Homeschooling wasn’t something I was familiar with growing up. My first real encounter with someone who was homeschooled was in college. One of my college friends and her siblings were homeschooled until 4th grade.
She was grateful that she and her siblings learned to read and do basic math with confidence before entering the school system. They were also given more time to play creatively, relax at home with each other, and learn school skills at their own pace.
Her description made it seem pretty ideal. And clearly, she was a fully functioning college student so it didn’t appear that homeschooling for a few years harmed her too much. HA!
I had no idea at the time, but our friendship planted a seed that would later blossom into our own family’s decision to homeschool.
As my oldest baby approached five years old, the state of Maryland decided to implement full-day kindergarten. I was already on the fence about sending her to public school but this move by the state cemented my decision to keep her home. She was full of curiosity, playfulness, and fun and I couldn’t imagine sending her to a classroom all day long.
So I didn’t.
We decided that we would homeschool our children until fourth grade so they could have a few bonus years of childhood with their family.
Her first year of kindergarten is when our homeschooling journey began.
It wasn’t easy or straight forward. I harbored doubts and concerns, despite having been a classroom teacher. I felt overwhelmed with so many curriculum options and education philosophies. In addition, the internal (and external) pressure to live up to the educational norms of society were difficult to ignore.
And I was lonely. I didn’t know anyone else making this same decision that year.
When the first day of school rolled around, my friends celebrated and took photos as they put their kids on the yellow bus. They marked a huge emotional milestone in their life while family life in our home continued as mostly normal.
Exhausted, pregnant mom. Three babies. Attempting to add “school” to our day now.
But we made it through that first year because of the women in our Classical Conversations group. They cheered me on and supported me and offered me community. While we didn’t continue to participate in CC the next year, I am so grateful for everything they taught me that year.
Over time, I encountered new educational philosophies, we tried new homeschooling groups, and my educational horizons began to expand.
When Kayleigh entered the 3rd grade, I hosted a small group of families in my house every week and we shared the responsibility of teaching. We transformed the garage, sections of the basement, and the kitchen into classroom areas.
It was such a success that we continued to host the co-op and Kayleigh remained home for 4th grade.
We began to realize that homeschooling allowed for a lifestyle that was well suited to our family. We feel in love with the freedoms that came with homeschooling and began to embrace them more each year.
We didn’t feel the need to send anyone to school, but Kayleigh (our oldest) began to express interest in the classroom. We considered enrolling her for 5th grade because we were committed to doing what was best for Kayleigh.
In a twist of fate, that spring my husband was offered a job in North Carolina. He accepted the offer and we moved that summer. The idea of beginning an entirely new school situation became overwhelming so Kayleigh remained home for fifth grade.
It turned out to be the best choice for our entire family, including Kayleigh, because we quickly realized that Raleigh is an incredible area for homeschoolers. A vibrant homeschool community exists here and we began to find our own smaller communities. We organized and participated in history groups, geography groups, science groups, and field trips.
Our homeschooling groove continued smoothly until the first tween hit the scene. Things changed and I wasn’t prepared for the shift, but we survived the transition and as a result, I became a better mother and home educator.
Before I knew it, I blinked and it was time to research how to homeschool high school. I knew I could do it, but my daughter and I weren’t convinced it was the best situation for her so we planned a visit to the local high school.
After much discussion, and trying everything possible to help her find her own passions, she decided to remain at home for high school. She had enough friends in school to know that the schedule and pressure of public high school would interfere with the activities that were most important to her. Homeschooling gave us the freedom to create a routine with more flexibility in her schedule.
When she entered her 9th-grade year, I became a homeschooling mom of two elementary schoolers, a middle schooler, and a high schooler. My kids now spanned the full range of education levels and in all honesty, it is increasingly more difficult to manage everyone’s educational and social needs.
At the same time, it is so rewarding to have my kids at home. Older children bring fresh opportunities and excitement to family life, in addition to their teenage hormones.
My kids are blossoming into their own unique people while maintaining strong relationships with one another. Homeschooling allows me to be a part of their journey in a unique way.
And so we continue homeschooling, embracing the new challenges, new opportunities, and new curriculums that come with each year. But next year (2019-2020) will bring the biggest change to our homeschooling journey yet.
After eleven years of this incredible homeschooling journey, one of my children will begin public school and it is going to change everything.
PS. Find out why we will have a child attending public school by reading Part Two.
Do you homeschool? What led your family to this lifestyle?