Lately, it seems like everywhere I go I run into friends who are choosing to homeschool. This was a phenomenon I had never even heard of until I was an adult. Now, suddenly, everyone (or at least everyone I run into lately) is discussing whether or not they're choosing to do it. And I have to say, homeschooling is starting to seem downright trendy among a certain set of moms. This is sort of surprising and sort of not. It seems like so much of our generation of moms looks at mothering as a series of choices. Breastfeeding vs. formula, working outside of the home vs. working inside, cloth diapers vs. disposable, organic vs. whatever's-on-sale, crying-it-out vs. attachment parenting.
I would argue that homeschooling vs. traditional school has made its way to that annoying list of choices we must make as mothers. How did this become the case? Is there some kind of book (or preferably short magazine article) that will explain to me why we are all suddenly trying to teach our children at home rather than send them to school?
I'm sure it's a combination of many different cultural phenomenons all intersecting at once that make homeschooling so appealing to so many. And I have to admit, I'm one of those people to whom it appeals. When I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to homeschool, I envision this idyllic scene of my children and me sitting around the kitchen hearth, reading to each other, taking breaks occasionally to do our handwork or bake some fresh bread. Basically, I imagine something out of a scene from Little Women when I imagine homeschooling. Never mind that we don't have a fireplace. And never mind that I happen to have more Little Men than Little Women at my house.
Instead of something from Little Women, the homeschool scene at my house would play out more like a scene from Raising Arizona ("She's got more than she can handle") or that scene from Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood where all of her kids are throwing up at once. In other words, I think homeschooling at my house would be slightly chaotic and not so productive.
Emma has learned to read pretty much on her own, though. And the kids love to sit and draw and make stuff all day long. They're great at having tea parties. Maybe my homeschool could be sort of a charter school that specializes in reading, making paper airplanes and having tea parties? We would blow everyone's socks off!
After visiting Emma's new elementary school many times in the last several weeks, I am more than convinced that those people have their act way more together than I do in the school department. I am not even going to try to compete. She will be in a Spanish immersion classroom where half of her day will be in Spanish. My semester in Sevilla in college was awesome, but I'm not sure it qualifies me to teach kindergarten in Spanish. I can order a "ron y coke" like nobody's business, though.
At Emma's school there are also lots of opportunities for art and drama, a great library, a cafeteria, a big gymnasium, music room, orchestra, and two playgrounds. Not to mention hundreds of new potential friends. Again, I can't compete.
I realize that everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to educating our children. I do question some people's interpretation of teaching at home though. I used to tutor a little girl who was "homeschooled." Basically she did a computer program by herself while her parents went to work. The program was designed for a second grader...and she was in middle school. I've also talked to another mom who bragged that homeschooling wasn't that hard because she just had her children watch videos to learn what they needed to know. I know there are tons of parents out there who are doing a great job with homeschooling and their kids are probably as smart as they come, but I think there's a good chance that with homeschooling becoming so trendy, some parents could wind up doing it because they want to be like the other parents they know who are doing it or because they believe it is the "right" thing to do, and that doesn't necessarily qualify them to be their child's only source of knowledge.
I should've reported the parents of the girl that I tutored. It has always bothered me that I didn't do more for her. Her dad fired me because I tried to get her to read books rather than do her computer program. He told me that reading wouldn't get her anywhere. He wanted her to be a vet tech.
The main reason I want my kids to go to school is because I think it will be good for them to be away from me. I'm great and all, but there is a whole world of great people out there who I believe have amazing things to offer them. Likewise, I think it will be good for me to be away from them. I am, after all, more than their mother, or so I hear. And they are more than a reflection of me.
When Emma gets on the bus on Tuesday and waves goodbye, I'm sure I'll be sad. I'll be saying goodbye to a chapter of her life where our family was pretty much her whole world. She'll be spending a lot of her waking hours away from home, learning things from someone else. Meanwhile, my own life will be freed up a tiny bit more to write and think and grow. I'm really looking forward to that. My hope is that we'll come back to each other at the end of her school day with a new appreciation for who we are and who we are becoming.
I feel like I wanted to say so much more in this post, but wasn't able to say it the way I wanted to. I would love to hear your thoughts about school. I've probably unwittingly offended some of my friends who homeschool. I hope that's not the case. Feel free to challenge my assumptions and tell your side of the story. Happy new school year to all!