Saturday, April 16, 2005

An Unlikely Homeschooler

I am encouraged that studies show more parents are taking the courageous stand of choosing to home educate their children. I call parents who make this choice courageous because it absolutely goes against the grain of all that we as Americans are taught to believe. As a young girl, I thought school and the school experience was the most important part of life. It did not matter that I was aware of many in schools not learning and having significant difficulties in school. I could not imagine any other way.

I believed that teachers were uniquely qualified to teach based on their educational credentials and that the purpose of schools was to take uncivilized, empty-headed students like me and fill us up with knowledge that would one day be useful to us.(I am still waiting to discover when some of that stuff is going to be useful). I learned that the primary best way to learn was by listening to teachers talk with an occasional field trip thrown in there. Of course children belonged in school- it was just the natural order of things.

Then I had my son. Why on earth, after waiting so long to become a mother would I hand my son over to strangers to be the primary influencers in his life? As I became more and more attached to my son and learned more about him, abut me and about my values, it was difficult to imagine why I would send him to school, especially at an early age. I became convinced that the reason so many parents fall succumb to loud weeping when their children first go off to kindergarten is that it is very painful and probably not in the best interest of the child for a 5 or 6-year old to be separated from his parents and experiencing the rigors of academia.

These "radical" ideas of mine were all fine and good as they were discussed between my husband and I. But what on earth would the rest of the world think? This is where courage comes in to the picture. It takes a lot of guts, more than I initially had, to tell people that you are eschewing the venerable institution of the school. I did not want to have to justify myself and my reasoning to others nor did I feel that I could adequately describe to an outsider the depth of my love and admiration of my son. For a while, I kept my mouth shut. Unless someone asked specifically, I did not mention my schooling plans for my son.

That approach worked out fine while Chase was a baby but as he got older I knew that I was going to have to face the inevitable. To top things off, Chase was always tall for his age and has long had a habit of wearing his backpack with his favorite books in them everywhere we go so since age 3 people started asking where Chase was going to school.

Initially, I would mumble something about homeschool under my breath and run away from the scene as quickly as possible. Until one day after one of our encounters with the preschool police Chase asked me "So mommy, what school do I go to?" I answered "You go to homeschool. Mommy is the teacher and you are the student." After asking a few more questions about exactly what a student was, Chase was beaming with pride. "I am a student!" he kept saying excitedly.

Next time we were out and the schooling Gestapo stopped us, before I could answer the probing question, Chase loudly and clearly proclaimed that he was a student and he was "HOMESCHOOLED" just to be sure everyone could hear. And everyone did hear and look in our direction.

And you know what? Nothing happened. No one came and took my son away, no one arrested me and no one yelled at me. He was my son and I could educate him any way that I felt was in his best interest. These people did not even know me!

It was the courage of my son that infected me and changed me and made me more committed than ever to homeschooling.

Then I felt ready to approach friends and family with the truth about our views of education.

But that is a post for another day.

Check out my post "Praying for Guidance" at my Joyful Parent blog about worry and a better way.

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