I've spent most of my life doing "the norm." School, good grades, college, respectable job, marriage, children. I am married to someone who is equally disposed.
And so it was remarkable with just how little trepidation -- after a season of due diligence that included book research and personal interviews, of course -- that we removed our children from the public school system.
Maybe that's how I knew it was the right thing to do.
Beyond what was naturally ingrained in me as a child in the United States, I have never felt so proud and fortunate to be an American before I considered that I truly had the choice to run my life -- and my children's lives -- in the way that I saw fit.
Without really much consideration as to whether it was the best thing for them or not, when my children came of age I sent them to public school for years; my son for four and my daughter for two. I blindly trusted the system to protect and arm their minds with the knowledge they needed to succeed in life. And in some ways that was very comfortable. I was not responsible for what they learned.
As I grow up, I'm confronted more and more with how the truth is often very backward from what you would suspect. I never suspected that by taking on the very serious responsibility of educating our children, that we would find joy, renewed curiosity about the world, and freedom. That our imaginations would be sparked and our dinner conversations would be more complex than ever before. That the stress of hustle and bustled lives would dissolve. That we would struggle, and be able to use that struggle to teach important lessons.
While in these six short months I have become a proponent of home schooling, I would concede that it's not for everyone. I have particularly amiable, willing students. However, I'd also like to posit that it's for more people than may have that realization.
If you've wondered if it's good for your kids to be stressed out in elementary school...If you've ever thought maybe you're not so sure you would expose your child to this subject matter or another before they are ten, but felt helpless to do anything about it...If you've ever thought it would be nice for your child to get some more freedom to learn the way they learn best, or have more one-on-one time with the teacher...If you are one of those people who are sad to see your children go back to school at the end of a long summer...
Far be it from me to be a militant home schooler. As trite as it sounds, everyone must travel their own path. But if the only thing stopping you is some fear in your head that "I'm not smart enough to teach my children," let me try to alleviate that pain. There are more resources out there than you can shake a stick at. Some come in the form of literature, and others come in the form of friendly (non-bun-wearing, surprisingly engaging, non-denim-jumper wearing) home school moms and dads, who have found joy in the ultimate child-rearing responsibility.
My saving grace has been Classical Conversations and the support I've found through their curriculum and the community of people we meet with weekly. Their very accurate tagline is "making classical education approachable." If you've never heard of a classical education before, read about it. When I did, I felt like I was putting on a comfortable old jacket. I remember thinking, "Yes! This is what I think education should be like. This is how and what I want my children to learn. This is what I think of when I think about someone who got a good, solid education."
If your heart is stirred toward something, I believe God will put people in your path to show you the right direction. You have to start down the path, but the people you meet along the way will provide you with the things you need to progress.
I know I sound very confident. Does that mean that I don't question our decision to home school? On the contrary; I believe the hallmark of parenting is the constant, looming question of whether or not our kids will one day sit on the bench at a psychiatrist, bemoaning the fact that "they home schooled me!" All we can do is make the best decisions with the information we have, and hope that our best efforts and intentions will set these kids on the path of becoming the very best version of themselves.
When I drive home from boot camp at 6:40 in the morning, I see my neighbor pile her four boys (aged 6 months to 13 years) into the van before the sun is up, hurrying to get each kid where he needs to go on time. As we eat breakfast, the kids in our neighborhood wait outside for the bus. They've probably been up for an hour or more. We bid Dad farewell and the kids sneak upstairs for 30 minutes to play before we start school. I finish my tea and wrap up my boot camp social media posting duties, and I wander upstairs to start the day.
More days than not, I am excited about the day's planned events. We hit all the subjects and then pause for a park break if the weather is good. We sit outside in the sun and I read books aloud. They ask questions, and I get a deeper insight into their unique and amazing personalities. If Dad has a trip and we want to tag along, we go. We are silly. We visit museums. We laugh. I cajole. We follow rabbits down holes. We test on Fridays, and when they are done the kids let loose a ball of energy and nerves that has them whooping and wrestling in their rooms. It is...idyllic. I can't believe I get to do this each day.
When Zach was a principal, I attended each of the graduation ceremonies over which he presided. I never failed to tear up at the video showing the kids as kindergartners and then seniors in high school. The emotion of the parents and their baffled looks about just where these 18 years had gone was palpable. It left a big impression on me.
Child rearing is a stage. They will be gone before you know it. We are not promised anything in this life...not a single day. Are you living a life of your own design? Because you can. You are allowed. You have permission to take the reigns of your life and steer it in a totally different direction than you may have ever thought possible. And in taking responsibility, you just may find unexpected freedom and joy, and time with your children that can never be replaced.