Okay, so technically, it wasn’t quite two years ago that we started homeschooling, but I’ve got our two year mark on the brain and thought I’d share my thoughts.
Two years ago, on the Monday before school let out for winter break, we informed the elementary school officials and teachers we would not be bringing our third and first graders back in January. That was a scary, scary day. I had spent the previous week trying to figure out how to tell everyone—how to prepare them, and I was afraid of how people would react.
The school secretary was rather chilly about it. I asked her if I needed to sign any forms or write a letter to the school administration or the principal or whatever, and all she did was give me a dead eyed stare and say, “No, but you need to let the principal know.”
I cornered the principal, who was new that year and didn’t really know my kids. I explained who my children were and what I planned to do. She was diplomatic, but it was clear she took our decision personally and she wanted to know why we felt it necessary to homeschool. I was still trying to grasp all the reasons myself, so I just told her we traveled frequently and wanted more flexibility—which was true, but not the biggest or only reason we’d decided to homeschool.
When I talked to the third grade teacher, I wanted her to know that I thought she was a fabulous teacher and that our decision had nothing to do with HER or her class. I gave the “travel/flexibility” reason to her, too. She was very supportive and offered herself and her expertise if I found myself experiencing difficulties, or needed ideas for lesson plans, or anything else. I was touched by her kindness.
The first grade teacher was a bit more incredulous and clearly a bit offended. I tried to explain to her the same kinds of things I’d explained to the third grade teacher, but she just raised her eyebrows at me and wished me luck, in a tone that implied I’d never succeed at teaching my own children.
On the last day of school, I was a wreck. Knowing this was the end of my kids’ elementary school careers made me weepy. The kids had done great in public school. They were happy there, Overall, they had a great experience—what was I doing, pulling them out? I moped around the house all day long, dreading when the kids got home—it would be official, then.
It didn’t help that I had agreed to babysit another homeschooler’s kids that day. I wanted to spend the day in mourning, but instead I had to entertain a couple of kids I’d never tended before. I was sad and stressed out. When the kids came home, they both came home with a box of all their papers from the year, all their school supplies, AND, their teachers and classmates had made “Good-bye Books” for each kid. The Good-bye books were filled with “I’ll miss you” and “I’m sorry you’re leaving us” notes and pictures. Some of the kids wrote their names and phone numbers as well. It was heartbreaking. Ellen, my third grader, seemed to finally grasp that she wasn’t going to go back. She was upset and took her papers and Good-bye book upstairs to her room in tears.
Calvin, my first grader, was much more interested in playing with his younger siblings and the extra kids I still had over than crying over no more elementary school. I turned the kids loose with movies and video games and went upstairs and cried. I could hear Ellen doing the same.
I didn’t officially start our homeschool lessons until January—on the day that would have been the first day back to elementary school. The kids plastered themselves against the living room window and watched the school buses go by that morning. Ellen cried. Calvin took his cues from Ellen and acted mopey for a while. I don’t remember much else about the first day—just the sad kids and the feelings of guilt and fear about having not let them go back to school.
Looking back on how we got started, I realize I made some mistakes. I shouldn’t have taken my kids out mid-year. I should have talked to my kids much sooner about our decision to homeschool them, and given them time to prepare themselves emotionally, and found ways to get them excited about it. Ellen struggled throughout our first year with having left public school and there were many times I was almost convinced I’d ruined her life.
But, after two years, I can honestly say, we’ve come a long way from Day 1, and wouldn’t go back to public school. The kids still occasionally talk about missing friends from school or missing out on things like running for student council positions, but when I point out all the things we’ve been able to do and see that we wouldn’t have been able to if they were still in public school, they agree that homeschool has been better and more fun.
The last two years have been quite an adventure. It hasn’t all been fun or easy or enjoyable, but the good days outnumbered the bad days and I’m glad we decided to stick with it. Raise your glasses, everyone. Here’s to a Happy Third Year!