by Diane Robertson
As a parent of many children, I have run the gamut of affordable school choices. I started my kids in public school. Dabbled for a couple years in home schooling, tried out a renowned charter school and ultimately pulled my kids out formal schooling for good and brought them home.
When I originally tried home schooling, I made the mistake of thinking that my kids needed a lot of classes outside the home or in order to be well socialized. I drove them to activities that were 20 to 30, sometimes even 50, minutes away from our home several days a week. Before the end of the school year, I was worn out. I went from an easy-going mom, to a one who found herself annoyed at the little things. I put my kids back in school and the following year moved them to a very good charter school.
I liked the charter school. For the first time, parents were very welcome to come and be a part of their children’s education, and the curriculum suited my beliefs. The uniforms were adorable too. It’s fun dressing my kids up. I volunteered there. The teachers and the secretaries knew me and my children by name. We liked the charter school. But, we still had to live by their rules. The school dictated our daily lives and schedule. We had to be there at a certain time every day. We only had the educational options they offered. And there were always issues about getting along with students or finding friends.
After two and a half years of the charter school, we moved across country. Our kids spent less than two months in the public school when they made the choice to come home. I knew that I needed to find a way to make home school work for me, if I was going to make it work for my children. This time, we stayed home. I understood the mistakes I had made during my first try at home school, and I was not going to make them again. For the first year, we did no activities outside the home. The second year, we did one, one time a week for all of the kids, and it only required a simple ten-minute drive.
Despite having left a beautiful home, schools they liked, friends, grandparents, and cousins, my kids were happier. They immediately formed stronger relationships with each other and LOVED their freedom! I loved the freedom too. My kids could sleep in late or wake up early. They knew their assignments and would individually manage their time. Some of my kids would get up early to do their lessons because they wanted more free time later in the day, and others would use that time to get some extra sleep. (I used that time to get extra sleep!)
After a year of staying home, I began to understand the emotional toll that school socialization had on my children. They were so much happier not feeling pressured to “fit in”. I remember feeling that as a child. I wished I had learned that lesson for my children earlier on. At home, they have each other. They don’t have any pressure to be anything other than nice and kind. As parents, we have always encouraged the children to make their siblings their best friends. By home schooling, they have the time to make that a reality. My kids constantly play games and have competitions. They read to each other. The older kids will read favorite books to the younger kids because they are excited to introduce their younger siblings to something they love. The middle kids have the benefit of spending hours talking to their older siblings, goofing off and having fun.
Unlike their time in public school, my kids now spend hours every day outside. Between school and homework, they didn’t have much time for the outdoors. Now they can do their schoolwork outside!
As an added benefit, my kids’ immune systems seem to be stronger. They have been exposed to flus that keep other families in the bathroom up all night for days, but my children just get a mild stomach ache. They have not had any lengthy illnesses — things they used to get yearly. I think this is due to a couple things. First, it is easier to feed them healthier food because we have more time for home cooking and no one objects to them munching on a bag of carrots or peas while lying on the floor reading a text book. Second, life is much less stressful.
But my favorite benefit by far is the time I have with my kids. I have always been friends with and enjoyed my children. That has been taken to a whole new level. I take care of my kids and my kids take care of me. My need for adult conversation is now fulfilled because my kids have these conversations with me. Since no one has homework, my husband and I can sit down several times a day with our kids and have long conversations. History and science lessons often lead to the entire family talking about current events and religion. Sometimes those conversations continue in my bedroom late into the night.
I couldn’t be happier with our decision to buck the norm and bring our kids home. The home school life is a beautiful life.