Actually, You Probably Could

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Now that school is back in session, we’re starting to run into our old trad-school friends – at restaurants, in the Target aisles, at the pool in the evening. There are pleasantries exchanged, and they often feel the need to bring up alternating positives and negatives about their own experiences, as if to both reassure themselves and reassure me at the same time. I’m sure we’ll get past all of this in time, and we’ll all agree that we’re doing what we need to be doing. It’s with that thought in mind that I’m finding that the most common denouement to these conversations is a simple statement on their part with respect to homeschooling: “I couldn’t do it.”

Actually, you probably could.

If you felt you needed to.

Seriously. When have you, as a parent, not tried to do what you felt your kid needed? Not wanted; needed. And how often have you, in a split-second, made a judgement call as to whether something was a want or a need? I found myself in the school-supplies aisle at Target this week, and I saw parents make those calls a hundred times over. Yes, you need a binder; no, you don’t need a binder with a built-in iPad holder. Yes, you need a protractor, but I’m sure you could get by with this one instead of that one. Yes, you need a backpack, but…yes, you need a calculator, but…on and on it went. We’re in the business of drawing those invisible lines as parents; where am I serving this kid’s needs, and where am I being wheedled into something unnecessary and indulgent?

I know where that line is in education, and so do you. We all do. If you felt as if homeschooling was a need, instead of an indulgence, you’d do it, and you’d do fine. You’d at least go down swinging, which is all most of us do anyway; some days are wondrous voyages of enlightenment and learning, and other days, we’re fighting through our frustrations just as our kids are fighting through theirs, to get their heads around writing assignments and algebraic formulas and the role of the sickle in early agriculture. Like anything, there are days that we feel like we’re doing it, and there are days we feel like we’re not.

I think that sensation – “I couldn’t do it” – is probably a good and healthy test of your own thought process on homeschooling. This was an option for us for several years, and nothing more, despite a very dear friend and counselor – the inimitable Patty Gatto-Walden – calmly taking Kathy’s hand during a counseling session, looking directly into her eyes, and saying, “you’re homeschooling in three years.” We exchanged a quick glance, one that probably betrayed the shared initial feeling of we can’t do that. And that was true, at the time, because I didn’t know everything I needed to know to perceive homeschooling for my kids as a need, not an indulgence.

But the data piled up, like snow in March here in Colorado, layer upon layer, silent drift upon silent drift, until the same instinct kicked in that makes you start pulling on boots and coats to go and shovel it. EXPLORE scores and WISC-IV data and dyscalculia information and case studies on emotional sensitivity all accumulated until Kath and I began to exchange other glances, ones that suggested that maybe, just maybe, Patty had been right. Were we really going to send a kid off to sixth grade who already tests high mastery of all of middle school and a fat wedge of high school? Were we going to undertake increasingly distant split-grading for another kid who belongs squarely in one grade for writing and reading and squarely in another for math? What about our kid who just doesn’t seem to learn anything in school because the emotional ‘noise’ is too loud? This was looking less like an indulgence with each datapoint.

In the end, Patty was right, of course, and here we are, ready to get going again, and I’m nodding and smiling in response to I couldn’t do that in all of its varieties of delivery.

I couldn’t either, once.

But I can now.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. NAILED IT……they could do it……if they needed to…OR even if they just WANTED TO…….

    Reply

  2. Wow. Yes, exactly. In the past year, we went from “homeschooling as a last resort” to “it’s time to homeschool.” Results so far? Happy kid!

    Reply

  3. Love this!!! I’ll be sharing it everywhere. 🙂

    Reply

  4. Posted by familyspiritkeeper on September 2, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Reblogged this on Writing the Wind and commented:
    This pretty much describes my own experience with homeschooling. “I couldn’t.”…”maybe I could.”…”I have no choice.”…”I’m doing it, most of the time and overall, I’m thrilled.”

    Reply

  5. Posted by Rebecca on September 3, 2013 at 10:28 am

    This is absolutely my favorite article on homeschooling EVER. Thank you!

    Reply

  6. Timely article, thank you! Our 6th grader just got moved up to 7th grade and we think homeschooling might be inevitable. This article makes me think I might be able to do it!

    Reply

  7. Just what I needed to hear today after our 4-hour first day of kindergarten yesterday took 9 hours. Great, honest perspective. Thanks.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Nikki on September 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Yes! A well written piece! Two happy children who have lots of friends, lots of time to work, lots of time for sports, music and social groups. Plus loads of time off! Slightly different circumstances to you – but I never believed in homeschooling, until I realised it was the only solution that would actually work!

    Reply

  9. We hear it all the time – and I remember SAYING it all the time. I never thought I could homeschool, but when your kids need something, anything, you do whatever it takes to fill that need. We’ve all heard stories of the 100 pound mom lifting an entire car to free a trapped child – when your child has a need you can become superhuman. The nice thing about homeschooling is that it is much easier than lifting a car 😉

    Reply

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