Before All of This Ever Went Down

A week or two ago, when I was having blogger's block, Daisy suggested I post something about how we came to decide to homeschool. So, if you're bored, blame Daisy.

No, don't blame Daisy, she's too nice to blame. :)

I've always been interested in education. I can remember when I was in elementary school, my mother got a book from the library about signs of excellence in K-8 education. I read it more thoroughly than she. When I discovered I was pregnant with EG, I interspersed my books about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding with books about education.

Yes, Smrt Mama, this means I really did start reading about homeschooling while I was still pregnant.

There was book that was shiny and new at the bookstore, and it intrigued me. My beloved library had a copy in the new books section. I checked it out and brought it home.

"Education at home?" the spousal unit queried. "What's this?"

"Don't worry," I assured him. "I'm just using it as a list of what to look for in a school."

Luckily for me, the spousal unit doesn't have such a good memory.

EG arrived, and I still worried about her education. We looked into a local Waldorf school, and decided against it. We had concerns about the local public schools. We'd both gone to highly thought of private schools, and had at times been bored stiff. Being bored stiff is generally not a road towards a good outcome, though the bad outcomes come in many varieties. We investigated private schools in the area and determined that the chance of having our non-legacy, non-sibling child accepted was quite low. They often had 100 applications just from those two categories - for fifty spaces.

And I did read other books about homeschooling. Still, though, I kept returning to that same shiny book which had first fascinated me. There was something so reasonable and logical about its suggestions. Over time - and I did have several years - I came to the conclusion that I could do this just as well, if not better, than the professional. Yes, there's some arrogance in that statement, and I don't intend to deny it. In many cases, choosing to homeschool does express some amount of arrogance. It is what it is.

Honestly, though, I don't know that I would have even considered homeschooling without that book. I had had an excellent education for grades one through twelve, and I knew it. I learned to decline nouns (as well as accept them ;), conjugate verbs, derive, integrate, use primary sources, keep a lab notebook, and diagram sentences. I used that book as a guide because it so closely approximated what my own education had been like, and filled in the gaps I had in retrospect perceived (such as art history). I knew what an excellent education looked like, and I knew that this book was a blueprint for one.

As you might have guessed, the book was the first edition of The Well-Trained Mind, and I'm sure I amused the librarians immensely by checking it out while still pregnant with my first. I think homeschooling would have been rejected as an option without it, though.

So, ultimately, we homeschool for academic excellence. As years have passed, I see so many other advantages and reasons, but the check in my mind is Are we still doing it better? Better than the local public school. Better than whatever private school both the children could be accepted to, and that we could afford. Arrogance? Oh, I'm sure it is. But for me, if we're not doing it at least as well as, preferably better, than we've failed.

The Well-Trained Mind influenced my expectations of the homeschooling movement, too. It was written from a mainstream perspective; Judeo-Christian values seemed to be most prized, but not in any sort of extreme or fundamentalist way. The issue of evolution was touched upon but barely, and none of the recommended science curricula were explicitly creationist. When I was doing my research into homeschooling, there was concurrently a surge in publication of non-religious homeschooling books. It was easy to find the 'nonpartisan, nonsectarian' statewide homeschool organization, and I didn't yet need to find a local support group.

In short, it was years before I realized just how religious the majority of structured homeschoolers are. And like my earlier disillusionment with the church in which I'd been raised, it was a shock. While I've lurked on the WTM boards for years, and posted sporadically since 2004 or so, it's only been in the last year or so that I've been able to maintain reading long-term. Too often before, I would get frustrated with the conservatism and the fundamentalism, but beyond that, the attitudes that only if you agreed exactly with them were you a good person. Perhaps that wasn't the intention, but it was too often the message I took with me.

Because of the seeming correlation between level of religiosity and the amount of structure in homeschooling, it can be difficult to find like-minded individuals. Because my primary reason for homeschooling is to do it not just differently, but better, I think my approach probably tends to be even more... off-putting. I can be an off-putting individual anyway, so there you go.

In the end, I'm ever so glad I picked up that shiny book at the bookstore, wrote down the title, and found it at the library.


Smrt Mama said...

I can be an off-putting individual anyway, so there you go.

I've never found you off-putting. What does that say about me?

bafleyanne said...

WTM was the first book I ever read about homeschooling, too! And although I didn't read it while I was pregnant, Jamie was still well below school or even preschool age when I picked it up. Even though I didn't ultimately end up going 100% classical, WTM has influenced a LOT of my homeschooling decisions, and is likely to do so more since I'm getting increasingly frustrated with some of the Sonlight curriculum (which is a topic for a whole post of my own, I sometimes think).

S said...

We started reading about homeschooling while pregnant too. I don't think we ever seriously considered any other options but for different reasons. :)

Daisy said...

I wish WTM had been the first book I read about homeschooling. Instead I read some manifesto that made me feel incredibly guilty for having ever exposed my children to evil public school. Took me a while to get over that mommy guilt.

Great post. Wow, you knew you wanted to home school from the beginning. I'm incredibly jealous of those who started out homeschooling from the beginning. I guess I needed the school of hard knocks first.

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