Twelve years into it, having gone from uber-structured to unschooling to an eclectic combination of what happens to work best for each child as an individual, I can actually say it: homeschooling works.
I knew it did. I’ve met adults who were homeschooled, I’ve met moms with teens and watched the teens become adults and build their own lives. But I wouldn’t allow myself to believe it until now. And it didn’t really click until I read a Facebook comment from a woman I know here on the island whose own children are long grown & gone, successful adults–who were homeschooled. She still makes herself available to the rest of us (homeschooling moms) and opens her home to several dozen of us at a time sometimes, because she believes so strongly in home education and the need to support one another in our journeys, even after the fact. I admire her and am grateful that there is someone like her on PEI.
She encouraged me to be vocal about what is happening with our eldest child. She stated that sometimes we are shy about these things because we don’t want to sound like we are boasting, but it’s important to let other parents know that homeschooling works, and works very well at that. And truthfully, I hadn’t really thought of it that way. My son would not have received a life-changing opportunity had he been currently attending school. He would be starting Grade 11, focused on studies, homework, or bored out of his tree because he didn’t see the purpose of anything he was being made to learn or do. I speak from experience when I say that high school boredom and lack of purpose will get even the smartest of kids into ruts that could be avoided if their education were tailored to their interests or in a way that allowed them to see definite purpose and meaning in what they were learning.
So The Boy had landed summer work at an orchard in May (another bonus of being homeschooled: you can begin a summer job six weeks before your public school peers can). He had been told that his employer had eyes and ears everywhere, and didn’t take it seriously. Thankfully for him that meant just showing up, learning, going about his business, getting along with others and getting his work done as opposed to arseing around thinking he could get away with it. Lo and behold, four and a half months down the road, we received a phone call from his employer stating that if we were on board, they would like to spend the next five years training him in all aspects of the business because they want him long-term. He is a kid. A freaking sixteen-year-old. A freaking sixteen-year-old who loves to learn, to work outdoors, and whose life has been tailored in a way to allow for experiences that kids don’t have when in public school. Yes, there are public school experiences that he will never get, but given the turn that his life is currently taking which will involve finishing his secondary education (GED will probably be the route taken) full-blown specialized training in an industry, travel, and some seriously confidence-boosting responsibility (that thing we often avoid giving to teenagers so that they can focus on studies and sports instead), I am pretty sure he’ll be fine without them.
So this post is to tell my newbie mom readers not to worry. You are not screwing up your children by homeschooling them. And it works. I am still in shock that the little boy I was sitting down doing kindergarten workbooks with, struggling to teach how to read (he only “chose” to learn when he realized just how much information he’d be unlocking by learning how to read–I think he was 8-years-old when that happened, and then we’d find encyclopaedias in the bathroom) is getting himself up in the morning, packing his lunch, biking to work, and as of a couple of days ago sporting the title of Assistant Manager with a company cell phone & e-mail address. He even has paperwork to go over when he gets home. This is my baby. This is my boy. But really, this is my grown man, kind of, sort of… I am proud. Very proud. See the photo at the top of the page? That’s him, on the far right, ironically drinking homemade (and pretty gross) apple juice made from apples he & his siblings had picked from the trees on our former property. This is right around “I hate reading!!!” time.
I want you to look at your kids, the ones whose futures you may have doubts about since making the decision to homeschool. Just the fact that you are having these doubts to me means that you are qualified (you don’t think you know everything and your ego is in check). You care. You want the best for them. You don’t want to fail them. So you are going to tune in, to listen, to try, to adapt. And sometimes you are going to wonder if you are going to screw them up royally by not sending them to school. Sometimes you are going to read about the “perfect” homeschooling moms whose kids grow up and go to college one after the other with no issues whatsoever and begin their happy successful lives without a glitch (these are generally the same moms whose homes always seem clean even though they sometimes have twelve people living in them). You are going to think “Yeah, homeschooling worked for their kids, but I’m not them” and you are going to stress internally about it until the day that your child gets to the other side of it all, where my guy is arriving, safely and soundly it seems.
Don’t give up. It works. If you are homeschooling as a result of a lot of research and reflection and are dedicated to tuning in to your kids’ needs, homeschooling will not screw up your kids. If it is a statement, a status symbol, or you are a control freak, then it’s a whole different ball game. But I’m going to assume you are a “normal” loving concerned parent, like most of the homeschooling mothers that I know. Homeschooling will not screw up your kids. And quite frankly, what constitutes a screwed up child is often a matter of opinion… Where my son will be at 22 BECAUSE of homeschooling and the person it made him is way ahead of where a lot of 30-year-olds find themselves nowadays, and he will be without student debt. I am so proud of him right now. He is excited. He is happy. He is… proof. An example. Not perfect–who is?–but hopefully a reassurance to anyone having doubts about homeschooling that they shouldn’t be. It works.
Go kid, go.