Thursday, January 2, 2014

Now That I Have a 5 Year Old... (Some Thoughts On Schooling)

NOT a selfie!
Photo credit:
I was talking with a stranger mom at the park last week. We were both swinging toddlers and she was wearing her infant. As we talked on, it became apparent that she was the mother to most of the kids on the play scape that day, not just the two in front of us....there were six kids under 13! She was gorgeous, serene and unflappable, gently correcting  and directing her brood in the loveliest Southern accent. And of course... of course!- she homeschools them all.

Right now, the prospect of homeschooling is weighing heavily on my heart. It started because I am just now exploring the kindergarten process for Noah, who just turned 5 and will be eligible for free childcare-er-public school- next September. The application process for many schools starts next month. We are unlikely to be selected to attend one of the nearby, walkable schools, and chances are high that Noah will attend a totally fine, but not outstanding, school 3 miles away.
The ideal classroom

I have not seriously considered homeschooling before now but as I tour schools and listen more
carefully to families participating in the public school system, I question if mainstream education is the right place for us. The thought that I'm committing  truancy if I keep Noah home from school to do something really cool instead or because he needs a do-nothing day to recharge his batteries chafes me. I'm conjuring childhood memories of elementary school boredom and remembering just how much learning time was devoted to citizenship and crowd management (saluting the flag, raising one's hand to speak, standing in line, asking to use the restroom, etc). I am reluctant to give up the best hours of our days with Noah, to relinquish the flexibility of our lives, to give up so much of his upbringing to teachers and (more accurately) peers. At the elementary level, in a room of 2 teachers and 25 kids, I'm not at all convinced the quality of education is any better than I would provide at home, one to one.

But, there are many buts. Noah's attending kindergarten will allow me to increase my work hours and we could really use the money. Right now, paying for two children in childcare negates the financial benefits of working more than part time for me. Also, I cherish daily no-kid time and it is essential to my wellbeing so rejecting the free childcare component of mainstream schooling is a huge burden. That's 35 hours of free childcare a week. Do I really have the patience to teach my child how to read, one sound at a time? I love teaching him in an unstructured, ride-the-interest-wave sort of way but learning how to hand write at the kitchen table is a whole 'nother level of drudgery and repetition.

I know this about myself: sometimes I am in love with an idea and the reality is not nearly so enjoyable. I have to really kick the tires of my fantasies, you know? The full color fantasy surrounding this homeschooling notion is of the DIY, homesteading, large family-having, natural rhythms-keeping Crunchy Lady Madonna.  (You can see examples here and here.) Even though I don't sew, we're done having children, and are committed to urban living (seriously - what's left?!), I am drawn to the freedoms I associate with this lifestyle. It's a poignant image for me: a close family meeting many of its own needs and rejecting societal trends and values that do not benefit them.

I'm moving forward with all options on the table: seeing what comes of the public school process, connecting with homeschooling families, trying out more formal learning scenarios with Noah and learning about different ways to homeschool. I am struggling with the uncertainty but trying to enjoy the not-knowing what's next. I welcome your feedback!


  1. I have been thinking a LOT about schooling lately too! Have you considered visiting your local Waldorf and Montessori schools? I have a feeling those communities might align more with your parenting. Of course they downside is they take tuition, but if you were able to work more and also get some school assistance it might be worth it. I am intrigued by both types of schools & communities and we will be visiting those here in Austin to see if one works for us! Here is the link to your Waldorf school:

    Wishing you clarity my friend!

  2. Yes, yes, it is a true dilemma! The trade-offs and unknowns are a constant in this discussion and honestly, I'm not sure if one is ever sure! Maybe there's some out there...I've been very open to HS since before the girls and still the decision weighs on me.
    While I do plan on it in the year to come, I am also taking it step-by-step. No larger commitment than I'd like to do this for awhile, but we will see how next year goes. It seems as if you are leaning in that direction and might have to find ways to make the "buts" lessen?
    Brainstorm there since I think the reasons TO DO it are speaking to you...