Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Big Yellow Bus, and Why My Child Wasn't On It

I looked out the window and saw the kids lined up at the bus stop in front of our house. It was 7:50 AM, and my kindergarten-age daughter was not getting on the happy yellow school bus with the other children. I had a moment of panic.

Are we doing the right thing? Are we somehow depriving our daughter of her childhood birthright to ride that bus? Are we just another weird homeschooling family?! (Please don't answer that!)

She was blissfully unaware of my pre-coffee angst, sleeping peacefully upstairs after a later than usual evening of romping outside on the last official day of summer.  She had a new outfit in the closet, all picked out for her first day of "school." We had new pencils and crayons, crisp blank notebooks, and baskets and shelves filled with books of every kind. I had written "Welcome to Kindergarten!" on our blackboard easel, ready to greet her when she came downstairs. Everything was prepared. (Though I can't say the rest of the house was spotless. Do teachers stay up late the night before school scrubbing their kitchens? I wondered. Probably not.)

It had been months, really years of preparation. The seed of the idea of home education, grown out of my own varied educational experience, nurtured by blog posts, articles and books, encouraged by friends, and later hashed out with my husband in dozens of conversations, had come to fruition. We were not anti-school, by any means. But there was something about the home education option I just couldn't lay aside. I knew I would kick myself later if we hadn't given it a go, if I hadn't put all those bubbling thoughts and ideas and aspirations to the test.

So we decided to do it.

We are doing it. Right now. Today. While the rest of the world seems to be getting on yellow buses.

We are doing it because we think it fits us as a family. The education of one's children is a supremely important and personal choice. What fits for one family may not fit for another. But we are trying on this homeschooling thing, and to me it seems like a good fit, at least for now.

Yes, we might just be crazy. Yes, there are days I will know I am crazy.

But when I think of what my daughter might gain, and not what she'll miss out on, the panic subsides. (The coffee helps too.)

So why are we doing this? I go over some of the reasons in my head.

Family Life
I want our family to grow and learn together, carving what we value out of life, working for and enjoying it together. I want to build our own family culture that I hope will give my children a strong sense of identity and security.

I want our children to be friends with each other, playing and discovering (and yes, fighting) together. I want to give them opportunities to love and lean on each other.

I want the strongest voices in my children's ears to be ones of unconditional love, encouragement, and purpose.

Flexibility and Freedom
I remember my own homeschool days when Dad was in charge of recess time, and we knew we would have at least an hour in the woods before he remembered to call us back in!

I believe the early years are best spent exploring the wide world in a multitude of ways, interacting with all sorts of people, getting your hands dirty and your jeans ripped, with time to play and explore and sniff the dandelions along the way.

I want our children to know many unhurried hours, to drop everything to investigate a particularly large spider, to have time to get bored, to read "just one more chapter," and to discover what it is they really love.

I want the freedom to adjust our routines and methods according to our children's individual needs. I want to give our children the time and space necessary for creativity.

I want our children to have a sense of wonder.

Faith Building 
I want our children to know, love, and serve God wholeheartedly. I know this is not why many families homeschool, but I believe that home education can help give our children a consistent beginning in their life of faith.

I want to build a greenhouse. The best image I've come across to explain what we hope to achieve is that of a greenhouse. One day, we want our children to be able to stand firm and weather whatever life throws at them, with roots deep in the soil of God's truth, beauty, love, and purposes. But you don't throw a new seedling out in the middle of a storm, or when there is risk of frost. Aren't you sheltering your kids from reality? some may ask. To which I respond, early life needs shelter. I have no intention of keeping my children in a bubble all their years. But when they are young, I believe it is wise to maintain a greenhouse experience for these tender lives. In a greenhouse, young plants become rooted, receive necessary nourishment and shelter, and are gradually introduced to the elements so that when the time comes, they will be ready to grow and flourish in the great outdoors.

[Can all of these ideals be fostered without homeschooling? Absolutely. But for us, we feel this is the best way to achieve this for our family, at this season of our lives.]

I take a deep breath. Drain the coffee from the mug. I hear excited five year old feet upstairs. I smile. It's going to be a good day.


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