Home schooling was never a conscious decision. It's just always been a way of life: reading stories, museum visits, library outings, art projects, science experiments, reading stories, writing, counting, zoo field trips, reading stories, traveling, exploring, learning, learning, always learning.
When Liv turned 5, there was no doubt in my mind that she would stay home. Kindergarten? Why? We were spending every waking moment engaged in child-directed play and exploration. She was doing unit studies on dinosaurs, mermaids, and pumpkins. She was enrolled in weekly music classes, gymnastics, book club, and home school group. We didn't have TIME for her to go to school....we were too busy learning! And so it went year after year..........
She is 10 years old now. Each year, her learning has become gradually more structured, more challenging. The subjects she studies have become more diverse, complex, and interesting. I have learned right beside her, marveling at all of the things I missed during my own education as a child. She has learned how to play piano, violin, and guitar. She is an accomplished swimmer and BMX racer. She has been in Latin club, Destination Imagination, theatre productions, nature center classes, Liberty Girls club, art lessons, and is a Girl Scout. She has raised rabbits, chickens and ducks, planted vegetable gardens, built forts, earned money with lemonade stands, and gone to summer camp. She has spent countless hours playing and interacting with her younger siblings, forging friendships with them that are priceless. For the past 10 years, she has slept until her body is ready to wake up each day. She has eaten when her body feels hungry. She has been physically active at any time of the day that she needs and chooses. She has friends of all ages and both genders. She is confident and kind, cheerful and curious, creative and empathetic.
Would she have experienced the same things, developed the same skills, met the same people, showed the same interests if I had put her on that big yellow bus five years ago? Of course not. Would she have had enjoyable experiences, developed useful skills, met good friends, and tried interesting things if I HAD put her on that bus? Certainly. Did I make the right choice? Yes. Even though there is no way for me to know how our lives would have been different, I know I made the right decision.
How do I know?
When she took her first step, she walked into my outstretched arms. When she got her p's mixed up with her b's and her d's, she wasn't embarrassed to cry out her frustration in my arms. When a playground bully pushed her down in the dirt, she wasn't afraid that asking for my help would be "tattling." When she expressed herself with bold and unusual fashions, she wasn't worried that I would tease her. When she had a secret to tell, a crush to share, or a lie to admit, she knew she could confide in me. Has our academic focus always been perfect? No. But my daughter, my forever first baby, has learned that she is good, sweet, smart, cherished, loved, respected, appreciated, and valued just as she is.
This school year, we made the big leap to public school....5th grade. It was a decision that our family discussed openly, honestly, and at great length. We all agreed that it felt like the right thing to do. Is she ready? AM I READY? I think so. I worry about all sorts of things. Will she be challenged enough academically? Too much? Will the other students treat her respectfully? Will she fall into a clique and pretend to be someone she's not in order to survive the social pressure? Will her teacher treat her differently because she's a home schooler? Will she learn the right kinds of things? Will she learn anything?
This is where I take a deep breath. She knows how to learn. She knows who she is. She knows what to do. I trust her to trust herself. If she's learned nothing else in our years of home schooling together, she HAS learned that making mistakes is a big part of learning, that the process is more important than the product, and that mom is always here with arms outstretched in case she stumbles. It's only the third day, and I miss her already.