Homeschooling By Default

In my city, if you don't send your kids to pre-school when they're two, by default you are homeschooling.

I grew up in the suburbs where most kids didn't go to pre-school until the year before they started kindergarten, and even then it was only three mornings a week in the basement of some church. So I was quite shocked at the odd glances I encountered this fall when I indicated that, no, M would be home with me and not attending "school." Mind you, she's not even 3.... "Oh, so you're homeschooling," was the response I'd receive from numerous playground acquaintances or strangers. "No, I just prefer to teach my kids at home until the year before kindergarten," I'd reply. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if homeschooling would be an appropriate path for us.

I had written a research paper on homeschooling when I was in college and have always been intrigued by it. And my husband has been advocating for me to homeschool for quite awhile. The primary motivator for homeschooling, at least initially, was so that we could remain city dwellers. We don't like the trends we're seeing in public schools and the private school culture in the area doesn't appeal to us at all, so the only option is homeschool.

As I began to see what M and J and I were doing for activities each week, I saw that our "curriculum" was robust and engaging. Structured music classes, story hours, dancing and movement classes, an arts and crafts class, swim class, and informal playdates throughout the week kept us constantly learning and experiencing new things.

So I began to do more serious research on the homeschooling option for K-12, and the more I learned, the more excited and committed I became. Beyond homeschooling for simply geographic reasons, I began to realize that I wanted to homeschool for the sake of homeschooling: for the opportunities and advantages that homeschooling provides that regular schools cannot; namely, freedom, flexibility and individualized learning. In the first homeschool book I read, Homeschooling: A Family's Journey by Gregory and Martine Millman (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2008), I was struck by the quote: "Today's homeschoolers succeed not because they do 'school' things better than schools do-- but because they do better things than school." I was already witnessing that we were doing better things than school with our age-appropriate activities, and that M was thriving as a result: learning to take risks, be more independent, more communicative, make friends, learn skills-- and the great part was that I was in the shadows witnessing it all.