It is dusk and I am sitting in the outdoor kitchen with my son. He has his new phone and is showing me the soccer cleats and shin guards he is convinced he needs. He had soccer practice today. At the high school.
In a few weeks, my kids will go to school. For the first time in five years.
I’m totally OK with it. Well, I say that, but I’m also riddled with worry that they will have a hard time adjusting, or make terrible grades because we unschooled and how can you make good grades at something you’ve never done before? Also, how the hell are we going to get up on time every morning? We have indulged in sleeping late for so very long.
Then I realize we’ll find a way. After all, it was my kids who made up their minds to go to school. I can trust those same minds to follow through.
Let me say this straight away. I have loved homeschooling. And for so many reasons. I have loved the flexibility we’ve had with our time. I’ve loved that my kids have had ownership of their lives–that to their very cores, they understand that their lives are their own. They have authorship. Unless I am telling them to practice piano. Or sweep the floor. Or feed the dogs.
I’ve also really appreciated the way homeschooling has put me nose to nose with my own bias about education and human development. I can’t say that I’ve loved that because sometimes it is really hard to go against the grain. Every mother I know worries about how she is damaging her kids.
All that worry is silly. Because we have no idea how we are messing things up for them. In the end it will be something we’ve never even seen, a blind spot or anomaly, that does its damage. In the meantime, let’s acknowledge homeschooling for the adventure it is. A very freeing and very scary jump off the mainstream train. That train wasn’t taking us anywhere we wanted to go, and it wasn’t any fun. So the we got to ask the big question: where will we go instead? And we went all kinds of places, often in the good company of friends and family, and we had fun and relapses into stress and it was beautiful.
So I’ve come now to the end of a long homeschooling career, of not just Denali and Zoë but also my three older kids, and what I’ve come to believe is that school doesn’t really matter. Not public school or private school or homeschool. The whole idea of education is moot. What matters is presence and engagement. Oh, and self-control. Which is one of the number one predictor of success across myriad aspects of our lives: school, work, marriage, finances.
This change feels right. First, my kids want chose it for themselves, so they will be present and engaged with their lives in meaningful ways. Second, it is a new way to practice their self-control, which can be built up, like a muscle, and fatigued, like a muscle. They will get to work with new challenges that will strengthen their confidence. Third, we live in a really rural area. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to meet their social needs. And friends are super important, especially at this age.
My daughter comes outside and sits beside me. She looks over my writing and says, “You didn’t quit homeschooling, we did.”
I acknowledge that there is some truth to this statement, but add, “Since you quit, by default I quit too.”
She accepts this then says, “You didn’t try and make us keep homeschooling, either.”
“No, I did not.”
“I’m glad you let us make our own choices about it,” she says.
The katydids are chanting in the trees. The last days of summer are coming to an end. Zoë is not exactly happy about this, and neither am I. But if anything is constant, it is change. Let us walk into it boldly.