Another Year's Education Perspective

When another parent asks me why we chose to homeschool, I find it very easy to explain our decision. The answer is a simple one, it works best for us. It doesn't work for everyone, but fortunately we're all given the freedom of choice. If your child works better in a structured classroom, then that's what you should do. If your child requires special attention, you should find the best form of support possible. If your child is extremely intelligent and wants to learn more than school has to offer, follow their vision and watch them fly. If your needs are to have your child in school, then by all means, do it. Explore all of your options, base your decisions solely on your family and child's life and needs. None of us should feel as though the decisions we've made for our families are wrong. Recently, I forgot my own advice and felt guilty for our choices. 

We're half way between homeschool and public school, a weird grey area that sometimes has no side of the education debate. Pie is a part of a wonderful public virtual school program. Most of her class work is online, through our county.  She has a county hired teacher (two this year, actually), they will loop with her until the 3rd grade. She frequently goes on more field trips than her brick and mortar classmates, she participates in a handful of social groups outside of the school, and has more flexibility than most kids her age. She's involved in the best of both worlds, so that one day if she or we choose, she will be ready for a more traditional school. And if not, the program she is in right now allows her to stay on track with her fellow public school students and still be involved with her homeschool activities as well. At the end of our first year with the program we discussed what was next for first grade. Her success with the program and her enthusiasm to stay with it made the decision simple. And I almost never question it, until someone puts their concerns in my head and I forget to take my own advice.

When she was small, while some kids were off to pre-school and day care, Pie was involved in a social group that was full of teacher-moms who were enthusiastically homeschooling, eccentric parents who were interested in an unschooling philosophy, and some that just preferred to educate their child on their own. We were all very lucky to be able to offer our children that one on one attention, they all benefited from our interaction and the socialization of like-minded families. Slowly over time, some of those kids went off to start a pre-school program, others stuck around until VPK (a pre-kindergarten program in our area), and then waited until they started Kindergarten. Some of us stuck with the homeschooling, but all of us made decisions that worked best for our situations. Pie and I found new groups, participated in programs like 4-H, swim lessons, and park playdates. And it works. She loves school, has a unique spirit and personality, enjoys many interests at her own pace and in her own style. We know it's the best thing for her right now. Even if not everyone agrees, we work hard at making our situation work for us, as a I am sure every parent who is dedicated to their child's education does no matter where their child learns. 

Most of our family and friends are very supportive of the lifestyle we've carved out for ourselves. Sometimes we're faced with an opposing position that is expressed openly and it causes me to re-evaluate. Being a person who is open-minded, I value the opinions of others, especially those who are close to us. From time to time I forget that the decision to homeschool is not a popular one outside of the community we've carefully built these past six years. Often I forget that learning at home is just now gaining popularity and like all things new, it has it's nay sayers and negativity. However, even when I have my doubts, it always comes down to what works best for us and our Pie. 
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The common concern we hear about our decision is socializing. Fresh from a weekend of hosting 17 kids at her birthday party, I feel that it's the least of our concerns. Perhaps, if a parent is not actively seeking socialization for their child it could become an issue. Fortunately for Pie, socializing never been a problem.  She's always had no trouble make friends and being involved with other children. And even more remarkably she's able to make friends with kids of all ages and hold an intelligent conversation with most adults as well. Largely, the issue for people who have these concerns is that they have not invested time into exploring the facts. Some have trouble respecting a parent's decision to do what is best even when they don't agree. Unfortunately, some people don't know about the many options available to today's youth. Most importantly, they are not as in tune with the individual learning styles, abilities, personality, and situations as the parent. It's often those who don't have first hand experience in today's education system. Things are changing, things are different than when we were kids... Or when my youngest siblings were... Or even five years ago. Each year we see changes in our educational choices.

We still question our decision from time to time because of daily frustrations which are as prevalent in a brick and mortar student as a homeschool student. We're caring parents, find me a parent that doesn't question whether they are doing the best they can for their kids. It's true that it can be hard to focus some days, doing the same things every day is boring even for the most motivated adult. It's important to question what is the right decision for our families, many times a year, because our children are constantly growing and changing. The world is constantly changing. And we're parents... It's what a parent does - we question our decisions to do what's best. Those decisions are always evolving and we are always trying to find new footing in a changing world.  Some may forget that there is not just one way to do things and sometimes I forget that we are not in the majority.  

We are lucky to live in an area where education options are heavily supported by the county.  We are offered multiple educational options, such as full time public/private/secular/charter/magnet schools, part-time, outside educational programs like K-12, secular homeschooling, unschooling, and educational social groups where you can find information and assistance with ease. I know that not everywhere is so lucky to have this kind of encouragement in their area and it's a new idea for many families. It's an idea that is gaining steam at an incredible rate. Our own program has grown so rapidly that Pie has double the teachers this year. We see new students being added all the time.  K-12 is gaining such a following that it's rare that I find someone who has not heard of the program. Unschooling is another philosophy that is becoming more widely known. Private schools are growing, charter schools, magnet schools, and many more online programs are opening up. This information is out there and it's more easily attainable than ever before. Unfortunately, some people will refuse to change. Some people will not support your decision. Whether that decision to send your kid to brick and mortar or homeschool, there will always be someone who will give you the stink eye. Judgements come from all sides of this debate and make you question yourself. Let them. And do so, question yourself. It's beneficial to reflect on your decisions and listen to every side of an issue. 

As a promise to myself, I am going to do a better job of remembering my own advice when someone challenges my philosophies on education. Each time I will do what is best for my family. Always. 

A special thank you to Pie's kind and always gentle teachers, who make her excited to start a new year with them. And to our county for granting our students the power of choice. 




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