“So…where do your kids go to school?”
“Oh! We are homeschooling for now.”
Back in 1997, when Bill Clinton was committing to another four years in office, the Hale-Bopp comet was doing a fly-by, and The Lion King opened on Broadway, our little family of four embarked on the adventure of home education. We lived in a small town in southwest Oklahoma, and, as it happens, we lived just across the gravel drive from the town’s only Christian school. Naturally, there were questions when we announced that our cherubic, precocious, curly-haired firstborn would not be enrolling at the school whose gate we could literally touch while standing in the corner of our yard. It took some courage for us, young parents that we were at the time, to field the questions with positive determination and grace. One question that came up with some regularity was how long we planned to “do this homeschool thing.”
Good grief. Trying to find my homeschool bearings with a first grader and a toddler meant it was anybody’s guess what we might have for lunch the next day. I did not have an answer for how long we planned to homeschool, so I often demurred, “We are homeschooling…for now.” In private, with close friends, I admitted that I was certain that some better opportunities would come along. I hoped that better accommodations for our daughter’s cerebral palsy and hearing impairment would materialize, and we would enroll her in this better school when they did. I could not have foreseen the four additional children in our future, our son’s chromosome anomaly and autism, and my mother’s protracted illness and death. In truth, none of us knows the future, and this is very good. So we began. I read every book on education, child development, and homeschooling I could find. Our home was redecorated in Early Phonics and Maps. We found a lovely rhythm, my two girlies and I, and we settled in for now.
We had a fun first week. We joined a local co-op and had a delightful first semester. We celebrated the holidays and prepared to turn the corner into a new year. And then I got pregnant. And then we moved. We moved three times and had a baby in the span of twelve months. Whew! We finished that first year with a few bumps along the way, but it was really good. We found ourselves living in our state’s largest city, with A+ rated schools, and so we considered enrolling our daughter. Not now, we decided, but maybe later. For now, we would continue to homeschool.
Our children were 12, 7, and 4 when we realized that we were no longer homeschooling for now. We are a homeschool family. It’s not a thing we do. It is a way of life that describes, in part, who we are. Frankly, I was fearful of making that proclamation. I was afraid that it would be a burden or an unachievably high standard. I was afraid that I was setting us up for failure. If I say that we’re going to homeschool all of the children, all the way through high school, how can I know we won’t mess them up? How can I be sure they’re getting the best education we can provide? Can I give them all they’ll need to thrive for the rest of their lives? Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly advertising our newfound commitment to home education.
But I was wrong. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In letting go of the for now handhold, I was free to embrace all of the beauty, peace, and rest of wholehearted home education with both arms. I could choose curricula that fit our growing family, allowed us to learn together, and would span several years. We could commit to groups and activities that enriched and encouraged us all. When, as the teaching parent, I decided to step into the fullness of parent-directed, home-based learning, we all benefitted. I worked harder and gained more confidence in homeschooling a variety of learners from preschool through high school. We made relationships and service a high priority. We made time to wonder, to contemplate, to dream, and to do.
“So…where do all those kids of yours go to school?”
“We are a homeschool family.”
We are also a camping family, a reading family, a praying family, and a serving family, and homeschooling has enriched those areas and more.
Maybe you’re beginning to consider walking away from public or private schooling. You may be just wading into the homeschool waters…for now. Be encouraged, friends. There is a whole community of support and resources available to shore you up as you define your family’s mission, vision, and goals. Homeschool Oklahoma is here to connect families with resources and to affirm parents in their roles as primary educators of their children.