Thursday, January 3, 2008

Why Are We Homeschooling?

Episode 2

I get this a lot. More than I expected to, actually, but as my father likes to point out: when I have ever done anything the way anyone expected me to. So I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised. For the most part, I try to imagine myself in the other person's shoes when I get this question, just to see where they are coming from. And, for the most part, the place most people are coming from is a place of puzzlement. They can't figure out why I would want to sacrifice my time and income earning potential just to keep my kids at home, particularly when there are plenty of great schools out there. In some ways, I sympathize; I often wonder the same thing. It's not like I set out to be a SAHP, much less a homeschooling SAHP.

Anyhow, as I sift through all the books on the shelves, thinking about our directions for the new year (should I start another Chemistry Tuesday? should we all be doing Latin? what is Max going to do with that geography book? where are those English From The Roots Up cards I made?), I find myself reflecting a bit on why we started homeschooling in the first place. It's a rather pedestrian comedy of errors, in my opinion, and, as was the case with numerous homeschoolers I've talked with, it was a completely spur of the moment decision, pushed on me by the resulting forces of a teacher who should've long since retired, a resentful principal, a very angry and opinionated parent (not me), and my son. Oh, and my son's body rash. There. You have in a nutshell. (or as nutty as I can make it) Nothing terribly intentional at all.

But I still reflect on this chain of events, because we did have other options. We could've switched schools (but I didn't). We could've kicked up a ruckus with the school board (but I didn't). We could've switched to French immersion (but I didn't). Instead, I took the most drastic option available to us at the time: let's quit school altogether and do something different. Good thing I wasn't a relentless career girl or there would've been trouble, because I am married to a relentless career boy.

At the time, no one in our immediate circle of family and friends seemed too surprised, but that was because they had already heard most of my complaints about Max's grade one experiences. Kindergarten had been a breeze; his teacher loved him, he loved his teacher, he loved his classmates, his classmates loved him. He sailed through the learning, too. Grade one was a different kettle of fish. First, there were 18 boys and 2 girls. Second, the teacher this class had came with a distressingly short temper. Third, detentions for everything, including wriggling during Circle Time, were handed out with an equally distressing regularity. Max spent most lunch hours sitting in the office with at least 6 other boys, all guilty of the crime of wiggling or giggling. I am a relatively conventional person, especially in public, but it was hard not to see the ludicrousness of this. Wiggling = detention. Now biting your neighbour, or smacking your neighbour, or stealing your neighbour's lunch, I could see how those might get you some time next to the dour school secretary, but wiggling? These kids were six years old - weren't they supposed to be wiggly? Plus, I didn't see how sitting in a office for an hour would make a kid any less wiggly all afternoon. I guess that made me somewhat complicit. I used to tell Max to be polite and listen, but that if he ended up in the office, I wouldn't be mad unless it was for doing something truly obnoxious, like biting, or stealing, or smacking. Things he never did. Ahem. But I digress.

Once the class was let out early and the teacher sent the kids home without making sure the parents were there to greet their kids. Max, who had spent hours walking the neighbourhood with me (we are inveterate alley-combers), knew how to get home easily enough, but as I wasn't AT home (I was on my way to get him), he decided to walk back to school (and we lived in a large city at the time) and wait for me there. He was six years old. He had to cross at least three large streets going and coming. Another kid's parent wrote an angry letter, protesting the terrible lack of attention to the many kids who had this happen, but was rebuffed by the principal. I think it was then that I realized that my apparently cordial relationship with the school went only so far. And then, three days before Max was due to start grade two, the rumours started: his class would have the same teacher that they'd had in grade one. To say I sighed heavily was an understatement. Max asked me if he could homeschool. I said yes. Richard rolled his eyes a bit and worried a bit more. And there we were: homeschoolers by default.

Fast forward four years later: we're still homeschooling. In many ways I feel like I have just hit my stride. Max is doing better than I think he would be doing at any public school, I have no doubt about that. And now we have the twins home with us. They did kindergarten in a public school, a charming place in that large city we used to live in, but when we moved it seemed a good opportunity to try homeschooling with them as well. So here we are. Any more questions?


Katherine said...

Hi Sheila,
I found my way here thanks to Nicola putting your blog on our links list.
As I read this post I found myself nodding along. Unbelieveable how similar our stories are for finding ourselves homeschooling. We are also homeschoolers by default (love this phrase! LOL) Bravo to you for diving right into it!

sheila said...

Hey back at you, Katherine. Thanks for the comment. Don't you wish those of us with parallel lives all lived in the same area? After reading your comment, I have to say that I do.

I'd love to hear your story - is it on your blog anywhere? I'll check it out. Funny how so many of us have these stories.

cheers / sheila