I was a stay-at-home mom for years. I planned to homeschool my two little girls, and even went so far as to run a preschool out of my house for my preschool-age kids and some other homeschool-inclined families in our neighborhood.
Then one day my five-year-old daughter announced that she didn’t need to learn any more math from me, because she’d be going to kindergarten in the fall. After some soul-searching and school-researching, we decided to let her.
My whole world changed. Which is why this afternoon I had a good-natured laugh at the homeschooling article in Motherlode. In it, Chandra Hoffman talks about her plan to begin homeschooling her son, and her rosy vision of the close connection they’ll share as they learn together at home.
She acknowledges that they’ll probably have their share of irritations and issues. Her vision isn’t only rosy, it’s also real and lovely. I wish her every shred of luck as she and her son embark on their homeschooling journey together.
I just had to laugh because what prompted her to become a homeschooler was the very thing I’ve most enjoyed about giving it up.
Chandra is looking forward to homeschooling because she hopes it will set her free from the tedious, distancing work of policing her son’s day. In contract, sending my daughter to school has made me a more relaxed, connected mom.
I loved homeschooling. Being with my own kids, having our morning preschool group, going on afternoon adventures: there was no part of it I didn’t want to keep. But I chose homeschooling because I wanted my daughters to have their needs and wishes honored. When my oldest made it clear that she really wanted to be in school, I honored that wish.
What happened next astonished me. Sharing the work of caring for and educating my child let me relax and enjoy her more. I’d never felt consciously stressed about the prospect of being her teacher as well as her mother, but suddenly my heart opened up like a clenched fist unfolding.
I let her drive more of our activities. Freed from the need to safeguard her education, or even the pressure of being the only one teaching her decent social manners, I could let loose and play with her more. I don’t mean “play” in the sense of games or nature walks. We do less of those things now than we did before she started school, but we have more fun. She wants to play nail salon instead of word puzzles? Fine. We can do that every day since now someone else is teaching her to read.
Lisa Belkin, in her introduction to Chandra’s piece, nails it:
I have flirted over the years with home schooling. I decided that neither I nor my boys would thrive with that much of each other. And I couldn’t get past the blurring of roles — as a parent I am the unconditional support section, yet a teacher needs to critique and judge.
My kids and I loved seeing each other all day long. Of course, I miss my girl when she’s at school, and when her sister joins her this fall my heart will break a little. But what I get in return is a chance to be their unconditional support, their wild cheerleader when they are at home with me. It’s not my job alone to make them socially acceptable, responsible, educated humans. I can let their rough edges stay rough without worry. The school is doing more than enough to smooth them out.
Notably, I haven’t become her “traffic cop”, as Chandra found she did with her son. My daughter is perpetually 10 minutes late for school. She goes in wearing whatever she wants: PJs, stripes with polka dots, rain boots and a ballet skirt. I probably look like the disorganized mom I really am. I don’t care. I’m not invested in my five-year-old being punctual or stylish. I’ve avoided Chandra’s high-stress mornings and evenings by resolutely refusing to stress about it with my kids, even if it makes me look like I’m “doing it wrong” in the eyes of the school or the other parents.
Maybe there’s a kind of grace in letting yourself, and your kids, be bad at some things.
Being my kids’ teacher was a lot of fun, but I like just being their mom better. Let their teachers write the progress reports. Let me just love them. It’s a much more satisfying division of labor.
Photo: Sierra Black