When the topic of homeschooling, unschooling and other unconventional methods of learning came up in my local mom's group a while ago, I began to think more about what would be best for our family. Previously, I'd never considered any options: my 'plan' was to enroll them in kindergarten as they came of age, but as I listened to discussion on the topic I found myself seeing the perspectives of those that weren't going to school their children traditionally more clearly, and agreeing with some of their ideology.
I researched and I found myself becoming more and more interested in homeschooling, thinking it might actually be a great thing for us. That was until I ended up on National Home Education Network's site, reading their list of 55 Reasons to Homeschool. While I understood why majority of the list would appeal to many, I felt that they were indicative of taking away valuable life experience for children that would help mold them into well rounded people. So, I made the decision to school them outside of the home as I'd previously intended. Yet all of the positives that could come from homeschooling (including majority of the reasons on that list) rang true to me in a way that I felt would be great for my kids, temporarily.
My oldest, Isabella (Bella), who turns 5 years old Monday, has stayed at home with me since birth, except for a short period of time when she was 3 and I had morning classes to attend. She went to a local daycare for half days then. Now, she is of age to start Kindergarten next fall. She and I have discussed Kindergarten and our options over the past few months as I've compiled information. She was never extremely keen on the idea, except for making new friends, but even reasoned that out with the fact that she could also make friends at dance and karate classes. She made up her mind when watching Kindergarten Cop. Her eyes were wide and mouth open at the raucous on the screen for most of the film and when it was over she turned to me with her nose in the air and said "I'm never going to Kindergarten." After her announcement, I leaned more heavily towards homeschooling her for that year for that and a few key more reasons:
She's mature for her age, moreso than some children. Other 5 year olds that she interacts with are not as well composed or steady as she is. She's grown up even more since her sister became mobile, the exact opposite of regression. It was like she was determined to prove that she wasn't a baby, but a 'big kid' and was capable of handling the responsibilities of being an older sister. I love that about her, and I believe that in first grade she'd be more likely to find herself in an environment populated more by calm and easy going children than the opposite, which may help her remain as she is now, as well as make friends. Kindergarten is scattered and messy and not her style at all.
Going from all day at home in a relaxed environment with only myself and her sister to 7 hours of (albeit loosely) structured school days surrounded by a dozen or more other children and strange adults may be overwhelming for her, and in my opinion too much of a drastic change.Keeping her at home for this year will give her time to mature and prepare herself better for the routine and monotony of schedules, something that she'll have to deal with for the rest of her life. Homeschooling her will let me ease her into that sort of thing. Right now, we're very free and the only real schedule that we have is breakfast, dinner and bed time. Other than that, all things are all mixed up and off the wall and never the same.
There's really no rush to start her now. She has two decades of school ahead of her - what's the rush to get her in it so soon? She's still just a child, and I want her to be able to enjoy that for just a little while longer before she's exposed to all the things that come with starting school such as inferiority complexes, crushes on boys (or girls, whatever she's down for!), and playground politics. School is stressful. I remember my kindergarten year very well: my first crush rejected me and corporal punishment was still in place so rulers and paddles were not my friend. I'd also like another year to help her establish the person she is. Maybe she'll be a tad less likely to emulate others.
When Isabella starts 1st grade, I can start her sister, Rosario (Ari) in Kindergarten. I plan on putting Ari in Kindergarten because I know she'd not only benefit from the experience, but she'll need that year of more intense progression into structured days, and how to better get along with other children, learning better what's appropriate interaction and what isn't. She is much more feisty and likely to rebel that Bella, and placing her directly in first grade may not be the best thing, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it - she's only 3 and it's possible she'll be much calmer and gentler by the time it's her turn to start school. God knows I hope she is. This will ease the transition of not spending their entire days together for them both.
It'll help Bella and I both adapt to me being an active participant in her education and be a learning experience for us. I plan on being one of those belligerent parents that disallows television until homework is done and demands that it be gone over together thoroughly after dinner. Her getting used to seeing me as a teacher outside of her regular teacher may make her more likely to come to me with difficult math problems, or for an explanation of photosynthesis in layman's terms. On second thought, she might want to call her dad about the math problems, since I can only do it on a third grade level, but regardless: she may be more likely to want us to take a more active role in her life outside of the home. I'll also be able to get a better grasp on the teaching methods that work best for her - the techniques that she responds to well and those that don't. That insight enable me be more of an assistance to her teachers as she grows instead of the other way around.
What she'll learn in Kindergarten isn't much, and most of those fundamentals I have taught her already. Anything else should be easy to. There are so many homeschooling resources available online that cover every aspect of it such as Starfall, The Homeschool Mom, and Homeschool Central. Any social skills she's lacking can be picked up via her extracurricular activities, and playgroups. This will give me one more year with her at home: being my baby, my helper, my right hand man. And kids grow so fast that I don't think anyone can blame me for wanting to postpone her leaving home, even for just a hours, just a bit.
I believe that I'm making the best decision for us: for Bella at least. I'm already suspecting that it won't be for Rosario, but only time will tell. I'm hopeful that it will make Isabella more excited about and ready for school. We'll see if I'm right...
Contributing Editor Maria Young also answers to and blogs at Immoral Matriarch.
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