This is a post about our family’s choice to homeschool. We are fortunate to make the choice that is best for us, and we remain supportive about whatever is best for you and your family.
I was cleaning off our bookcases one weekend. I tucked away the Kindergarten math, language arts, and handwriting books and headed upstairs to check the printer. It was churning out pages of first grade curriculum. I pulled out what was ready and ran it through the hole punch, carefully placing it in a binder and bringing it back to the bookcase. I clicked over to the library tab on my laptop and checked our holds- The Big Book of Bugs was ready for our Arthropod study.
Next, I’ll worked on my documents for the school district. We needed to submit proof of progress and a declaration of intent. I also worked this weekend to organize some of our activities with friends, including a new co-op opportunity. With all these ducks in a row, I just needed to figure out my hardest task (and still do):
What to say when friends and family inevitably ask if we are homeschooling next year.
I know when I tell some of them, “Yes,” they will answer back, “Why?”
It felt simple to answer this question three years ago when I had a preschooler. We were in an intense season of moving every year for three years. We decided it was easier on us as a family to keep our daughter at home, taking leave when my spouse was able, and making the most of our time in Morocco and Ecuador. Preschool is also not cheap, and we wanted to spend our money on travel instead.
I worried then about socialization and if I was enough, but with time and effort I discovered we were right where we needed to be.
I even grew my own writing career from home whilst managing her preschool. We had community, she learned her letters, numbers, colors, and shapes alongside exciting experiences like visiting the Amazon Rainforest. It was all OK.
A year ago, it felt simple to answer this question again.
As some parents had the ability to switch to homeschooling due to COVID and school closures, we stayed the course and chose homeschool for our blossoming kindergartener. I worried about socialization (along with the rest of the world) as we sat waiting for things to reopen. Our son was born in July 2020, and I worried about homeschooling with a baby. I have also worried about handling the brunt of family life as my husband’s TDY’s have picked back up, and yet it has been great.
So the question becomes, with no current world-travelling opportunities on the horizon nor enduring heightened restrictions or lock down due to COVID, why am I still choosing to homeschool?
The answer feels complicated. But honestly, our family is taking this decision season by season, and there is much I am learning along the way. I am starting to see both the fruits of our labor, and what the trade offs are. Just like in military life, there are so many moments that give, and moments that take away. What matters is weighing those two, and choosing our best option.
What it takes
I am never alone. This is the hardest part of homeschooling for me. I heard another homeschool parent call it “smothered loneliness,” and that covers it. I have yearned for more adult interaction, to eat my meals without someone touching me or with a baby yelling from his high chair. The kids come with me to my appointments, grocery shopping, activities-we are always together. At times I get tired of being on my own best behavior as I know that little eyes are constantly watching me. Yet it is also stretching me to be a better person and to ask for time and help from my spouse and friends.
My career progression looks slower. I know, I know- this is unfavorable and unpopular to say, but I need to put it out there. My children do not go to school or daycare, so the time to develop my own career goals and dreams feels smaller and slower in this season. It is not non-existent, but it is a trade off that I reckon with.
I have to constantly check my measuring tape. If I measure our homeschool progress with the same rubric a public school does, then I am doomed to find the areas we fall short in or are behind in. I am also certain to find areas we are ahead and excelling in. Comparison is a trap, no matter what part of our life we are trying to hold up to someone else’s. I know now that homeschool is not replicating public school at home, and I remind myself to measure our progress differently.
Socialization looks different, but it does happen. We do not have playdates and museum trips every day but as our area begins to open up more, we are widening our circle of friends. This has looked like joyful hours at local parks, hikes, and extended unstructured playtime. It also means that I am in attendance for most activities.
What it gives
Less pressure. I thought I would feel stressed about how to lead our child’s education, but there are many affordable options out there. You can be as involved in the teaching process as you like or move the child to more of an online or co-op situation with multiple teachers. Overall, we have adjusted our calendar to be flexible and follow a year-round approach. If we are having a bad or sick day, I have the freedom to move our lesson plans around to suit us.
More time as a family. With less pressure to follow a strict school calendar we have been able to schedule family events and vacations when my spouse is home. We can request leave in the middle of a week and in non peak times. This has given us a lot of freedom in a busy military life to pursue what is meaningful to us.
More time with extended family. This spring while my husband was TDY, I took advantage of being closer to our extended family (if by closer we mean a 9 ½ hour drive, but hey, that’s closer than we’ve been in years!). I spent a month between the grandparents and cousins. It was a great break for me to have extra helping hands and wonderful for the relationships of our kids with their family. I just brought school with us.
Agency in education. We have been able to pursue interests and explore more play based learning. I love that I can provide different areas of intrigue through unit studies and that my daughter gets to help decide parts of what we study. I can stop and problem solve when my child is struggling instead of moving her through to keep pace with a full class. Please keep in mind that even if we get to do school differently, it does not mean that we love doing school every day!
I am grateful we get to be on this path. I am also open to the idea that it may not be forever. But as far as homeschooling after COVID? Homeschooling and being a military family?
Yes, we are. It is what works for us. Here’s to what works for you!
Interested in homeschooling for your family? I found these podcast episodes as well as this article that interviews several military homeschool families to be a great help.
Milspouse Matters with Jen McDonald: Episode 51 – Homeschooling and Military Life — Jen McDonald (jen-mcdonald.com).
Lifegiver Live with Corie Weathers and Jennifer Hamrick Bonus: Lifegiver LIVE Coronavirus Forcing Families into Homeschool (podbean.com).
Anita and Nathan of The Homeschool Project Podcast are a military family that aim to light the fire of a homeschool education.
Homeschooling does vary from state to state. You can check out the Home School Legal Defense Association to make sure you know what is required from you depending on where you reside.