Steve and I met in our 30s. We both had steady jobs and were working our way up the corporate ladder. Life was good for us. We had a daughter, three dogs, a nice house, two cars, two 401ks…living the American Dream. We were financially comfortable. Steve worked to pay the bills and I worked to cover private school tuition.
Our son came along, a little earlier than was planned. As a result of his prematurity he had a slew of health problems. He was allergic to everything, including peanuts, soy and sesame. He had severe asthma. Two holes in his heart, blocked tear ducts so severe the Dr. was confident he would have vision loss and was unable to keep down any type of formula. It was a rough time in our lives. I share the story because even then we never considered that I would stay at home. Maybe we should have, but we were determined to provide high quality, private school educations for our children.
Stephanie was an early reader and accelerated learner so we pushed her into kindergarten a year early. I now realize this was another moment I should have considered alternatives to education. Hindsight…
Traditional school wasn’t working for us and we wanted more for our kids than what was offered in a classroom. I had never given thought to homeschooling. Quite honestly, I had planned on working harder just to pay private school tuition. When I first pulled Stephanie from her school, two months into the first grade, I placed her in daycare with Aaron while I worked on the logistics of what we were going to do. I researched private schools in the area, I considered hybrid homeschooling where she would spend part of the week in class and the rest at home. I never could find the right fit. So I decided homeschooling was the answer.
I spent hours reading about how others homeschooled, I read books from the “professionals”, I spent my days recreating school at home. I just couldn’t figure out how to make this work for us.
Four months into our journey I was ready to give up. I didn’t feel I was going to provide my five year old with the tools she would need to compete with her peers. I was doubting that I could really homeschool her without a college education myself. I honestly felt very alone in this journey. Steve was working hard to provide for the family as we only had one source of income now. His days were consumed with the corporate world.
And then it hit me. We would wake up in the morning, get dressed, eat breakfast together as a family and Stephanie would pick up whatever book she was reading at the time and beg to leave the table so she could finish her book. We would head out to Animal Kingdom for the day and I would watch as Stephanie “educated” Aaron about animals I’d never heard of. We would spend the day at the science center and I would watch my kids having fun playing with other kids they didn’t even know. They were happy kids. And they were learning!
We never pushed our kids academically, we have always let them learn at their own pace, when they were ready. What we consistently did however was provide lots of ways to learn. We read books together, listened to music, walked around museums, practiced chemistry in the kitchen and built lots of crazy things with blocks.
It took me a couple years to let go of the notion that my children needed to learn what was being taught at school and that they needed to stay at “grade level”. I believe public school has its place; homeschooling isn’t for everyone. But I realize now that teaching children only information that will appear on a test is detrimental to us all. Read Sal Khan’s book titled The One World Schoolhouse, it will change your perspective.
Looking back, I am grateful for the paths we took. I’m thankful that we struggled and that I had an opportunity to question everything. I feel today that we are headed in the right direction and that Steve and I have made the right decisions for a successful future for our kids!