Last night I had three children in my bed all night. (I assume my husband was on the sofa, although I didn’t bother getting up to check.) This morning I praised the choice that I had made to home educate them. When my alarm went off at 6:30 I really
didn’t feel like getting up myself, let alone making everyone breakfast and packed lunches and delivering them to school or preschool before 9 am. Instead, one of my older boys looked after my little girl for a couple of hours. The younger boy and I slept in, and everyone drifted down the stairs at some point between 8 and 10.
Tomorrow will be completely different! Drama King and I are going to a Sydney Symphony concert at the ABC centre and will have to leave the house at 8:30 or earlier. I do try to avoid early morning departures if I can as I know we are all very bad at them. I acknowledge that we might be more organised if we had to do it five days a week. But it’s great to have the choice. We only leave the house early if there is a good reason for it.
Lazy mornings are one of the plus sides of homeschooling. It’s not all perfect. There are downsides too. Several homeschooling blogs make the whole thing look perfect. Either the parents don’t want to admit that things can go wrong (maybe because they don’t want to feed all the negative myths about homeschooling) or they just don’t have the energy or time to post about it when things are tough.
Homeschooling is just as much a roller coaster as any other aspect of parenting. For every day when I am pleased that we don’t have to get up early, or proud of my children commenting insightfully on current affairs, or happy to watch them spend pleasant hours engrossed in art and craft, there are others where they are at their siblings’ throats so much that I briefly consider shipping them off to boarding school until they are old enough to vote. I couldn’t do that really. It’s completely against my beliefs as a mother. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking of some way to avoid the never-ending responsibility.
That’s what homeschooling does. It shoves your responsibility right into your face. As parents we are ultimately responsible for our children’s education and upbringing. Most parents devolve at least part of this role to schools but as a homeschooling parent (particularly the stay-at-home one) your role is continually there and cannot be escaped. If one of my sons fights, steals things off his brother or makes awful prejudiced statements about disadvantaged groups, I can’t blame a teacher or his peer group. It all comes down to me. At least, that’s what it often feels like!
For the past term,I have wrangled in my mind with the possibility of sending at least one of my boys back to school. This is not because I think school would be best for them. It’s because it might give me a little break. And it might be better for the other boys too, not to be in constant contact with their siblings.
This is not a failure or a u-turn. Plenty of homeschooled children go back into the school system, some until the end of their school career, some in and out as circumstances change. I know families where some children are homeschooled and others are at school and that works at least as well as other arrangements. Sadly, here in NSW, flexi-schooling is illegal and so each individual child must be either in school or out. Maybe in time, particularly with the introduction of the National Curriculum, the laws across all states will become similar and we will have the options accorded to our counterparts in Victoria.
I acknowledge that there are many different ways of homeschooling and the approach we have chosen is a conscious choice. Some parents are more ‘schooly’ than us; some are less. If we were unschoolers perhaps I would feel less of the responsibility on my shoulders. Also, as my children grow older, it becomes easier to recognise that their behaviour is ultimately their choice. I can do my best to model good behaviour and show them what the options are, but each child is an individual and not mine to mould like a piece of clay.