Why I'm Educating My Daughter at Home
Back around 1985, well before I even had a child, I somehow came across Mary Pride's Big Book of Home Learning. It's out of print now (though she's expanded it to many volumes in newer versions), but it fascinated me. Here was a whole book listing and reviewing resources for parents teaching their children at home rather than sending them to school - and apparently that was legal! I had never heard of homeschooling before, and had to know more. I read everything I could find, and knew then that when I did have children, that's what I wanted for them.
By the time I did have a child in 1990, my religious views had certainly changed a lot - but my opinions on homeschooling had not. Unfortunately, well before Katie was ready for school, her father and I divorced. For several reasons, it wasn't possible for me to homeschool her. She attended public school until the 2000-2001 school year, when I officially withdrew her from them.
Her father and I were both very involved in her education, and neither of us were satisfied with her only meeting the standards the school set for her - we wanted more for Katie. Unfortunately, that meant she was generally well ahead of her class and, frankly, bored. While Katie never had any kind of problems at school academically or socially, she was interested in learning at home so she could go further rather than waiting for her chronological peers.
Several things changed in our lives last year. Katie's father died after battling leukemia for several years. Katie developed fibromyalgia (not least due to the stress of her father's illness and death, I believe) and started missing a lot of school. And we formally combined our little household with that of Sam (my life partner) and his children Rowan and Genevieve.
Over the summer of 2000 we had a trial of homeschooling as a family. All of us enjoyed it and wanted to continue. Katie did not return to public school that fall. Sam is writing an article for his web site about his thoughts on education.
My family, especially my mother's family, has a strong tradition of working in the public schools. (In fact, every female I can think of in my mother's family who has gone to college got a degree in education or music education.) From past conversations I knew that they would not be happy - and they weren't. Katie, however, is thriving, and that's far more important to me than the approval of the extended family. I find it ironic that some of my strongest motivations for educating Katie at home came from the war stories I hear from family members about what goes on in the public schools--but because putting children in school is the "normal" thing to do, they still find my decision to homeschool Katie surprising.
Sam's family has had a past experience with homeschooling that wasn't, apparently, entirely positive, so they weren't too happy to hear about this decision either.
People keep asking me why I would want to pull Katie out of school. They figure that if I just don't like the public school system, I should put her in a private school. Everyone asks about socialization, assuming she's going to somehow be crippled socially and miss out on being with her artificially age-segregated group in a school. Maybe they think she'll forget how to spend her days standing in lines and responding to bells? And how could I possibly think that I can teach her as well as all those credentialed teachers, or come up with the same kinds of resources she'd be able to access in school? I'm asked how it can even be legal for me to teach Katie - I don't have a college degree, have never even considered taking an education course, and certainly don't have a teacher's certificate. Some people have asked why I would want to spend that much time with my child, as if her company is a burden to be borne, but not sought out!
The few who have been exposed to the idea of homeschooling see it as something done by extremely conservative Christians (like Christian Reconstructionists), and assume that I must have decided to shelter my child from the supposed new age/secular humanist conspiracy being carried out through the schools by those people.
I've replied to all of those questions and concerns, but have found that those asking seldom really listen to the answers. That's okay, if frustrating. I have to do what I believe is best for my child, and I honestly believe that home education is the best education for her. Everything we do is tailored to her and to our family, and she spends most of her hours with the person who knows and loves her best, and whose standards of achievement for her are far more demanding than the standards set up by the school system. She's in a safe, nurturing environment, surrounded by all sorts of things to use or read or play or listen to at her own pace. We live life according to our family's schedules and priorities, and we're able to do things like dance and Spanish and drama that were either difficult or out of the question when she was in public school.
Some of my favorite things about having Katie at home rather than in school:
And it's all okay, because we're learning all the time. There's no way that any school, public or private, could ever provide the same situation for any child. It just isn't possible. But I can do it at home, so I do.
Last updated December 19, 2000
graphics created by Sam
Chupp and Cynthia Armistead
This file last modified 05/16/06