I've been meaning to write about homeschooling and what my intentions are with it. It needs to be addressed, but since my children will be "second generation" homeschoolers, I find myself taking the routine for granted. I research and read and stumble on people's blogs who are home educating their children and I sense a common tone: desperation. They seem to have so much to prove. Haha! See! Look how much I'm doing! Look how brilliant my children will be! I am going above and beyond! I'm not just keeping up with standards, I'm creating ever higher and higher academic goals that we WILL achieve! It all feels like struggle. They seem to be overachieving because they have to prove (to the outside world? the local school administrators? their families? themselves?) that they have made a superior educational choice for their children and that they, as parent-educator, are brilliant and on top of everything. Their blogs have "tips," "curricula add-ons," and my favorite, "some printable worksheets that I just created." Often they appear to be pushing their child(ren) into busy work that is more advanced than said child's grade level. They appear ever-patient, ever-prepared, ever-flowing font of knowledge and wisdom and experience. Yet, to quote The Princess Bride (because there can never be enough of that), "Why is there fear behind your eyes?" I can seriously almost smell it on some of these homeschooling blogs. And yet, I don't have it. I just don't understand what all the fuss is about.
I have yet to meet a "second generation" home-educator, as I am. I know they exist, but maybe we just don't feel the need to prove ourselves, at least on the wide world of the internet. Don't misunderstand me - I'm, technically, a "new" homeschooling parent. I have a bright, precocious almost-five year old. I should be freaking out. I should be frantically gathering supplies, making plans, drafting lessons, sifting through curricula, wondering how I will balance everything, worrying that she's not signed up for enough "extra curricular" activities, making sure she has a good peer group, etc. But I'm not.
Ok, did I just say that? Yes. I am relaxed because I know something. Homeschooling really works despite our best efforts. Yes, despite. I'm literally living proof that it works. It's not for everyone, but most people who start down this path have already done the hard work - just starting is the work. Being willing to sacrifice your time and energy and go against the mainstream flow is the hardest job of it all. So all these people I read just need to relax. You've done the hardest bit. You've declared yourself a homeschooling parent, pulled your kid out of school or just kept them home, and so you need to pat yourself on the back. Whew.
Many of us are intuitive parents of our babies and toddlers. Sure, you get nervous about certain things and call your doctor, your mother or father, but the bulk of the time, you just go with it. And, unless your baby is in daycare fulltime, you spend most of your time with your baby. You are it. You are the first one he sees when he wakes, the last one he sees when he sleeps and he trusts you. And then you start to trust yourself. You know when he's hungry. You know when he's overtired and sick or ready for a different toy. You know how to get that baby to sleep, make that baby laugh, feed and change and bathe that baby. Sure, you may have read a few books about it, but nothing, no one, really prepares us for the feeling of living at the "edge of intuition." Living with a creature so utterly befuddling and unlike anyone else that we can only go on instinct because there's never been another creature like him on earth. And you love that child. Fiercely, wholly. So, why when that same child, that same one you've rocked, nursed, and played with for all of his life, turns a certain age, would you turn him out of the house and send him off to spend the bulk of his time learning from strangers? When you're the one who taught him the beauty of a smile? When you're the one who taught him how to drink from a cup? How to share? How to look at a sunset? How to play chase with the waves? How to build castles from blocks and how to eat? Why do we parents lose trust in our intuition and our fierce love?
James Baldwin said, "A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him." Now, don't get me wrong here, this is not an "anti-school" blog post. This is a blog post for those of you who already want or do homeschool your child. I don't think teachers in schools despise children, generally. But they don't know what you know about your child, that's for sure. They don't have a parent's love. So, that's the start. That's how you know you can do it. I know that I can. I may be terrible at math, and not hold a degree in early childhood education, but I know that I can teach my children what they need to know. My intention, as I need to get to it, being the title of my post and all, is to raise children who have a thirst for knowledge and who are self-sufficient enough to quench that thirst themselves. Sir Walter Scott (yes, an old one), wrote, "All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education." I believe that. And I believe in it. Granted, a five year old cannot have the chief hand in much, even though she thinks she'd like to. But the outcome that I hope for is that my children have a sense of ownership in their education. That they feel nurtured and nourished in body and soul and mind by their educational experience and thus have the foundation for self-sufficient adulthood. I believe that that outcome can be best achieved at home.
At home. It sounds sweet and almost provincial. Domestic has recently become a dirty word and I don't know why. Home is the world. Or it can be. Home provides us with stability, peace, security, comfort, and is our greatest resource. To me, it seems a natural place to provide a child with an education. You do anyway, even if your child goes to school. The lessons a child learns at home are not all academic, but they are vital. Home is already a classroom... it's ok to keep it that way. And home isn't always about shelter. It's at home that we can sometimes be the most vulnerable, the most challenged. My intention is to create an environment at home that encourages exploration in a safe way, and that challenges in a loving way. I'd like my home to be full of excited children, creating and learning and contributing to a harmonious family life.
Self-sufficiency, curiosity, self-respect, love and respect of the natural world, acceptance and love for all people, health of body and mind, authenticity, creativity, internal freedom, kindness, common sense, revolutionary thinking, individuality. wisdom, love of peace, and self-trust are what I most hope to foster in my children as I "teach" them. I did not say "A student," "star athlete," "great performer," "obedient child..." on purpose. My children will show me what they are in time and my intention and intuition will guide them there.
Another merit of home is that it preserves the diversity between individuals. If we were all alike, it might be convenient for the bureaucrat and the statistician, but it would be very dull, and would lead to a very unprogressive society. -- Bertrand Russell