This was not the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make. I love my work. I love my kids. Not necessarily in that order. Making the decision to homeschool is not for everyone, and although I definitely thought it was for me, I knew it would involve some major changes both to my life and the rest of my family. So why did I do it?
Let me start by saying we were on our 5th school by the time I pulled my kids out of the system. I finally had to admit that I was never going to find a school that I liked because I didn’t agree with school in general. At heart I am both a rebel and a non-conformist and I find the system in general oppressive to creativity, limiting to an above average child, draining on a child’s natural energy and love of learning, and on the whole unnatural (I really don’t believe that any child was designed to sit for 5 hours or more a day).
On top of that I had some particular challenges to deal with, specific to my own children. Both my kids have what is clinically termed as “tactile defensiveness” but which I prefer to call being more attuned to your environment than everyone else! It means that they find certain textures and fabrics absolutely unbearable. School uniforms were a nightmare. My daughter cried at least once a day through the whole of Grade One just because the uniform was bothering her. And for the life of me I could not think of a good reason to give her as to why she had to wear it.
Along with this heightened sensitivity comes an aversion to too much noise. A classroom is not the easiest place to concentrate for any child, but for one who struggles with excess noise it is virtually impossible.
And to top it off, both my girls are particularly bright (they both score 3-5 years above their age group on all developmental assessments) and extremely creative. School is simply not set-up for the gifted child (and by the way, I see all children as gifted – it just takes someone with time and love to find out what their gifts are). They were bored and frustrated at having to continually work below their abilities.
We were also unfortunate enough to encounter some very uninspired teachers along the way – teachers who have no intention of going the extra mile, who are not interested in finding out what the children’s values are and communicating to them in a way that will inspire them, who have lost their own love of learning and are slowly killing it in the children in their care. We did, of course, come across some amazing teachers too, but they were sadly in the minority.
My kids, particularly the eldest, hated school. In Grade One! I personally loved school until I got to the higher grades, and I couldn’t imagine going through 13 years of hating a system and feeling there was no escape. I was lucky enough to know a few people already homeschooling and was able to see the joy and love of learning that had been reinstated in these homes, and I felt inspired. I figured that there was no way that I could do a worse job than some of the teachers we’d encountered, and at least whatever I did would be done with love.
Of course, I am at an advantage. For a start, both my husband and I work for ourselves so we’re both fairly flexible. I’ve also studied both Child Psychology and Education as part of my BA degree. And I’ve trained in coaching which included a lot of information on how the brain works, how we process information, and more importantly how we learn. So although I didn’t have a teaching diploma, I did feel confident that I could make it work. Not that it’s brain-science, mind you. If you relax and allow your children to guide you they’ll surprise you with how eager they are to absorb their worlds.
But it still wasn’t an easy decision. I had to completely overhaul the way that I work, as did my husband. We had an incredible learning curve trying to figure out what the curriculum was and how much of it we actually needed to adhere to. We had to teach ourselves to relax with complete uncertainty and an initial lack of structure. I’ve literally spent the last few months “unschooling” myself so that I can be open to how and what my children want to learn and fitting in with them instead of them having to fit in with some predetermined system.
Has it been easy? No. Has it been worth it? To see my children wake up after having had enough sleep, to not have to rush them through breakfast and force them into uncomfortable clothes, to allow them the freedom to move and eat and play and laugh and talk and be natural children, and to see them blossoming into eager learners filled with joy and curiosity… I’d say yes, it has.