The boys were 2 and 5. A choice had to be made between Blossom Gulch Elementary School, (Where I went as a child), Kingsview (A Christian ABeka Private School), or Home school. Long story short, we chose home learning. Actually, it was earlier, when Nathan was 3 an then 4 and the state wanted him to enroll in Head Start and we said no.
Back then, after the state workers left, the only people who questioned our choices were family. We aligned ourselves with parents who were also homeschooling, joined a large co-op that met once a week, and joined other groups of homeschooling families in our town. It felt like an equal valuable third choice to education. Public/Private/Home. In these circles, the questions were more of the flavor of how. How do you homeschool? What type of curriculum do you use? What park do you frequent.
We moved to Central Oregon when the boys were 4 and 7. We had found out that they had a large Yahoo Group about 6 months before we moved. In those 6 months online, we felt like we were already connected when we made the move. We started up a co-op at our home for geography and met the families that would be our closest friends even to this day. Digging deep with those families, we surrounded ourselves with over 300 families who homeschooled, and then still met other families that homeschooled at parks and museums and libraries around Central Oregon.
I can’t tell you the countless questions we were asked at every. single. gathering. What are you using for math? What unit study are you using? What type of homeschooler are you? What history era are you in? What phonics program are you using? What read aloud list are you following? What country are you studying? How do you teach science? Our babblings and ramblings could last the couple of hours as the children played at the park and river and air soft battles. Floating down the Deschutes River with a leisurely talk about dyslexia and dysgraphia and the programs that helped us out.
But never. Not really ever in the years leading up to our current location, were we directly asked, “Why do you homeschool?”. Maybe in a casual way of course. I remember my first trip to the End of Year Educator Campout at Tumalo State Park. The moms gathered around fresh humus and pita chips while the kids floated the river in a giant loop. Another common verbal game we’d like to play is – “How did you start homeschooling?” We’d all sit back with our water bottles and settle in for our turn at the mic.
We knew when we shared this story, when we dug deep to reveal these answers, it would mean the difference of permanent bonding, or casual separation. I had never realized way back then that people homeschool for a vast host of reasons. Jobs. Moves. Spiritual. Academic. I’ve still not met one family who has the same start/reason as we do. The key, especially with families with older children, is to keep listening. No matter what the “How or why did we start” answer is, the richer fuller answer is in the sorting it out through the years. The reasons that kept them home. The reasons that set the resolve. These are the great conversations that I enjoy.
And then we moved a third time. This time, to a tiny coastal tourist driven town. For the first year, I could find no evidence of homeschoolers at all. I kept hearing the ‘there usedta be a large group here, but they are all grown’ answer. I’d meet the occasional K12 Charter Connections Academy family – each time they were so overwhelmed with their curriculum and working that they were counting the days to put their kids back in public school. Never any time to actually ‘do’ anything.
And for the first time – we were asked, several times a day, – Why Do You Homeschool? Why don’t you put your kids in the local public school? All of the questions were centered around why we were crazy enough to stay home with our kids.
I’ve been pondering this for the last few months, and woke up this morning with a desire to answer.