How We Ended Up Homeschooling

This is to inspire you, or to make you shake your head. Whichever you prefer!

I call myself a "reluctant homeschooler". I never meant to do all.

When my oldest son was an infant, my husband and I were dreaming of his future, as most new parents do. We were terribly poor then, and knew that the chances of us being able to afford any kind of private school in a mere five years (kindergarten age) was almost none.  However, we had both been public schooled from kindergarten through high school and had turned out well, so we were content with that.

I remember looking right at ArtGuy and laughing, saying, "Well, I know one thing I will not do. I will not homeschool!"

Hah hah...hah....mmmmmmm.....

The Young Adult, the oldest of our four boys, went to two different preschools. He was very bright and often bored in class, although he loved the social aspect. More than that, he was very sweet and very innocent. I still did not think too much about it until I discovered that all the area kindergartens were switching from half-day kindergarten to full-day. That really stopped me in my tracks. Half-day was a good way to start. I could not imagine The Young Adult making through a whole day of school, five days a week. I could see him getting into trouble (bored little boys=trouble). I could see him picking up a "label" (won't stay in his seat, won't finish his art project, etc...).
Now, mind you, all of his preschool teachers reported that he was bright, and none seemed inclined to want to put any kind of label on him. But he wasn't going to preschool five full days a week. Plus, we wanted to give him a chance to emotionally mature a little. The poor kid had a break-down during VBS that summer, because he did not want to be away from me for so long (terribly ironic now, as at the age of 12, he usually cannot stand me).
So, I hesitantly asked ArtGuy how he would feel about me homeschooling for one year. He was very positive, and I felt relieved! Next, I broached the subject with my mother, who lived less than one mile away. To my complete surprise, she said she had been hoping I might consider homeschooling as an option. In fact, all our family members were supportive, which was a real blessing.

So, we began our "one year" project of homeschooling. I found some great material to work with, and although I had a three-year-old and a one-year-old, managed many creative lessons (centers, anyone?)! We literally stumbled into a homeschool playgroup at a park one day, and, voila, my support system was complete.

Sadly, during this year, my older sister was diagnosed with a return of renal cell cancer, this time stage 4, and metastasized. Things were not good. Her only son, my nephew Pete, was in the 7th grade at a nearby middle school. Struggling with dyslexia at the best of times, he could not keep up at school amid all the difficulty at home. He failed 7th grade. I thought a long time, and decided to at least offer my nephew and sister my homeschooling services. That way Pete could have one-on-one attention with his education and complete availability for his mom during times she was home from experimental treatment. My sister gratefully accepted.

Since I would be homeschooling Pete, I might as well homeschool The Young Adult again. "One more year", I said. We used an ecclectic approach to homeschooling. I researched and studied and tried many things, searching for the best of each subject. It took a great deal of work, but I learned a lot!

I read up on dyslexia and researched many curricula in order to best serve Pete. We did the best we could that year. Pete gradually caught up on concepts he had missed out on. He worked hard. It was a bittersweet year for us - the time Pete spent with us was so precious. My boys became very close to him (as I have always been). It was hard, as my sister gradually worsened and passed away in Februrary 2005.

The next year I homeschooled by default. The fallout of my sister's passing and all it entailed had left me utterly spent. If I had better command of my senses then, the kids would have gone to public school. However, I did not consider it until too late, so we spent "one more year" homeschooling. This time Cookie Boy was kindergarten age, and Romeo, although only three, was anxious to do his part. We also joined a homeschool coop for the first time.

The next year, our 4th, I wondered what it would be like if I actually decided whole-heartedly to homeschool. I entered into that year embracing homeschooling for the first time. Nothing really changed. We still used an ecclectic approach, but I added a little from a book that had inspired me - Andrew Campbell's The Latin Centered Curriculum. Cookie Boy and The Young Adult tried out Prima Latina, and a few other small items.

Our 5th year continued in the same way, educationally speaking. As I began to research for the following year, my mind kept returning to The Latin Centered Curriculum. I had checked it out from the library before, but why not buy it? Maybe I could use more of it. Much to my chagrin, I found out it was being reprinted (good) and so not available from the publisher (not good for an impatient person like me). I had to wait a month or so before the new edition came out, then I bought it right away.

It was better than I remembered. Then, I had my epiphany: why not actually use The Latin Centered Curriculum as my curriculum? The longer I went in homeschooling, the more I believed that much was missing from a traditional approach to education. Classical education seemed like a good fit both for me as an educator, and for my children as students.

At the same time, I had another revelation. We are Catholic, but have never homeschooled for religious reasons. That just isn't "our thing". In fact, I kept away from the whole faith thing in school, because the mental image of a Catholic homeschooling mom in my head is me in a denim jumper (love denim, love jumpers, but together....), with a rosary in my pocket (love the rosary, but still....) and a van-full of kids (love my minivan; love, love, love having babies), no television, faithfully keeping the Liturgy of the Hours in between composting and harvesting our own produce (love produce, love the Liturgy of the Hours, etc.... - but do you see where I am going with this?).
I realized that since I have a master's degree in theology, it was stupid of me to be denying my kids the chance to have the very subject where I shine. I realized I could teach faith, and it was exciting and fun, and it did not turn me into some charicature of The Holy Mom (not to be confused with the Holy Mother, whom I also love!).

Our 5th year also saw the end of a difficult pregnancy with the birth of our 4th son via emergency C-section (the kid ended up being 10 1/2 pounds). It was a rough year for the whole family.

Our 6th year of homschooling saw us become Classical homeschoolers. I love the approach of "Multum non Multa" - of really focusing on the basics and digging deep, expecting more. Even as a middle and high schooler, I chafed under the blanket of "busy work" at school. I knew my time was being wasted and I really did like learning. I wanted my children to have this chance to return to the classical roots of education.

We also moved during the year. As soon as we closed on out new home, my husband moved our furniture in, and my appendix burst. Two surgeries a year apart left me pretty weak until only recently.  

We just finished our 7th year of homschooling (I still cannot believe it). Classical education is much more demanding, but satisfying to the boys. They are learning things I did not tackle until college, and it does not phase them one bit.Well, not much...usually....

Not that they are geniuses or anything - sometimes I feel I am beating my head against a wall. Case in point:

Me: (reading from a history book) Ancient China was not the only ancient civilization thriving in 1500 BC. Romeo, what other ancient civilization was thriving at the same time as Ancient China?

Romeo: (who had been studying Ancient Egypt for the entire school year for his history )  Ummmm.....America?

Me: thump...thump....thump..... (head hitting the wall)

So, there you have it. The long answer to the question I get all the time - "What made you decide to homeschool?"

Of course, this is too long to tell the lady who stops me in the grocery store to ask as the Mad Toddler shrieks and hurls produce out the of cart, the Young Adult shuffles a few more steps away in order to make it clear that it is not his choice to go anywhere on Earth with his family, Cookie Boy waits patiently and quietly, and Romeo bounces on the balls of his feet. All I tell that lady is, "I just love it"!