The school year is on the horizon and while I feel our own sense of overwhelming lists of things to do, I wanted to take a minute to celebrate our personal path and all those people I spoke to, and those I didn’t who made a conscious choice about their children’s education this year.
While many know I’m a staunch supporter of structured alternative schooling so kids can explore their desire to become what they want to be as an adult, some don’t know that I struggled with my own decision to homeschool our kids. I spent three years before they were even school age researching the best methods for educating children from private school, public, charter, Montessori, co-op, private tutor, homeschooling, the list goes on…. As it came closer to the time to make a decision I acted like I was very self-assured in what I was doing, but inside I was quivering like a leaf in a windstorm. What I learned this last year is that it isn’t about what you know, it’s about what you believe you can do. If you have confidence in the fact you can teach your kids, you can. If you trust you can’t teach your kids, you can’t.
When I hear people say “it takes a Saint to homeschool” I snort internally and think what a smug declaration. I’m no Saint, I’m a parent – who is strong-minded (and that’s an understated use of a word) to provide a healthier opportunity at life for our kids than what we had. Teaching your kids is about desire and passion for an improved future, and understanding it’s a journey – putting one foot prudently in front of the other as to not dive off the cliff, but just skate the edge – learning all the while. And by the way, when you ascend the cliff of teaching your kids and you get ½ way through the year, you’ll pat yourself on the back in reflection and say – “damn, I knew I could do this, I just had to do it”.
Providing alternative education for children in a country where education gets a lot of lip service for enhancement, but not a lot of achievement by politicians is a mandate. Your child’s education must be taken control of by you as the parent – not left to the government. I’m not anti-government, when I hear from US friends living in Norway, Germany and Korea that their kids are receiving a better education in a foreign country than most US children obtain – how could you ever expect your child to be marketable and a contributing member to society if they can’t compete with others in their own generation. The answer is merely that you must handle your child’s education, the government has tried and failed – with no accountability – to get the US to be competitive in education. Hopefully that will change, but for now it is what it is. I’m not a proponent of waiting around and seeing, I am a proponent of current action and the ability to be flexible if circumstances change.
The bottom line is this – educating your kids on your own without a net is scary as hell. I promise you this though, for selfish reasons it’s the most enlightening, heartwarming, educational (no pun intended) and freeing experience you will have the privilege of being involved in. Helping your child to understand a subject and seeing the light turn on, watching you when it all connects or seeing them follow their passion and develop is worth every second of giving up your career, self-doubt, self-sacrifice, second guessing, sacrificed purchases, coupons clipped, personal shopping trips given up, date nights missed, hours of sleep gone, lack of inspiration, hair pulled out, frustration ridden days and tearful arguments with your spouse over life changes. It’s worthy every ounce of everything you have to give because every child hungers to become what they aspire to be, and if your role in that is alternatively educating them, isn’t that the least you can do to help them succeed?
“I shall argue that strong men, conversely, know when to compromise and that all principles can be comprised to serve a greater principle.” – Andrew Carnegie