Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Trusting The Experts

Thank you for visiting our site. We are all growing a homeschool with our own families and wish you the best in doing so. This is a place to share ideas and experiences, but also friendship and camaraderie. I'm Jessica, and we recently finished our second full year of homeschool (I've been married for 13 years and have three kids). I try to keep sane by writing at closeenoughblog and would love for you to stop by if you want to hear more. I'm a farmer's daughter who, to her great surprise, became a farmer's wife. I'm a public school kid who, to her absolute shock, became a homeschooling mother.

For me and my family, homeschooling began as a seed planted when we weren't even aware of it. I became close friends with a mother dedicated to homeschooling her children when they became old enough. My own had already started (what they refer to as) "regular school." But I suddenly had a front-row seat to a beginner's homeschooling experience, and someone to talk to about all the things I had read and wondered about homeschooling.

Educating my own children started to sprout and grow in my heart, and the perceptions - and prejudices - I had of homeschooling began to realign with reality. The more experience we had in school and the more I saw of homeschooling, the more I could see the drawbacks of one and the positives of the other.

Suddenly, I was alive inside with ideas blooming everywhere. New concepts and invisible doors were opening in my mind and heart.

Just as with any new experience, I started noticing things. Remember when you were pregnant and suddenly everywhere you went there were people with babies and toddlers? I bumped into homeschooling families all the time. Suddenly I began realizing that people I had known for years were (gasp) homeschoolers!

The deeper I looked into homeschooling, the more fertile the concept became. The more adjusted I became to the idea that, just like so many other things about the way we wanted to parent - birthing, breastfeeding, gentle discipline, loving guidance - this was something we could learn to do together as a family and expert advice may or may not apply to us. I understood that it would be different for us, just like it is different and special for everyone. I began to borrow ideas and inspiration from other homeschooling families, listening to what worked and didn't for them, evaluating what the specific needs of my own children were.

Parenting has been like this for me since the beginning. Each time I went against my instincts and did what the 'experts' said, I realized afterwards that I had been right. I was bolstered each time I was brave enough to go against 'expert' advice and saw positive results with my children. When we decided to try homeschooling, it was the biggest parenting risk we had ever taken.

But we had realized something, you see. By this time our oldest child was eight and in second grade at a school we dearly loved, with wonderful teachers and a caring, exciting learning atmosphere. It took all those years until we finally realized that we, his parents, were the experts. Not as someone who has written a book or received a prestigious degree or authored scientific studies is an expert. But we were experts of this child. We had spent the previous eight years studying and experimenting with him and no one understood him like we, the parents, did.

I did not need a degree in teaching. I did not need to know about classroom management. The more I read and saw, the sooner I came to the realization that everything I needed to know was right at my fingertips. Of course I could choose an appropriate curriculum. Of course I could teach them how to read/write/do long division. Of course I was going to make mistakes and wish there were some things I had done differently. Of course it is the same for the lovely people who had been my children's teachers up to this point: They made mistakes, had bad days, sometimes didn't like certain children and wished there were some things they could do differently.

But they could not adapt to the needs of my particular child. They had to take care of the needs of everyone in the class. They could not change curriculum when it was obviously a poor fit for my child. They could not let them skip ahead when they already knew something or spend extra time when something wasn't clicking. They couldn't teach them 3d grade math and 1st grade reading in second grade. Here was my advantage. I started paying attention to the statistics of homeschooling. There were so many more homeschooling families than I realized, and their children were doing so well academically and emotionally.

We pulled the boys out of school for the last quarter of that year (we had a second grader and kindergartner at the time, along with our three-year-old daughter still at home). Our thought at the time was to "give it a try" before summer time in case we needed to evaluate our options again before autumn.

We have never looked back.

Homeschooling may not be something we do forever. We try to look at how well every one's needs are being met on a six-month basis and remain open, because as they grow, they may have different needs. We have certainly proven ourselves to be brave enough to take the road less traveled and may end up doing that again at some point. But homeschooling is something we have enjoyed so much for the last two-plus years.

You are the expert on your children. Teachers and administrators are experts on children in general. They are also usually terrific and caring people. They still may not be able to meet the needs of your child along with all the others under their care. There are things about the "regular" school experience that I cannot replicate for my children, however we are still convinced that the pros outweigh the cons at this time for our family.

We trusted our instincts and it's been one of the very best parenting decisions we have ever made. I encourage you to have confidence in your family and in your abilities to parent. You know your children best. You are the expert. Good luck!

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