This is a guest post from Kristin Hayles. I met her here, on this blog, and our sons started playing Minecraft together. Kristin and her son came to our house to visit, and I learned so much hearing her talk about her homeschooling decisions that I asked her to write a post. Here it is.
I decided to homeschool my son after third grade when my third child was born, using the excuse of maternity leave to start this new chapter in our life. I had grand plans of doing projects with my son, taking him places, following his interests. I had a math curriculum picked out, a history book purchased, and classes at the science museum scheduled—my head was overflowing with ideas for this poor child. But what I hadn’t realized was the same thing that made him hate school is the same thing that made him hate all my scheduled activities I had planned.
When the reality of having a newborn, another child in school, and a homeschooler who hated everything I put before him set in, I decided to throw it all out the window and we became reluctant unschoolers. Even though my logical mind agreed with unschooling, my conditioned mind always told me I should be teaching him more. I felt constant guilt. To make it all worse, at each turn my husband was challenging our new way of life—quizzing my son in math when he got home, exasperated by the lack of “deliverables” at the end of the day. But I kept going because over time I saw results in my son that I liked and I trusted he was growing intellectually through his own means.
My daughter started homeschooling at age 7, by her own choice. Now I had two children to stress over, to wonder if I was doing the right thing, to watch as the minutes ticked by, analyzing their every move. Perhaps the care of an over-analytical, insecure mother wasn’t the best environment for them to thrive and learn. My previous career as a geophysicist was not translating well to that of an unschooling mother, not for me and not for anyone else.
Things came to a head when I realized my staying at home was actually tearing apart my marriage. In my husband’s eyes I couldn’t do the housework, homeschooling, or house management correctly. I was accused of not wanting to spend time with my children when I suggested I go out for some quiet moments alone. To pacify my husband and keep peace around the home I found myself constantly doing housework rather than concentrating on my children. I finally decided that I had two choices: divorce my husband and make myself happy, or make some changes.
The thought of divorce was enticing. I would be free of the criticism, free to do what I wanted, to make my own choices, to have a messy house if I wanted. But what would this do to my family? There would be counseling appointments, separate bedrooms at both houses and where would my kids call home? It would be such a mess, and plus, I knew that somewhere my husband and I could find common ground.
The only place I knew I could be successful with no questions asked was my career. I thought going back might increase my self-esteem and help me feel more secure in a shaky marriage. But what would I do about homeschooling? The kids and I both wanted to continue and we were firm in our resolution to stay away from schools in their current design. I had already enrolled my two-year-old in a mother’s-day-out program 3 days per week to give her some structure, time to nap, art, stories and play time. I could enroll her for a fourth day since she seemed to like it so much there. I could find someone to care for my two older children while I went to work—it all slowly took shape.
I eventually settled on an au pair from Germany who now drives my two older children to all of their classes and hangs out with them during the day. I direct their day using a checklist system that both my au pair and the kids love. I don’t have to be there every second, agonizing over their progress, and I realize that progress happens over time in peaks and valleys just like everything else. I do miss my kids and sometimes wish I could go back to hanging out with them all day, but I don’t ever want to go back to the deep hole I had dug for myself.
Life with my husband has gotten better. We can afford a housekeeper, I am bringing home money (which I found out is very important to him), and my husband seems to respect me more now. He married a geophysicist, not a housewife and we found out that there were good reasons for this. Through all of this I have learned that my main priorities are homeschooling and keeping my family together, and everything else can be considered details to be refined with an open mind and bending rules once thought unbendable.
Homeschooling is not all about me—it is about finding what is right for my children and they don’t need to be with a crazy mom all day long.