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Parents: A Child’s Best Teacher (Homeschooling or Not)

Drawing internal organs on the sidewalk. Just another school day.

The other day, Tate, my 7-year-old daughter, asked me a question about wind and water, and how it all works together. I answered her questions as best (and as vaguely) as I could (while thinking to myself, Google this when we get home), but then I had my classic knee-jerk reactionary thought: we’ll have to cover this in school this next year. According to our nice and neat Plan, next year’s agenda is earth science, so we could easily cover wind and water, along with rocks, volcanoes, and planets.

And then I remembered: we’re not holding to this plan.

Oh yeah… we’re not homeschooling next year. After a lot of deliberation, prayer, and weighing pros and cons, my husband and I decided it was best for everyone in our family if we took this next school year off from homeschooling. As much as I love it, it really is SO much work to do it well, and, well—I’m also the primary breadwinner of our family. I found it straining to do both to the quality I wanted, and we decided our kids deserved better.

This very well may be just a year off for us; we’re completely open to the idea of getting back to homeschooling in 2013. But for now, we’ve enrolled Tate and her younger brother in a small school nearby, where they will continue their education there, under the helm of Teachers Besides Us.

I had completely forgotten, so used am I to thinking of us as a homeschooling family. Our family’s educational default is homeschooling—and by that, I mean, we’ve decided we will homeschool unless a better option comes along, so constantly thinking of school projects and good books and Netflix documentaries comes naturally to me. I have a lovely Education pinboard, and I eagerly scroll through it, finding ideas for our school year.

Except that next year, “we” won’t have a school year. I’m deliberately outsourcing the teaching of basic subjects to someone else, someone with capable, caring hands and an astute mind. I tell myself this so that I remember that it’s not like I’m asking her to fend for herself in school next year, to learn math on her own on the sidewalk outside. We’ve thought through this decision carefully, and we are completely at peace with it.

I’m quiet for awhile, feeling sad about not being in complete control of my daughter’s second grade education. Tate has certainly moved on to something else by now, her mind wandering off to horses or watercoloring or the latest Phineas and Ferb episode. But I choose to sit with the brick in my stomach.

Until I remember a few basic truths that I know from both personal experience and from wiser people telling me so.

• That no matter where our kids learn math and cursive, parents will always remain the most influential teacher of any child’s life.

• That even if a child goes to a school, the parents remain responsible for her education. I’m not relinquishing responsibility—I’m simply outsourcing the teaching of certain subjects.

• That learning is a lifelong process—in the big scheme of things, in the classroom comprises a very small percentage of where we learn.

• That there’s nothing stopping me, as her parent, for continuing to teach Tate about water and wind, and whatever else she asks about.

I don’t need the “homeschooling parent” label to teach my kids. In life, we learn as we go, and parents and children can learn together by asking lots of questions, exploring the ideas, and searching for the answers. Fractions are learned and applied when we bake chocolate chip cookies. The chemical mystery between oil and water is seen as we wash the dishes.

And the fascinating relationship between wind, water, and waves can be pondered, wondered, and delighted in as we sit, side by side, at the beach.

The classroom, no matter where it is, is just a tiny part of all our educational experiences.

I don’t doubt that we’ll homeschool again someday—most definitely when we take our round-the-world trip, but maybe even sooner. We remain a year-at-a-time, kid-at-a-time family when it comes to schooling. Who knows, six weeks in this next school year, and I may throw in the towel because I miss the flexibility and freedom of homeschooling. I doubt it… But knowing us, anything’s possible.

The brick has lifted, and I’ve moved on. Parenting is comprised of all these little milestones and decisions, these bits and pieces that make up child-rearing, listening to the whoosh from kindergarten to twelfth grade. And ultimately I know, because I know my children and I know my family, that we’re doing well. This next year is going to be good.

“Never let your schooling interrupt your education.” -Mark Twain

Read more from Tsh at Simple Mom, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

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