As a public school educator, homeschooling never entered my list of educational options. Growing up, I knew no kids that weren’t public school-educated, and homeschooling was something reserved for the uber-religious. As an adult, the handful of homeschooled kids I knew seem to be quiet at best, painfully maladjusted at worst. Usually, us teachers would be a little offended…if public school was good enough for us, why wasn’t it good enough for those kids?
Then came the news that my sister-in-law was going to pull my niece out of school. Talk about hitting a little closer to home. I checked my sister-in-law’s homeschooling journey with interest, and I admit, a growing skepticism. Then, my Air Force-serving brother received new orders, and the entire family relocated to Alaska. My niece was enrolled in public school, and I figured the homeschool phenomenon was over.
Then, last fall, concerns over my niece’s education and social life grew to the point that she was pulled out of the public school yet again. And again, I watched the entire process with smug suspicion.
But then, towards the end of this last school year, my own sixth-grade son expressed a desire to be homeschooled. I was stunned, but eventually chalked it up to end-of-the-year fatigue.
However, the seed had been planted, and I looked forward to my Alaska vacation with a newfound interest – I’d really get the ins and outs of homeschooling.
And, boy howdy, did we ever. Not that I can recall every single conversation we had with my brother and sister-in-law, but it certainly made a lasting impression. The idea gained momentum in our household, and soon, there I was, making a decision I thought I would never, ever make.
We were going to homeschool our middle schooler. Yikes.
Our decision to do so came as no real surprise to my mom, who was privy to many of the Alaska conversations. When we informed my dad of our choice, he only had one question: How’s he going to learn about real life?
My response: Dad, what “real life” do you mean? The cheating-on-tests, getting-drunk-at-the-Senior-Picnic, dating-drama, jocks-and-skanks real life? I think I’m okay if my son misses out on that stuff and just goes to school for the sole purpose of academics. There will be plenty of other “real-life” opportunities for him long before college (school extra-curriculars, part-time jobs, clubs and organizations).
After that, there have been no objections from that parental corner (so far). This weekend, we told my husband’s parents.
Father-in-law: I dunno. I just don’t think I’d be qualified to teach my own kids.
My response: Really? You teach them to ride a bike, to catch a fish, drive a car? You teach them manners, respect of their elders, what’s right and wrong? And you feel ill-qualified to homeschool them?
Mother-in-law: Well, I guess it makes some sense. You both have educational degrees.
My response (all internal): I won’t read too much into that comment. Otherwise, I might take it to mean that you’re only okay with us homeschooling because we’ve got the right “education”. If we didn’t, would we be unqualified?
Mother-in-law: He’ll miss out on socialization, won’t he?
My response: No. He’s in the school orchestra, soccer, and after-school theater. Socialization is actually the last thing I’m worried about.
And after that, the issue died. So, while neither set of parents is hip-hip-hooray excited for this new turn of events, neither of them is throwing up huge hissy fits about it, either. Which, ultimately, is pointless, since it’s our life, our children, and our choice.