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A Homeschool Pioneer Remembers: Homeschooling Back In The Day

I didn't even know the word. I knew what I wanted to do, but didn't know how to explain it. I didn't even know that there were other mothers who were sensing the same call on their heart that I was. Once I realized that I was not alone, I felt courage and conviction rise in me and I never looked back. It was 1989, and I began to homeschool my children. Read and be encouraged!

Let me make this clear: in 1989 there was no internet in homes. None. The word wasn't even part of the American lexicon. Home computers were available, but quite expensive and not the ubiquitous item that it is today. We had books. The internet in 1989 was called books.

AOL (America On Line) was still a few years away from making their dial up internet service available to customers for a flat monthly rate for unlimited use. It was many more years before "high speed" internet was available for residential use. Of course, the internet wouldn't have done me any good. I couldn't afford a home computer.

I didn't realize how indispensable the world wide web would be just a decade later, but during the late 1980s I had one thing on my mind: making sure my children were well loved, well educated, safe, and happy. They were my whole world, and I was dedicated to giving them the very best of me. Just like you are.

In 1989, there were 1,500 homeschooling families in North Carolina. Today there are double that in my county alone. Clearly this is an educational method embraced by parents who are reluctant to trust any institution as large as the government funded schools with something as important as their children's education. I was one of those.

I was not terribly concerned about faith based issues in school. As a mother, I fully embraced my rabbinical role of passing our faith to the children. I believe that faith matters should be discussed openly, honestly, and frequently in each home. This area of life is not the schools' burden. It is mine. My concern was the education component. And, more than that, my children's emotional well being.

Remember that in 1989 there was no such thing as school choice. Your choice was send your child to the school you were told to send them to, accept the teacher your child was assigned, (I actually had a principal tell me "The teacher doesn't matter. It's the curriculum that matters." Seriously.) and if you didn't like it, too bad. Refer back to the original choice: take it or take it. And the truth is, after just a few short months of my youngest in kindergarten and my oldest in first grade I couldn't take it any more.

It would be hard for me to explain in this short blog all the reasons why I chose homeschooling , but one the main reasons was that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could teach them better than anyone else. I was their first and best teacher.

I am now and always have been excited about learning. Children are naturally super stoked about learning. I knew that I could harness that excitement and enthusiasm along with my nearly supernatural organizing skills and create a far superior learning environment. In such an environment children can learn more at a faster rate, explore interests that are not part of a typical school curriculum, and enjoy getting a wider, deeper education than any conventional classroom could.

Homeschooling at the time was unusual and I experienced incredible push back was. I was suspected of being many strange and nefarious things including, but not limited to, abusive, neglectful, overprotective, a hippie-freak, stupid beyond words, full on weirdo, and lazy.

None of these swayed my determination to do what I knew was best for my children. This was the first time in my life I did not allow myself to be bullied or cowed into going along with what others around me were saying. It felt wonderful. It was also a bit isolating. I needed to find a support group, so I did. It met in a town an hour away. I went. I soaked up the love and encouragement. I attended and planned field trips, educational clubs for the kids, and other events.

When someone would ask me in superior tones, "What about socialization?" I just laughed. The truth was never enough anyway, so I would keep a monthly count of the times I was asked that and shared it with my friends who did the same thing.

If you, precious mama, are reading this and considering homeschooling, allow me to offer some thinking points based on the wisdom of my years and experience. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. Your role as parent/teacher is too important to choose homeschooling because your uber cool neighbor is doing it. Bear these important things in mind:

  1. Have an honest reality check about your relationship with your child. Homeschooling absolutely requires your child to be willing to cooperate with you. My litmus test for any mother's ability to homeschool their child is what I call the "garbage test". How does your child respond when you ask them to take out the trash? Does it turn into a stand off? Do you end up yelling then taking it out yourself? Do you have to threaten dire consequences? This is a three minute chore. If your child isn't cooperative enough to do something this basic, then what do you think will happen when the time comes for polynomials? Seriously. Do you have your child's respect? Do you respect your child? Are you able to partner together?

  2. Are you able to stay the course? We are talking about several years of commitment. During these years there will be complications, hiccups, side tracks, distractions and real life. Can you focus on this process? Are you able to make the long term financial sacrifices? Because working while homeschooling is like climbing Mt. Everest with no oxygen tank. You will not be able to do either task well when you are spread so thin. Your child needs you to be their teacher, they don't need a classroom teacher on a screen. They need you. Homeschooling is about the home. It is about you.

  3. Are you running toward something or away from something? If you simply despise public schooling and you want an "easier" option, look somewhere else. Are you struggling with the 6:45am bus schedule? Does sleeping until 8:00am seem like it would be worth homeschooling for? Go to bed earlier. If your child is constantly "in trouble" with the school authorities and you are sick of dealing with it, get some help for your child to be able to cope better. None of these are good reasons to homeschool. The only reason to homeschool your child is if it is best for you and your child. There may be wonderful options that were not available to me back in the day.

I expected homeschooling to be hard, challenging, and an opus that would stretch my abilities in every way. What I didn't know was just how wonderful the whole experience would be. I could not imagine how completely thrilled I would 35 years later looking at my amazing, independent, happy, flourishing, well educated adult children. What a gift to all.

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