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Homeschooling: Why am I doing this?

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My children have been homeschooled since day one of their education. My son is 11 and in 6th grade, my daughter is 7 and in 2nd grade. We sit at the dining table, crack open books and rev up the pencils. Reading happens, discussions get going, we get our hands dirty with experiments, and we often leave the house to explore our world.

Sounds idyllic, right? Some days, yes it is but, on other days everything is a challenge and a struggle to get one or the other or both of them focused on anything. I frequently ask why am I doing this?

The answer is the same answer I give to many of the “why’s” in my life: because I believe, deep down, when I set asidethe frustrating situation in front of me, that I am making the best decision for my children and my family. This is not an easy decision nor is it easy to manage but the rewards and the joys and the experiences shared with my children are priceless.

When Jason was about age 2, I committed to educating him at home. My son is energetic, out-spoken, personable, persistent, confident, passionate, brilliant. In other words, he’s opinionated, stubborn, and easily distracted. At age 3, he would practice counting while bouncing on the couch.

If he were in public school, I had this picture in my head that he would struggle with sitting at a desk all day and I pictured that he would have a huge challenge learning within the structures prescribed within the classroom.

So great, I’ve decided to homeschool, now what? How would I choose a curriculum? How would I afford the curriculum? How would I manage teaching every subject? Can I stand to go through fractions again? And the real kicker: is this the right decision?

A friend recommended the Options program where the kids go to school one day a week and, most appealing, families check out curriculum library-style. It sounded perfect: free books (we pay for the write-in workbooks and an activity fee), a little help from others with the educating with a bit of the public school experience and school one a day week means a break for me!

I also pictured homechooling as allowing us to switch gears and a change-up the day as needed to fit where my kids and I was at. If my son wanted to read his book for two hours I didn’t want to interrupt that to make him change subjects. If my daughter wanted to spend a full day painting, I wanted give her the opportunity immerse herself in creativity. The next day takes them into other subjects.

Allowing both my kids to let a project or a subject become the focus for an entire day has given them a depth of knowledge and an awareness of their abilities that may not have otherwise been cultivated in a different setting. My daughter may want to spend all of the next day working on math while my son delves into every subject.

We’ve had to change our approach countless times over the years. The most significant changes have been in who schools the children due to job opportunities for me and my husband. For the first three years, I was the teacher then my husband was laid off and he was the teacher for three years. This year our lives have changed once more and I’m the teacher again.

We have two major family goals we want to accomplish this year that will be incorporated in school. First, we have adopted two border collie puppies and are learning how to train them in the art of herding and agility. Second, we are going to build a chicken coop and adopt three chickens. How fun will it be having the dogs round up the chickens and lead them to their shack?

Can we ever truly know if we’ve made the right decision? I have several friends who have homeschooled then moved their children to public school. Another friend who would love to homeschool but there is no education consensus with her ex-husband so she is unable to pursue it. Two other friends homeschool some of their children and one child attending public school. Yet another friend just switched to homeschooling at grade six.

The commonality is within these families is that they know there are many education options available, and they continue to question whether they have made the right decisions. On the other hand I know many families for whom there was never a question of education, their children attend public school and there was no second guessing. Collectively, all of these families are choosing what is best for them.

My homeschooling and parental paths look more like a rocky, wavy, and meandering line than a perfectly straight line. My great epiphany is that I’ve signed on for uncertainty with the hope that I find joy in trying to do my best.

-Heather Ruch

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