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Monday, September 5, 2011

Homeschooling... Well, it can be dapper and dreamy!

The Little Red Schoolhouse of
Hyde Park, NY.
As you know from reading this blog, we have a lot of children.  OK, four is a lot, eight is...  enough?  In spite of the near constant activity in our house, especially during the summer, you might be surprised to find that we aren't all that excited for school to start.  Our three oldest children are all in high school, now, while our five youngest are either homeschooled or to small to worry about it.  If we could do it all over again, we would have homeschooled them all.

What are our reasons?  They might not be typical.  We live in an area with really good schools.  I've never seen any sign of the sort of faith-trampling attitudes from teachers and school districts that many homeschooling families are trying to escape.  Actually, in our school district, the opposite seems to be true.  It's a very welcoming place for everyone.  We also don't find ourselves troubled by poor curriculums or less than adequate teachers.  Again, I've been happy and impressed.  For us, it's not the schools, it's our family.

Call us crazy, but we'd like to spend more time with our kids rather than less.  We'd like the opportunity to teach them our values personally, and we'd like to let them know what a big, wide open place the world is.  Our three oldest children are marvelous.  They're accomplished, hard working and dedicated to their education.  But, sometimes, I worry that they are too accomplished, too hard working and too dedicated.  There seems to be an all-pervasive sense in school that this is the most important moment in a person's life.  That everything counts on your educational record and your ability to get into a good college.  To this, I say...  "Pish posh!"

Life is for living.  When you are sixteen or seventeen, the future looks endless.  When you are thirty-seven or thirty-eight, you are starting to realize that it's not.  It's not a matter of doom and gloom, more an understanding that you can't do everything you want to do.  Sometimes, you really do have to make choices.  Looking back, there are many things I would have done differently.  Many attitudes and ideas that I wish I had overcome earlier.  One of the things I would have liked to have known is that there are many paths to success and, even more importantly, many more definitions of what success is.  At eighteen, success may be getting into that Ivy League school.  This was nothing I needed to worry about happening to me.  What you don't realize when you are that young is that your life is going to go in directions you can't imagine and, frankly, can't plan for.  If you don't believe me, ask the countless college graduates, many with advanced degrees, who are serving you in restaurants, working in call centers or simply looking for jobs.

So, why do we think that homeschooling can be dapper and dreamy?  We want our children to learn and master the basics, of course.  We want them to succeed academically and have lots of choices as to the direction they take in life.  But, we also want them to live, laugh and enjoy now.  Working and looking toward the future is important, but not more important than living now.  It really is true that we are only sure of now, this moment.  Appreciate the past, look to the future, but live in the present.  I want my kids to have time to dream, to explore and to learn about all sorts of things.  I want them to be prepared for the "real" world, but with an understanding that the "real" world depends a great deal on what you make of it.

We're not terribly dogmatic about all of this.  We don't look down our noses at people who think differently.  But, the question often arises as to why we think homeschooling is a good idea.  So, here's our answer.

If you are a homeschooling family, what do you love about it?  What are your challenges?  Do you feel that your children are exposed to more interesting and exciting ideas?  Or, are they getting less out of life?

Regardless of what side of the fence you fall on, school's almost back in session everywhere.  It's a good time to look at your own life and ask whether you are keeping your mind sharp.  Are you nourishing and encouraging your own curiosity?  If not, now's a wonderful time to change that!  After all, being smart really is dapper and dreamy!

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