Why I Changed My Mind About Homeschooling

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
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“Time to buy a bigger minivan,” I texted my husband on the day we decided we were pulling our tween from public school and instead, opting to homeschool her.

Of course, I was kidding about the van, though homeschooling itself is no joke. As I quickly discovered, homeschooling is a major time commitment and a big adjustment, especially since our kids have only known a public education since they were in kindergarten.

So why did we do it? Well, that’s a loaded question.

Essentially, our child had struggled for approximately 18 months. She’s respectful, creative, and inclusive. But I knew something was going on because of grades, teacher comments on her work, and the hours it took to complete homework each night.

We finally received multiple eye-opening diagnoses which helped us understand what our child’s needs were. And that’s when my husband and I sat down and had a heart-to-heart. What was best for our child in this situation and in this season of our lives?

Let me be clear that we are not anti-public school. My husband’s parents are both former public school educators. My husband and I both attended public school. I’m a former public university teacher. And two of my four children who are school-age attend a phenomenal public elementary school.

Despite our public school backgrounds, our child was suffering. She used to love every part of school from the bus ride, to the ever-growing backpack keychain collection, to four-square at recess with friends, to learning all about science and acing her spelling tests. But over the course of the year-and-a-half, we watched her slip into a dark place through no fault of her own.

It was as if my child had a broken leg, yet was expected to run a marathon and keep up with the other runners. An impossible feat.

The second I threw out the possibility of homeschooling her, I felt a wave of peace wash over me. All of the sudden, we had an escape, a plan to head for safety and relief.

I know that sounds dramatic, but the truth is, when your child is suffering, you’re going to go into all out Mama Bear mode. The time had come to make a big and positive change.

When we told our daughter that we were opting to homeschool her, she grinned and squealed. It was as if I told her I bought her a pet unicorn. Yes, the moment was that magical. The relief I felt? She felt it too.

Those first few weeks of homeschooling took a lot of time and adjustment. Based upon some of the recommendations of her doctor, we decided on workbook learning, plus lots of reading time to build vocabulary and comprehension skills. This was just one option of many. For some homeschoolers, they utilize online schools, others join homeschooling co-ops, and some use combinations of these. Like everything else, different things work for different kids (and their families).

It was in those early homeschooling days that seemed to crawl by when I learned what my child needed in order to learn. I was able to provide those exact things.

Her frustration quickly melted away. I sat beside her at the dining table watching her rapidly grasp concepts and succeed at tasks that were nearly impossible for her in the public school setting. Just last week, the math work that had tortured her for years abruptly clicked. On her own, she got 24 out of 24 triple digit math problems correct.

Most importantly, she knows I care. If she has a need, we band together to meet it. And thus, she’s able to learn.

I admit, because of my misconceptions about homeschooling, I was initially embarrassed when someone would notice my tween with me, midday on a weekday, and ask me why she wasn’t in school. Would that person think I was weird? Subversive? Anti-public school?

As a child, I only knew two homeschooling families, and truth be told, I’d developed a few assumptions and stereotypes because of that. What I quickly realized, however, is that people are genuinely curious, and I had the opportunity to educate them. I’d respond with a smile, “Yes, she’s in school. We homeschool!” And more often than not, the person would share with me that they also had considered homeschooling, had been homeschooled, or had otherwise positive things to say.

Those of us who homeschool are diverse. No, we’re not all in a cult. No, we don’t think public school is the worst thing since low-waisted jeans readily exposing lower-back tats. No, we don’t think we’re better than anyone else. We come to the decision because we know what is best for our child(ren).

So yes, this progressive mama of a multiracial, adoptive family homeschools. Yes, I have a minivan, our family’s go-to place for blasting Lecrae through the speakers while running errands. And yes, I support public education and teachers too.

In this season of life, we’re embracing homeschooling. By 3:45 p.m. each day, all my children are back together again. My middle two arrive home off school buses, having spent a full day in a wonderful public elementary school with teachers who adore them. The baby squeals and runs to embrace them, and we sit around the kitchen bar and talk about the day while eating a snack. It’s a beautiful thing, the diverse ways my children learn.

Homeschooling has been a game-changer for us, an option we are thankful for. It’s bringing our tween’s joy and love of learning back. And that is worth every sacrifice.

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