Why I Chose Homeschooling – Part 1 of 6

I didn’t come to the decision to homeschool lightly. In fact, it took me far longer than many to actually step forward and commit to the decision. In many ways, I think it took far too long. My eldest, Danielle, was a teenager before I finally decided enough was enough and took back control of something I should have had a say in long before.

For many, homeschool is not an easy choice or one they first arrive at. It is found at the end of a dark road, after so much heartache, resentment and stress.

If you are thinking about homeschooling and just not sure you can do it…

If you are worried about being the perfect teacher for your child…

Or if you just want to hear from another how they made the journey…

Then join me for my journey. This is how I arrived at homeschooling.

Eclectic Parenting and Private Schools

In my eyes, homeschooling flies in the face of ‘normal’ and ‘going with the flow’. It is progressive, it is radical, and it is at odds with ‘what most people do’.

But then, my family has a long tradition of running with scissors, swimming upstream, and being generally abnormal. My dad recalls his family reveling in their weirdness – the crazy Sandforts – my grandmother in the lead on this. And Dad raised me much the same, especially after he and my mom divorced when I was six.

At the age of seven, eight, and nine I could go to bed whenever I wanted, as long as I got up on time. I was expected to fend for myself in the evening, since Dad worked late, and I would fix myself a Swanson dinner in the oven after visiting with neighbor children until it was dark.

Each morning I managed to get myself up, dressed and fed, then take the trolley and bus to school by myself in San Francisco. There was no one to mollycoddle me, to drive me to and fro, or fix breakfast for me. I was expected to entertain myself, transport myself, and feed myself three meals a day during the weekdays. How many seven-year-old kids do that today?

The foundation for homeschooling – especially that of independence and individual drive to learn, was laid in those years. I learned to think for myself, learn what I wanted to learn, and I had hours of solitude. Perhaps too much solitude, but no childhood is perfect. I went to the library a lot and I read constantly and voraciously.

My father’s own bad experiences in public school had left him resentful and protective. He insisted on my attending private schools instead, and except for four years when I lived with my mom and attended public school in Flagstaff Arizona for grades 5th through 8th, I was in private schools for the rest of my primary education. Despite struggling to make ends meet, Dad always made sure I was in private schools.

There is a marked difference between private schools and the public ones. Dad had a knack for finding low-key schools, where they never required uniforms and weren’t ostentatious, although some families were obviously wealthy.

What the private schools did was give me far more individualized attention. They recognized quickly that my reading comprehension skills were extremely high. I can remember being tested at one school in kindergarten and testing at a sixth grade level (their highest level reading book). Because of this, I was given leeway, and also customized lesson plans, which helped enormously. Unlike public school students I wasn’t taught the same thing as my neighbor and alternately pushed beyond my capabilities or bored to death.

To some level there soon became an expectation of this. I could expect that my learning plans would be customized to my interests, strengths and weaknesses. The crowning moment was when I was allowed to write creatively (essays, poems, stories) instead of having to answer boring questions out of a deadly dull grammar book. Instead of dissecting sentences and looking for prepositional phrases and other mind-numbingly boring exercises, I was given the opportunity to truly learn how to write. It was an opportunity that I have never forgotten and I am eternally grateful to the teachers who allowed such a thing to occur.

My dad’s eclectic parenting, combined with his good choices in private schooling, both laid the foundation for a questioning mind. A mind that, once the questions began to take hold, could think of nothing else but learning.

I don’t mean this to say that I always wanted to learn. Given the choice I would have never learned Algebra – and fought learning it for years in high school before finally finding it interesting in college. But the foundation was set for me to become a lifelong learner – due in no small part to the encouragement and individualized attention I received in my early years.

Stay tuned for next Tuesday, and Part 2 of Why I Chose Homeschooling


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