Tuesday, April 05, 2011

How did we become a homeschooling family?

Jason and I are, admittedly, somewhat snobbish about education. We have strong feelings about education and have been vigorously advocating for our daughter for, well, 8 years. We had never seriously considered homeschooling until last year. We knew about it. We had plenty of homeschooling friends. I, specifically, had thought about it many times and every single time I immediately rejected the idea.

Haley has been a very challenging child to raise. Frankly, I needed a break from the parenting challenges. While I've never sought ways to be away from her, I admit that a few hours of peace a day while she was at school were warmly welcomed. Plus, she had an IEP so she needed the extra help she was getting from the professionals at school. She needed the socialization (a problem area). And come on, we all know only certain people homeschool. We weren't those people.

Enter first grade, her fourth year in public school. The year didn't go well. The teacher was fine (and very sweet and kind) and Haley did pretty well academically. Unfortunately, the same issues we had for most of the four previous years were still there: unrelenting anxiety, poor socialization, no real special education services, bullying (Haley was both the bullied and the bully).

In my anguish over my child's emotional health, I started feeling extreme resentment about the whole public school life we were living. Very early morning school start, complaints of a tummy ache or headache almost every day, fights about going to school almost every day, calls from the nurse multiple times per week due to said tummy ache or headache, inane homework, fundraising stupidity, too many uneducational movies shown during the school day, administrators overly concerned with the bottom line and restrictive special education policies that meant that my daughter was getting exactly 3 minutes of special education each day (yes, seriously, 3 minutes per day.) This doesn't even touch on the neverending battles we were enduring with the school district just to provide the IEP (let alone trying to get them to actually follow the federal laws). I was startled. Was there anything we were enjoying about the school experience?

My answer was that, no matter how many positives there were, we obviously weren't enjoying it enough. The cons far outweighed the pros. I was a bit dazed, to be honest. I've always defended public education. My parents both worked in public education. My mother was an elementary school teacher and my father was an administrator at a public university. Public education was practically in my blood! Many of my extended family members and friends are talented and loving public educators. Education is extremely important to me. Public education blesses the lives of countless children. I certainly had some great experiences growing up in public schools (on the whole, the school district I grew up in was very good). I was having a hard time reconciling my new feelings to my ancient beliefs. :)

Aside from an extraordinary special education preschool teacher, Haley has largely been lost in the shuffle (easy to do in an elementary school of over 830 students). Her school experiences were leading to her dreading school and hating "learning". Some of this was the fault of the school, some of it was due to Haley's disabilities and challenges and some was due to her personality. I'm sure plenty of other children (especially "typical" students) in our school district are thriving. I know many of them and the ones I know seem to be doing fine. But overall, public school was a failure for Haley and that was simply not acceptable to us. Especially not when we had the means to fix it.

Thus, the homeschooling journey began. And it has been FAR better than I would have ever imagined. Far, far, far better. So good, in fact, that I can't imagine NOT homeschooling now.

I guess we are those people, after all. :)