Homeschool vs. public school, the great debate

I’ve been a stay at home mom for the past four years, before that I was a full-time working mom and before that, I wasn’t a mom at all. For the better part of five years I have been an educator, nurturer, mother and friend. As a parent, you get to determine what activities you’ll expose your child to; what influences you want to have on your child’s life: will you be regulars at the local library? will you spend lots of time outdoors? will you sign her up for music classes? art? gymnastics? will he have structure and early exposure to a school setting by participating in a toddler program? will she gain social skills by regularly attending a playgroup? When she’s old enough, will you enroll her in preschool? In essence, until a child goes away to kindergarten, every mom homeschools.

I’ve mentioned before that while my calling may not be motherhood, my two kids are. This is my only shot, they’re my legacy and how I prepare them for the world is the best I can give. I am the product of an entirely private school education (lest one trial year of public school in 5th grade, resulting in a more extreme swing back by heading away for school from 6th grade on). After seven years of boarding school and four years of college, I also attained a two-year Master’s Degree. My parents both hold multiple degrees and my mother and step-father are both educators. So naturally, the matter of how my children are educated is a major topic for me.

My husband, on the other hand, started out in private school but finished in public school followed by four years at a state university. He’s bright, well-rounded and certainly (by his claims) more humble for the experience. He argues that, if you live in a good school district, there’s no reason you shouldn’t send your children to public school.

So why would I ever consider homeschooling? Because I’m also fiercely independent and the idea of sending my offspring to any institution that threatens of conformity scares the pants off me!

Two days a week, my four-year-old attends an amazing, nature-based preschool called Forest Gnomes at the organic farm in my town. It’s an outdoor program for kids ages 3-6. There are only 20 kids in the program (10 each day) and one-quarter to a third of them will either be or are already being homeschooled. If I could keep my daughter in this program for one more year without jeopardizing her (or my) future/sanity, I would, but it would mean forking out another year of private tuition, only four half-days of school and missing the milestone of going off to kindergarten.

So far, the research I’ve done on homeschooling indicates that it requires discipline, structure and lots of preparation. You become a one-woman school. You set the curriculum (though there are many resources and methods available to guide you), you come up with the lesson plans, you schedule, orchestrate and chaperon all field trips, you identify, supplement with and register for extracurricular activities like sports, music, art and languages, you provide outlets for your “students” to socialize with other kids their age and finally, the biggest red-flag in my opinion, you get very little down time.

I am a creature that thrives on down time. It’s how I stay plugged in to the adult I once was, before I became a mom. I’m one of those over-active moms who can’t stay put when I’m with my kids. We’re nearly always out doing something or visiting someone, returning home only for meals and sleep. It’s just the way I’m wired so the prospect of staying home, of homeschooling, makes me shiver. YET, I am not quite ready to give up the joy of molding my children’s every day.

Twice a week, my daughter gets out of school before 1 o’clock. While my two-year-old naps, my four-year-old and I do a variety of things together, sometimes we do puzzles, sometimes we read books, often we do craft projects and once in a while–when I have a writing deadline or we’ve had too many snow days or sick days or days butting heads–we do something apart (she gets to watch a movie while I close myself in a padded room).

But on Fridays, both kids are home with me and this is the day I most look forward to all week. We linger in our pajamas, we have a hearty breakfast and then we do something together, just the three of us. We go to museums or parks or playgrounds or to story hours or run errands (that always end up with some sort of special treat). But whatever we do, it’s almost always fun. And perhaps it’s fun because it’s novel and not the norm.

Whatever the reason, I sit here staring at the kindergarten registration forms that arrived in the mail today and I just can’t bring myself to fill them out.

What do you think? Do you homeschool? Have you ever thought about it? How do you spend quality time with your kids? What’s your experience with public school? Please let me know because, on the good days, I think I’m still on the fence.

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