It occurred to me how many times I start to explain things with, “If you know me…” I’ve realized that actually, not many people these days do know me. At least, not in the way that I mean when I try to explain how it’s somewhat natural for me to do something like homeschooling. Only a small handful of people who’ve been in or on the fringes of my life over the years have an inkling of my … let’s say “rebellious” nature.
But for those of you who don’t – I have often been called “rebellious”, “willful”, “unconventional”, “adventurous”. I have always gone against the grain though I don’t agree that I’m rebellious. To me, rebelliousness is something that goes against just for the sake of going against. I’ve always been a lot more thoughtful than that. As I repeatedly tell my son – always question what you do and what you’re told to do. Ask why you’re doing it and decide if it makes sense, if it aligns with your values. When my son came home asking, “Why do we do the pledge of allegiance?” I was quick to jump all over that. (I hadn’t realized they WERE still doing it, and I was both surprised and annoyed.) I told him what it was and what I thought of it. I also told him that he had the right to sit quietly and not recite the pledge of allegiance, which he chose to do, and when a teacher tried to force him, I whipped out the 1943 Supreme Court ruling which stated that forcing him to recite it violated his rights.
I digress. But my point is, I am not “rebellious” but I sure as hell do question everything and I push back hard on things that I don’t agree with or that I think are wrong. School happens to be one of them. Today, the Kid and I went out to walk the dog and when we returned home, every single person in the neighborhood had flocked to his old elementary school for orientation. (School officially begins this coming Tuesday.) As I watched everyone slowly filing in – parents and children – I texted Husband that I was so glad I didn’t have to deal with all the politics of public school anymore. (Or private school, for that matter.) Then I told my son, “It’s like we’re out here in defiance at this very moment – everyone is walking to the school and here we are, the only two people going in the opposite direction, against the tide, against the grain, away from the process.”
Today it surprised me to realize that we’re actually doing this and yet it’s the most natural thing in the world for me to do.
The most comical thing that occasionally happens when someone finds out that we’re homeschooling is that they start prattling on at me about all the “requirements” and telling me how hard it is. (This is more entertaining than the boring “what about socializing” question.) Someone tried to tell Husband that we need to submit documentation (a “letter of intent”) to the school district while telling him how much time it would consume… as if this was a decision made on a whim and we have no clue how to go about it.
Also, homeschooling generally isn’t meant to recreate the same school curriculum and experience, but at home. Homeschooling is meant to do things differently. Some people do, I’m sure. I’ve heard that some people are more regimented and strict than at school. But that’s kind of the point – to do it the way you believe it should be done. My son, for example, is really, really, really, really, really into Minecraft and computers. I know, lots of kids are into Minecraft but he is really, really into it to the point where he’s now taking coding classes. (Ironically, I have been surprisingly strict about screens throughout his life so far but now I’ve come to find that using the computer to do online math lessons and the like is how he learns best.) So for him, we’re emphasizing science and computer skills. A couple of years ago, he declared that he wants to be an inventor and he hasn’t wavered since. We don’t spend much time at all on “learning” math, rather we briefly go over skills or he spends a short amount of time doing a lesson on Beast Academy but we DO the math throughout the day – helping me cook, grocery shopping, games, etc.
I mean, listen, I challenge norms and I’m a spontaneous person but not I’m not that spontaneous. Not when it comes to my kid, anyway. I’m not really sure why people who do not homeschool and are not the type of people who would even consider it think that they know more about it than I do. Another thing that I know is that school did not work for me. School was, in fact, a damaging experience for both myself and my husband. I don’t consider anything I learned through elementary to the years in high school (before I dropped out) to have been valuable. Everything I learned was either self taught, naturally absorbed, or learned in college (which I DID actually enjoy because I had some control over my experience and was treated like an adult.)
Even as a parent, I found public school (and private) exhausting. The whole “one size fits all” business sucks, the routines and schedules and rules are ridiculous. I wanted to let my son take a week to go visit his grandmother AND take him to Iceland. According to school rules, those aren’t excusable reasons and we’d get in trouble for it. According to them, he needs to learn about geography and ecology and science FROM A TEXTBOOK, not, you know… by actually experiencing it. Well, fuck that.
I have been thinking about homeschooling practically since the day this kid was born. I started seriously researching it a couple of years ago. By “researching” I mean looking up state requirements, connecting with homeschoolers, finding resources in the area, and talking to a number of people who homeschool their children as well as having been homeschooled themselves. It turns out I actually know a lot of people who were homeschooled! We are so, so lucky and fortunate to be living in Seattle right now because the state of Washington is very homeschool-friendly and easy to maneuver. Very. So much so that I may have changed my mind about wanting to move back East.
So there you go. To those who encounter homeschoolers (specifically, me), feel free to ask genuine questions but hold the stupid comments and concern trolling. We got this.