Well, it’s official. I’m going back to teaching. Despite having said many times that I would never again be a teacher, I have changed my mind. Starting in September, I will be moving into a new position as an elementary teacher. Though I will have essentially 8 preps, as I’m teaching both Kindergarten and 4th grade, I’m super excited to begin this new chapter of my life. You’re probably wondering what school could possibly have one teacher teaching two separate elementary grade levels. It really is not very traditional, after all. Well, I can proudly tell you the name of the school is Mergler Homeschool.
Wait, come again?
Oh, no, you read that correctly. I’ll be moving into homeschooling my kiddos for the upcoming school year, and likely many more after that. Yes, my husband supports this plan. No, it wasn’t an easy or quick decision. And no, it’s not right for everyone. But it’s right for us, and that’s all that matters.
You see, we’ve taken pains to raise our children thus far with the mindset that they mustn’t follow the crowd just because everyone else is doing something. We’ve prided ourselves in showing and encouraging individualism and promoting walking down the road “wanting wear”. And it has become increasingly evident that public school was not matching our values.
Lily has always been naturally curious and has genuinely enjoyed learning new things. And Ollie was very obviously following in her footsteps. From the outside, Lily’s honor roll grades, and Ollie’s enthusiasm for Pre-K might seem like the ideal situation. But I can tell you that the insider’s perspective tells a very different story. Lily has been bringing home worksheet after worksheet after worksheet for years now. And it’s not because she’s had terrible teachers. She has had, in fact, several wonderful, caring teachers. But because the climate of education has changed in the last decade, the teachers have had to do things in their classroom that they wouldn’t have done otherwise if not for the pressure put upon them. Hell, I know this firsthand. (Yes, education has been constantly changing. Let’s not argue about this. But the last decade has seen some particularly unfortunate changes to how teaching and learning take place.) And because of these changes, I’ve seen my bright and inquisitive daughter slowly begin to dislike school. Instead of smiles and excitement about what she’d done each day, she’s begun complaining about what they don’t do, and how many worksheets they have to complete. When my mother asked her what she was doing in all of her subjects, she replied that they only do math and reading now because of the state test. Not ok.
But like so many people, I was afraid to even imagine an alternative. Kids get to a certain age, and then you send them off to school. And you encourage them to do all their work, don’t get in trouble, and in doing so, make you proud. You, essentially, choose to have children, and then leave them in the hands of other people and environments for most of their day. And then you deal with, potentially, rectifying the unwanted changes school makes. Why? Why do we give up this power? And if school seems less than ideal, you just shrug it off as “Well, that’s how it is sometimes.” Nothing is perfect. And though schools and teachers try their hardest, nothing can ever be what every kid needs. That’s the truth. That’s just how it is. But it doesn’t have to be.
You see, that’s just the thing. There are options. Some parents move their family to a school district that better represents what’s important to them. Some families attend private or Catholic schools. And now, some are even able to stay within the city by sending their kids to a charter school. So many options. And these options are very rarely, if ever, questioned, frowned upon, or cause a shifty, sideways glance from others. Yet, another alternative–homeschooling–very often is. What about socialization?? Aren’t they going to grow up to be weird?? Are they really going to learn anything?? Aren’t you sheltering them too much?? Won’t you get sick of each other?? How are they going to learn to get along with others?? I could continue, but I think you get the point.
The point is that there are so many valid questions to be asked of any schooling situation, but we’ve become so accustomed to the norm of public schooling. When someone decides that his/her child will be beginning school in their district, there is seldom any feedback other than “Oh, how nice.” Yet when a parent chooses to do something out of the norm for his/her child, there is an almost immediate storm of questioning and opinion giving.
With all due respect, my readers, please don’t bother. Because, believe me, I have done my fair share of research on this topic. I’ve joined homeschooling groups and talked to other parents. I’ve read scholarly articles on the subject, as well as firsthand accounts from parents and children. I’ve researched curriculum, and standards, and benchmarks for each grade. I’ve sought out cooperatives, classes, playgroups, and activities for the kids to join. My parents and in-laws have graciously paid for memberships to the science museum, art gallery, and aquarium for the kids to use as places to learn and socialize (And we’ll work on the zoo and botanical gardens as well). I have taken this transition so very seriously that there is honestly nothing anyone can say, particularly someone who either hasn’t lived it or researched it, that will change our minds. There are so many myths and false perceptions surrounding homeschooling that I understand why some may be concerned. But I assure everyone who knows us and loves our children, we would never, ever do something that is not in their best interests.
And what is in their best interest right now is pulling them out of a system that is killing their desire to learn and grow in the way that is best for both of them individually. I have the ability to cater to their needs and interest in a way that school never could. And I also have the benefit of knowing my children so well, that I know what types of activities would be best to play up their strengths and remediate their areas of weakness. I can, and will, integrate play-based learning and art-integration lessons, and so much cross-curricular units that so much of school won’t feel like what we think of school at all. I have time and the flexibility to include field trips on a weekly basis, and time to allow for independent reading and self-selected projects. I can let my kids be kids. Not test scores. Not statistics. Not robots. Not cogs in the wheel. They can be who they are, in all their complicated wonderfulness.
And so I put this out here to you simply as a request for understanding, caring, and support as we move from one type of lifestyle to another. Both of the kids are incredibly excited to begin this next phase of their schooling (Shockingly, convincing them was the easiest part!). One of the most beautiful parts of homeschooling, in my opinion, is the movement back to the concept of it taking a village to raise children. My kids will be so lucky to benefit from the wisdom, knowledge, humor, interests, and experiences of everyone in our lives. And we would love to have guest teachers for workshops, classes, or just some hanging out time anytime there is interest in doing so. And of course we also just look forward to your love and presence in our lives. And if anyone wants to have a sincere conversation about more reasons why homeschooling is the right option for us, or would like resources to do research of their own, feel free to let me know.
But for now you’ll have to excuse me, as I have a lot of planning to do before September!