Homeschool has been on my mind since Graham was born—maybe even before that. I’ve been picking the brains of homeschooled and homeschooling friends for years, but we never made a firm commitment to it. Now that we’ve decided we’ll definitely be homeschooling Graham for his kindergarten year, I wanted to outline some of the reasons we made our decision.
First, some things we weren't really worried about:
- Religion: We’re religious—super duper religious, in fact!—but I don’t have any issue with my kids receiving a secular education. I think part of my job as a parent is to help my kids navigate the intersections of faith and academics, even from a very young age. There are no topics typically covered in a public school education that we’ll be avoiding. I do see where there’s an opportunity to use our beliefs to enhance our understanding of different topics—by talking about Bible stories along with geography, for example—but we’ll be following a secular curriculum.
- Exposure to different lifestyles: I hope we can help our kids learn about the world and the different lifestyles of people in it in a way that builds their empathy, their curiosity and their love. There are, of course, plenty of things in the world that are hard and ugly and that need to be approached carefully with young children, but our goal is not to shield our kids from hard things; instead we want to be by their sides as they learn.
Here's what brought us to our decision:
- Kindergarten in NYC is full day and those days seem LONG. If we don’t continue with homeschooling long-term, at the very least we want to give Graham a transition year (or a few of them) between spending all his time with the entire family and having only a few waking hours with us during the week.
- I don’t want to have to rush to get out the door for a school commute early every morning. I love the slow rhythm of our mornings right now and I want to keep it forever, or at least for as long as we possibly can.
- Graham is in this wonderful stage of completely joyful learning; we want to give him the chance to stay in that stage as long as he wants to. Traditional school, for all its strengths, brings with it a bunch of new stresses surrounding fitting in, being cool, having friends, etc. At home, we can love and accept and adore the kids exactly as they are and hopefully give them a buffer against social anxiety so that they can worry about what’s important: learning, growing, and playing. While we’re still planning on spending lots of time with other kids at playgroups, co-ops, forest school, etc., the kids will still be spending most of their time in an environment where they are loved unconditionally.
- Homeschooling will allow us more freedom. We are feeling extremely excited about life lately. Our 18 months of living on the road has opened our minds up to the possibilities available to our family, and given us the confidence to do things differently from the norm. Our hope is that homeschool will give us the flexibility to pursue travel opportunities, take advantage of NYC’s awesome resources and give the kids stability if we end up deciding to make some crazy transition into full-time travel again.
- The other aspect of this freedom that’s attractive to us is the freedom to tailor the kids’ learning to their individual needs. If something is too easy, we can speed through it or skip it altogether. If something’s not clicking, we can spend extra time on it and incorporate more activities that strengthen the kids’ learning in those areas. We can take time off if family is in town, or if life circumstances demand that we simplify for a bit. We can follow our kids’ rhythms, spend lots of time outside, and let them sleep in the morning til their little bodies are fully rested. We can ditch a curriculum if it’s not working for us, and double down on subjects and topics that the kids love.
- I feel strongly that a five-year-old should be mainly focused on exploring, developing his or her body with lots of outdoor time, learning social and practical life skills and, primarily, PLAYING. These aren’t ideas I’ve come to in a vacuum—there are loads of studies backing all this up. But beyond learning from child development research, I’ve spent a lot of time observing my kids and I can tell that letting them have lots of unstructured time just makes sense. It feels right. I’m not super worried about the content of public school teaching, but I am worried that teachers are being pressured to spend more time with structured activities and prepping for tests and less time with active play, recess, and free time. Because all our learning will be individualized and one-on-one, we’ll spend less time in lessons and have lots more time for all the things—like outdoor play—that are increasingly getting cut out of public school days.
- I’m not ready to be away from Graham for most of the day. In expressing this, I don’t want to suggest that I love my kid more than moms who send theirs off to school. I really, REALLY don’t think that. But down in my bones, I just don’t feel ready for Graham to go. Is this selfish? I’ve wondered that. It might be. Graham would certainly love the social aspect of school and I think he’d do really well with the academics, too. He loves schedules, routines, group work, attention from adults who aren’t his parents. But although I’m not opposed to public school, I still prefer the idea of a home education—at least for now.
- I love school. A LOT. A LOT A LOT. There is not a single school subject that doesn’t fill my soul with glee, truly. I love math, I love science, I love history, I love diagramming sentences, I love taking quizzes and tests, I love writing essays. I am a big fat uber-nerd. And so is David. And I think because of this, we just don’t want to hand over this joyful, exciting part of our kids’ lives to anyone else. We want to be there to watch things click in Graham and Margie’s little heads. We want to know firsthand what they're excelling at and what they're struggling with. We want to be right there with them, for as long as we can be.