Our oldest boy starts school this fall. Technically school doesn’t begin for a few more weeks, but he’s so excited about it that Shawna is considering starting early. We’ve decided to teach him at home this year.
Homeschooling has become a lot more mainstream than it was when I was a kid. There are co-ops and books and online communities, and even a page on our provincial Education Department’s website dedicated to homeschoolers. But every now and then someone raises their eyebrows when we mention we’re not sending our kid to school in the fall. (Perhaps because they’re thinking, ‘You mean you’re passing up a chance to get one of those four kids out of the house every day?’)
There are often presumptions around the idea of homeschooling. Some people still assume the majority of homeschoolers are hardcore Christians who don’t want their kids “corrupted” by the general population. Our faith plays a role in this decision, as it does in all our decisions, but we’re not keeping Xander home because we’re terrified he’ll come home from kindergarten a communist heathen. Neither are we passing judgement on the public school system. I’m friends with many talented and dedicated teachers who do great work.
And homeschooling is definitely not for everyone. Not every family, and not every kid. My mother homeschooled my brother and me for three years, starting when I was in Grade 6 and Josh was in Grade 4. For the most part, I loved it. I could finish a day’s worth of work in about two hours and then do whatever I wanted. I wasn’t an extroverted kid; I was happy on my own. I devoured a ton of books, and I wrote my first “novel” when I was 11. I think those years really shaped my passion for writing. When I went back to school in Grade 9, I was so used to working at my own pace that I was restless and bored in a classroom.
But Josh hated homeschooling. Despised it. He is way more social than I am, and being stuck at home away from his friends everyday nearly drove him—and by extension, my mother—crazy. He could not wait to go back to school.
So every kid, and every situation, is different. I know kids who thrive in school and kids who don’t do well in “the system”; kids who love being at home and kids who might be better off surrounded by their peers. We’re going to try Xander at home for two years and re-evaluate when Oscar’s ready to start school. Oscar is our Mr. Social, so he might be happier in a classroom and bored at home. We’re going to play it by ear.
But for now with Xander, we feel like this is the best way to go. Honestly, and there is probably no way to say this without sounding snobby or like I’m making my kid out to be a genius, but I think he’d be bored in a Grade Primary class. He’s a solid reader already—he picked up a book the other day and asked Shawna, “Does this say ‘Mediterranean?’” (It did.) He can add and subtract. He’s going to have more fun studying at home.
And Shawna’s really excited about it too. She’s been reading a bunch of books and she’s already got most of the year planned out, some pretty heady lessons on the history of the ancient world. Xander loves that stuff—he’s really into Egypt and pyramids and archaeology. He can already name more of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World than I can. The other day he was looking at a book and called out, “Ooh, Daddy! Come see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon!”
OK, I realize I sound like I’m bragging. The kid is pretty swift. But there’s one other factor influencing our decision: he’s also really independent—and strong-willed. (That’s the polite way of saying ‘stubborn.’) Getting him dressed and fed in the morning is a challenge on the best of days, and that’s even if he wants to go somewhere. The mere thought of trying to get him prepped and onto a bus by 7:45 a.m. makes me want to lie down. And he’d fight it, because he’s always reluctant to try new things. There would almost certainly be tears involved, and probably not just his. Frankly, none of us are ready for that.
So maybe there’s a little bit of selfishness in our motives; we’re not quite ready to force our firstborn out of the nest just yet. But for us, right now, homeschooling seems like the best fit for our family.