learn and helped me stop spinning catastrophes and start taking motherhood one day at a time. By the time our second son arrived 22 months later, I was a pro. Still, helping me remain calm and patient with my two toddlers was the following mantra, repeated often: “In a few years, they’ll be in school all day.” I relied on the thought that I would drop my sons off at school every morning, have the day to myself and pick them up later in the afternoon. I would only have to figure out how to pass the time with them on weekends.
This probably makes me sound like a monster. I didn’t hate spending time with my boys. I loved watching them grow and figure out how to speak and interact with the world around them. But as every mother knows, raising young children takes it all out of you. Every good mother kills her independent self and gives over body and soul to her children. Looking back, I only feel shame over my selfishness and lack of wisdom. I’ve since realized that I’m not a fully autonomous being whose children hinder her freedom. Rather, my purpose and meaning are derived from serving my relationships with my children, family, friends and community. The presence of my children is (almost) never a nuisance, only a blessing.