There are things we do slightly different than others. First of all: I do make spelling mistakes and I am sorry… English is not my first language. I try.. I really do, but they sneak in… And one other thing is the homeschooling of our two kids.
You see, homeschooling in Australia is actually nothing strange. It is legal. All you need to do is register with the government and send in a curriculum after which you like to teach our kid(s). And once they approved you are ready to go. Actually a lot of people home-school their kids in the country and in the outback and it’s totally normal as they live far away from everything. Australia is huge and if you are somewhere far out, homeschooling is more or less the only option if you don’t want to drive your kids to school for hours and hours.
For us it’s not as normal. We live in one of the big cities. So we are weird. The suburb we live in has actually great schools and that makes our decision even more interesting (for not saying weird) for other people. Just a bit hard to comprehend…
Most of the time the reaction is okay and very often I feel like people are asking again because they are not sure if they really heard right. As a response you very often get the ‘Oh, that is interesting!’ or a ‘Good on you!’, sometimes a ‘I could never do it’ followed by ‘What made you do it?’. And most of the time their interest is genuine. You know, by now I can tell if it’s genuine or if they just try to get out of the conversation because they think we are weird…
We decided to home-school our kids because we had the opportunity. Back then we also felt that the school which was in our zone when our son was ready for school was not what we wanted for him. I have to admit that I was not jumping on the homeschooling wagon right away. It actually took my husband a little while to get me on board as well and he had to promise me that he would be in charge of the teaching (sometimes I am filling in as a substitute or assistant though…). I had all those things in my mind: ‘Will we mess with our kids’ future? Will we be able to keep up? Will we be disciplined enough?’ And most of all ‘What about the social aspect?’
Now this is also the question I hear the most when talking to other parents: ‘What about the social side?’
I used to talk about all the activities our kids do and how we try to organize this and that to make sure they are not missing out of ‘the social side’. But now I simply look at them and say ‘What do you think? You know my kids. Do you think they struggle? Do you think they are not social?’
And guess what? Usually all I get back is a big smile as they already know the answer to their question. Our kids are very social. Actually I believe because they spend so much time with adults, same age kids and also younger or older kids, they handle certain situation more mature then other kids their age. And this is simply because they are used to dealing with people of all age groups.
Another homeschooling mom once said to me: ‘Look around in nature. Look at the animals which live in herds or groups. None of the animal kids grow up spending most of their time with only same age kids. They have younger and older ones around and are constantly dealing with their parents until they are old enough to leave.’
I believe she had a good point there.
Now please don’t get me wrong! For me there is no right or wrong! I believe that a good school and a good teacher is great for kids. But I also believe that, if done right, so is homeschooling! So although I love the homeschooling and I would never go back and change our decision, I still appreciate a good school.
I would never ever tell another parent that they are messing their kid up and that they should start homeschooling, just because of the story they tell me about the bad teacher, the bullying and the struggles the child has in school. I do not criticize their decision to send their kid(s) to school. Because I think that this was the right decision for them and that it works for them.
And there is ‘the something’ I really struggle with: Every now and then (and maybe even more often without knowing) we get judged for the decision to home-school our kids. Never from people who know us and know our kids but from people, who have no clue about us and did probably not even spend five minutes with our kids. And it is just because homeschooling is not normal… whatever ‘normal’ means nowadays…
I learned to do an Airolo-Göschenen in those moments (for all of you who now have no clue what I mean: There is a looooooong tunnel between Airolo and Göschenen and it sort of means: one ear in and right back out of the other ear. It’s not affecting me). But every now and then it still sticks. It sticks in those moments when people do not stop. When they tell me again and again how bad homeschooling is for kids. How much they will struggle later. How much issues they will have with this and that… and so on…
Usually those people can not even pin point really which will be the issues for home-schooled kids. They just ‘know’ that they will have issues. Because they don’t get bullied from a young age on and they don’t sit in a 30-something kids class all day…
It does not stick to me because I feel guilty or think we made a mistake. It sticks to me because someone, who does not know the kids and us, actually dares to judge a decision which was not made in a split of a second. They judge something they don’t understand and know nothing about. And it is just because it is not ‘normal’ and we are the odd ones out.
And it makes me think. Every now and then I still try to talk to them about it and try to open their minds to this new thing. But I learned that those people just don’t want to. They are stuck in their way of thinking and everything out of the ordinary is bad. So I do not waste my energy any longer. I can tell pretty quickly now if someone really wants to know why and might see our reasons or if they just want to tell me off.
You know, it’s okay. I am not saying that they need to change their way of thinking. Not at all. But I would like them to show me the same respect I show them and leave me alone. Accept our decision as much as I accepted your decision. After all, we are not doing something illegal or dangerous.
Yes, we are the odd ones out in the area we live. But we are doing well. I believe that our kids are really smart and polite and that they handle life pretty well. So I like being the odd one out. And you know what: I love having them around, even though sometimes it is full on. I love to see how they learn and witness the progress they make first hand. I love to see how they discover and develop. It makes me happy and I am sure that their mind will be wide open for everything out of the ordinary.
And this is just one more thing that makes me super proud of them and also just a tiny little bit of us as well….