“When it comes to home schooling, I’m always second guessing myself,” I recently mentioned to a teacher/acquaintance.
He responded: “Good, better not to be too cocky.”
Not that I aim for over-confidence, but I wish I could be one of those type-B unschoolers, the ones who intrinsically know their kids are getting what they need and therefore don’t ever really sweat it. The ones who don't spend sleepless nights staring up at the ceiling, mind racing about whether or not home schooling will someday be on their kids’ parental-detriment list.
We all know that even with the best parenting, those lists are inevitable. I’m quite certain that despite what I loftily view as my introspective approach, I am not making the parenting grade on many levels. In fact, I have visions of a six-foot-four-inch, 180-pound, Zach sprawled out on a therapist’s couch someday ticking off with a physical tick, my many faults. Seriously, though, the education thing begs my attention.
Why do I worry so? Because the decision to home school wasn’t taken lightly. It was a thoughtful approach to providing Zach with what we believed was the best possible education and lifestyle. And overall, so far, so great. But doubts always arise. Not spurred by something I notice missing in our program, but by looking outside of what we do and thinking the grass may be greener.
A friend of Zach’s who was formerly homeschooled recently gave us a tour of his new private school. As he chirped enthusiastically, we pursued walls lined with varied and abundant student art creations. Then we strolled by pristine classrooms, passed a well-stocked library and looked-on as his friend participated in a football practice bonding with several new buddies. All the while, his mom and dad talked about how they were certain transitioning to school was the best decision they could’ve made. I took it all in, feeling genuinely happy for them. But I returned home with newfound doubts about our own choice.
What if… I know I don’t … Maybe he’d meet more…It’s not that we aren’t but…. You name it, I resurfaced it. Any reservation I had about the effectiveness of what we are accomplishing, I dredged up. I even scoured the Internet, pulled up an academic assessment, sat Zach down and tested him; not at his fourth grade level, but fifth. Why not heap on a bit of extra pressure? And guess what? He passed with flying colors.
But the exam only touched on a few basics - reading, math and science - the No Child Left Behind standards. There was no way to dig deeper and assess all the additional learning experiences Zach enjoys as a home schooler; Mystic Seaport’s ongoing maritime history series, the in-depth eco-system classes at the Nature Center, four years of semi-private Spanish tutoring, advanced piano and music theory skills, yoga practice, art classes, monthly book club, church kids’ choir, group tennis lessons, robotics team, and the fact that he and four friends recently wrote a book and placed with high honors in a Scholastic Young Author’s contest.
The list goes on. I didn’t even include the rote book-work he accomplishes at home.
As I glance back at that physical list, I am validated that we are, in fact, doing so much. And most importantly, Zach is aptly challenged, enjoying most of it, most of the time and has no desire to attend traditional school.
I know as we continue down this path, I will continue to second-guess because with any significant decision, questioning is crucial. Doing so is a self-check and balance necessary to ensure that we carry on with standards that will provide Zach with a top-notch education.