Homeschooling fears

What worried me about homeschooling before we started, vs. how I feel now.

Don't Panic is written in all caps, in big, red block letters.

Four years ago, we had made the decision to start homeschooling our daughter, who was then six years old, and headed into first grade. Kindergarten in a public school had been a disaster. Consultations with doctors, an education attorney, and our parenting guts painted a narrow picture of options, and homeschooling was the only truly available option.

The good news is that once we started, we pretty much immediately we could see that we'd made the right choice. The great news is that four years on, that feeling has only grown. Homeschooling felt like a last resort before we actually started it, but if we had it all to do over again, it would have been our first choice from the get-go.

But before we started, I could only guess at how it was going to go, and naturally, I had worries. After all, this was a very weird thing we were embarking on, something that required us to break apart all kinds of ideas about how the world works.

This is the first in a series of posts about those fears, and how I feel now, four years later:

(A quick aside before I launch into this: sometimes I hear from folks that they tried homeschooling at the beginning of the pandemic, and it was a disaster. Here's the thing: that was not homeschooling. That was desperately trying to stay afloat during a world-altering crisis. It was an incredibly hard time, and the worst possible conditions for, well, just about everything. Give yourself, and the whole planet, some grace for that. The priority in that moment was saving lives, and while many lives were lost, many were saved.)

How will homeschooling change my relationship with my daughter?

This was my absolute, tip-top, number one worry. I am her mother—how can I also be her teacher? What would that do to our relationship?

Looking back on that worry, it feels absurd. Teaching is a natural core element of parenting; we are our children's first guide to the world around them.

The relationship that Wanda and I have now is based on connection, collaboration, and trust. I've goofed up plenty along the way, but all of this time together means I've had the time to figure a lot of stuff out, time to do the work that a relationship takes. Our homeschooling has given us lots of opportunities to build that relationship, rather than getting in the way of it.

Four years in, our relationship is rich and beautiful, close and strong. But far more important than our relationship with each other is her relationship with herself. Wanda's story is hers to tell, so I won't go into too much detail, except to say that Wanda is a happy, confident kid, and best of all... she shares herself with me; she lets me in. The puberty years are at our doorstep, so I'm bracing myself for that to change, but I feel good about the foundation we've laid.

I worried that homeschooling would get in the way of having a healthy relationship with my daughter, but honestly? The very idea that in order to have a good relationship with her, I need to be apart from her, so she can be trained to be a good little cog in the capitalist machine, and so I can be better occupied as a good little capitalist cog myself, using my precious hours on this Earth making rich people richer? I reject that. Care has value.

My next post, coming in a few days: how would my friends who are public school teachers react to the news that we were pulling our child to homeschool?