Through the years, my experience as a writing, blogging, publicly homeschooling mom has made one thing clear to me — in Catholic parenting circles, homeschooling is a hot topic. Probably second only to the infamous “spank or don’t-spank” debates.
On a daily basis, inquiring minds fill up my e-mail inbox: What is your homeschool philosophy? Were you homeschooled as a child? What about socialization? Do you use a boxed curriculum or your own? Is it hard to do? Does your husband help? Are you a teacher? Are you crazy? Why do you do it? How do you do it? And do you think I should do it too?
Well, geesh. I don’t often write about homeschooling because when it comes right down to it, I’m a bit of a reluctant spokesperson. But now, since I am crazy enough to say things that could potentially alienate me from people on both sides of a hot topic, I’ll share with you the whole truth of my thoughts about homeschooling.
I love homeschooling. And I hate homeschooling.
I love that I can give each of my children specialized, personalized education that meets them where they are and is flexible and adjustable as their needs change. I love that I can spend two months, two weeks, or two minutes teaching my five-year-old to tell time, depending upon how readily he masters it.
But I hate the burden of being solely responsible for my children’s educations. I hate lying awake in the middle of the night sometimes, quite certain that I have failed to meet an eight-year-old’s needs for map skills practice or Latin flashcards.
I love that I am truly connected to all of my children — even the older ones — and that their father and I are the first people they come to with questions or problems, big or small. I love that I thoroughly participate in their daily joys and sorrows, and that I know them completely — their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses.
But I hate that my kids aren’t answerable for their schoolwork to any adult who is not a parent — a simple fact that I know motivated me as a young student.
I love that our daily schedule is built around our family’s needs and preferences and does not revolve around an outside institution. I love that we don’t break up our family unit during the day and that we truly do enjoy spending great lengths of time together.
But I hate giving up the long stretches of quiet I know I could have in my days to write, to read, to scrub a toilet, to just breathe, if only I would send my kids to school.
I love that my younger children truly know and love their older brothers and sisters and that the none of my big kids considers himself “too cool” to accommodate a five-year-old, entertain a toddler, or carry a baby.
But I hate that my littlest ones don’t get as many stories read aloud to them by their mother as my oldest ones did at their age.
I love that my kids are spared the negative influences of peer pressure, materialism, and just plain cruelty that permeates so many schools’ social structures. I love that my daughters wear clothes they like and feel comfortable in, without concern for sex appeal or designer labels.
But I hate the burned-out, never-done feeling that threatens to overwhelm me some mornings as eight children accost me with grammatical crises, algebraic emergencies, geographic quandaries, and a desperate need for apple juice all at the same time.
In today’s world, many homeschoolers feel they must continually defend and explain their decisions. As a result, it can be tempting to sugarcoat the entire experience — at least in public. Sometimes, though, I think we get so busy trying to sell homeschooling that we fail to acknowledge any of its shortcomings. But we don’t do anyone any favors by failing to admit that homeschooling is sometimes an enormous sacrifice or by pretending it’s ideal for every family.
Homeschooling is not perfect. In fact, it is an awfully hard commitment to make and to keep on making. And yet somehow I always find my reluctant, selfish self admitting that it is the right one . . . for me, for now, for one more year.