Oh, September! How did you get here so quickly? Back in the spring, when we wrapped up The Boy's first year at preschool, we told ourselves — and everyone else — that we hadn't decided yet if he would return to the same school for kindergarten in the fall, or if we would home-school. "There are a lot of factors we need to consider," we said, quite honestly. And then we added, almost like a disclaimer, "We have until September to decide."
And now, suddenly, it's September. And it seems like we hardly had any time to think about it at all. Actually, I should rephrase that. About halfway through the summer, we did sit down and talk about it, and think about it, and make a list of the pros and cons attached to each of our available educational options. And then, fingers crossed and hearts pounding, we made our decision, and we hoped it was the right one. Then we told ourselves it was OK, because we had until September to prepare. To construct a curriculum. To research our methods. To build up the fortitude. To become home schoolers. Yes, home schoolers. The die is cast.
We were really on a collision course with home schooling from the get-go. Finding a wonderful preschool that just happened to have an elementary program as well only postponed the inevitable. In the end, fate — and two hardheaded, iconoclastic parents — won out, with a helpful, last-minute push in the form of a retired local educator whose opinion I respect immensely. She was the first person in whom I confided our decision, and when she responded positively — and introduced me to the lovely home-schooling family on her block, who in turn invited me to a home-school playgroup, I felt as though Fortuna was smiling on our decision.
Tad and I came to the education discussion from opposite points of reference, but we ended up at the same destination. I was fortunate to pass through Richmond Public Schools when open education was in vogue. From grade school through graduation, I was in open classrooms, and the curriculum was tailored to my needs. Obsessed with literature, I audited VCU English classes at 15; helpless in science, I earned lab credits in auto shop.
Tad was not so fortunate. His parents declined to have his learning disabilities diagnosed, leaving him to flounder in Utah's traditional classrooms. His knowledge of history puts mine to shame, but he dreaded September every year and finally opted for a GED. We knew we wanted The Boy to have the same opportunities I'd had, but now that SOLs have effectively put an end to the build-your-own-curriculum model in public schools, home schooling is the only game in town.
Both of us have our strengths and weaknesses (see above), but we feel that where we are lacking, we can call for backup, and that's where Richmond's wealth of home-schooling groups, co-ops and networks will come in handy. Oh, and grandparents (we're counting on Baboo for the visual-arts end of things).
I'm confident that our decision is the right one for us, but I feel called to defend it, almost on a daily basis. Education is one of those topics where everyone has a strong opinion. The possible reasons for choosing one educational milieu over another are countless, wide-ranging and deeply personal. And if it's what works for the child in question, it's no one's place to question, to judge or to second-guess. And yet everyone does. Present company not excepted, I am ashamed to say. Becoming a parent means adopting a steady diet of one's own past proclamations, prejudices and big-mouthed statements.
I promise to keep you updated on our progress, so watch this space. Until then, well wishes, good vibes and home-schooling tips are greatly — and humbly — appreciated.