I never planned to homeschool my kids. I was homeschooled from first grade on and even though I had a good experience, I wasn’t sure it was the right fit for me as a mom. I kind of assumed I'd be working outside of the home and honestly, I never felt like I was organized enough to homeschool my kids. But when the time came to put my oldest in Pre-K, I started to feel like I wanted my daughter at home with me for another year. I didn’t believe that homeschooling was a long-term educational option for my family, but I felt like even though she was more than ready academically, she wasn’t emotionally ready to be in school all day. So I did a little research and started teaching her at home.
What surprised me was just how much I enjoyed our time together doing school. Admittedly, since she is so young, very little of our day is actually spent on formal school work. We read as much as possible, do a quick reading lesson, and work together on her handwriting. The rest of our day is devoted to artwork or time outside. Now that I’ve dipped my toes in the waters of being a homeschool mom, I want to keep at it, at least for the next few years. My daughter is excelling with just an hour or two of schoolwork and plenty of play each day. But with Betsy DeVos' recent appointment as the Secretary of Education, I have to admit I have had some second thoughts about my choice. Since DeVos focuses so heavily on school choice, I can't help but worry about the schools in my community. Will the public schools suffer if a lot of families leave? I know that homeschooling is right for our family, so why do I feel so guilty? Why do I feel like I am leaving my community behind?
Of course, every educational decision has its setbacks, but my reservations have taken me by surprise. In my experience, when moms make the choice to keep their child at home for school, they often have concerns about making sure they are making friends or being a capable-enough teacher to address their unique educational needs. For me, those aren’t big concerns. I've been lucky enough to get plugged into a really diverse homeschool community where I live and since I was homeschooled myself, I'm really familiar with all of the supplemental options available to me if my kids are struggling with a subject or concept.
It’s hard for me not to wonder if my resources could be better used. Is it selfish to focus them all on my own children? Should my children be in school so I can be more engaged in my community, advocating for change in the public schools in our area, or providing support to teachers? Am I failing my community by keeping my kids out of public schools?
So what gives? Why do I feel so guilty? To be perfect honest, I feel like I am abandoning my community. Ever since Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the Secretary of the Department of Education, I have felt even more certain that home education is best for my family. I can already see how being able to adjust a lesson or assignment and test to my kids' strengths will help them excel over the next few years.
I also know that that the choice we have is a huge privilege. As a work-at-home mom, I am part of a lucky few who can work from home and have the choice to teach her kids from home. As a woman with a partner who has a reliable job, I know I can count on him to bring in a steady income if I need to scale back to focus more on teaching our kids. As a married woman, I know that the burden of providing for and educating our children doesn’t fall solely on me. I have help and I have resources a lot of parents don’t have. Without these things, taking my kids out school would never be an option.
In light of DeVos' appointment, I can't help but wonder if my kids should be in school and if I should be a more active part of the educational community where I live. It’s hard for me not to wonder if my resources could be better used. Is it selfish to focus them all on my own children? Should my children be in school so I can be more engaged in my community, advocating for change in the public schools in our area, or providing support to teachers? Am I failing my community by keeping my kids out of public schools? These are questions I don’t know how to answer and that often makes me feel guilty.
I think a lot of people assume that parents who make the choice to teach their kids from home do so because they want to live in a bubble, but that simply isn’t true. Putting my kids in school certainly would be an easy way to stay involved in my community, but it doesn’t have to be the only way.
What I do know is that I am making the right choice for my own kids. But that doesn't mean I plan to turn a blind eye to what's going on around me. I don’t plan to use homeschooling as an excuse to stay uninvolved in my community.
I don’t know exactly what this looks like for the long-term, but I have a few ideas. For starters, I plan to pay attention, to be well educated on what is happening in schools around us, to vote in local elections, and to participate in school fundraisers.
I think a lot of people assume that parents who make the choice to teach their kids from home do so because they want to live in a bubble, but that simply isn’t true. Putting my kids in school certainly would be an easy way to stay involved in my community, but it doesn’t have to be the only way. I can get to know my neighbors. I can find creative ways to be a part of resisting any educational policies that hurt my community. Most importantly, I can raise my kids to be open-minded, compassionate and brave, to be an active part of their community.