We homeschool and have always homeschooled. This means that my kids have never seen the inside of a public school and have no concept of lunch room, school assemblies, classrooms, and lining up. Whenever they hear a reference to certain public school activities or terms they are confused. So, I decided a field trip to our neighborhood elementary school was in order!
Before I chat about our tour, I want to say that I try very hard not to vilify the public school system when I talk to my kids. I am happy to tell them the reasons why we homeschool and why I love to homeschool them. I keep my comments about public schools short, honest, and somewhat positive. I try to simply stick to the facts when comparing and contrasting the different school options. My kids have decided that based on my descriptions, they would choose to be homeschooled. They don’t feel like they are missing much by skipping out on public school and enjoying our homeschool journey. But they are often curious. So I satisfied a little of their curiosity.
I have a sweet friend who happens to be a kindergarten teacher at our local school. She kindly agreed to give us a tour and show us her classroom before the school started their new school year. So I scheduled a little field trip one Monday morning and I didn’t tell the kids where we were going.
We pulled up to the parking lot of the school and my kids started yelling, “Are we going to school?” They were a little offended. I told them that they were taking a tour today so they could see the classrooms. Ahh! Then they realized what our secret field trip was going to be and they were excited.
We saw the kindergarten classroom and walked through the halls of the other grades. We also went into the library, science room, art room, rooftop garden, music room, office, gym, and lunch room. We got to see every part of the school and learn a little bit about what a school day is like. My friend even taught my kids how to line up in the hallway. They weren’t very good at it – especially the “being quiet” part. It was a great experience and now they understand a little about what friends discuss when they talk about their school days.
But what did I take away from our tour?
Discouragement – When I first walked through the colorful halls and saw the rooms for science lab, garden, music, and art I felt completely discouraged. It made me wonder if what I was doing at home could possibly be adequate to the jobs done by the huge staff at our local school.
Guilt – My feeling of discouragement was quickly followed by guilt. Were my kids missing out by not being in a school that had so many options? Were they missing out on friends or on the “experience?” I don’t have a rooftop garden and we don’t have outside art and gym teachers. What if I don’t do enough?
Anxiety – Then I became anxious about my upcoming school year. I worried that we would not accomplish what was necessary. I looked at my little crew and realized that I would have to teach art with a toddler underfoot and I would have to make time to music lessons with a preschooler wrecking havoc on my house. My curricula choices and to do list suddenly overwhelmed me and I feared that I would not be able to face another year.
Peace – As I walked through the halls where more than 700 elementary students march every day, I was suddenly hit with a feeling of peace. Yes, I’ve made the right decision. My kids can learn everywhere and it does not have to be contained within these walls. I can direct their education and spend time with them. And I would face a new year just like I had bravely tackled all the previous ones.
Contentment – Despite the beautiful colors, organized library, and boxes of science supplies, I felt contentment that I can provide an enriching education for my kids that is tailored to their learning styles and their passions. Hearing about the complicated rotation schedule and the many regulations at the school, I felt a quiet contentment that I can focus on the joy of learning rather than the restrictions imposed by the district.
Gratefulness – Walking back out through the doors I felt increasingly grateful that I have the ability to homeschool my children. I can learn with them and I can watch their passions develop. I get to simply spend time with them rather than spend my time missing them while they are away. Though the job is not easy, I’m grateful I have the freedom to make the choice.
While we took our tour, my kids were unusually pensive rather than filled with questions. They wandered the halls on our tour and stared at every classroom and teacher we passed. They had no questions and barely spoke to anyone other than my teacher friend. I was surprised at how the tour of the school overwhelmed them. However, Ladybug and Punkin had no such reservations. They spent their time fussing, fighting, and screaming. Seeing the awe of my older kids caused my feelings of guilt and discouragement that maybe I had made the wrong decision. Then hearing the shrieking tantrums of Punkin (who enjoyed the rug in the kindergarten room as her tantrum spot), made me feel completely overwhelmed and anxious about starting a new year.
So, what helped me move away from my fears and find peace?
Hearing my friend talk about her challenges caused me to reflect on homeschoolings many benefits. Sure, there are many challenges that I will face in this upcoming year, but I am grateful for the many learning experiences I will have.
This year will not be easy. Many days I will want to quit or I will question if homeschooling is the right decision for our family. I will feel guilt that maybe we’re missing something important. I will be tired and I will struggle. But in those moments I will think back to our tour.
I’ll close my eyes and picture those cheerful hallways filled with 700 little people, silently marching to their short recess and I will not regret our decision. I will look at the smiles on the faces of my chattering children and be thankful for the lack of restrictions and rules that define homeschooling. I will picture the large reading circle for 20 children as my single kindergarten student curls up in my lap for reading time. I will see the rows of desks as we lie in bean bags on the floor and work on a project. And I will be simply grateful that I have this choice.
Learning how to line up and walk quietly in the halls – and failing miserably!