When my children were young, I taught at a private religious preschool. They attended alongside me, N starting at 3, and M at 18 months. Then we moved to another state when I became a single mom, and again I worked at a school, which they attended. This was for N's grades 1-5 and M's K-4. When I married, and later moved to Colorado, it was mid school year. My idea was to homeschool the boys through the remainder of their 4th and 5th grade years, not wanting to plop them into a new school in January in a new town, new state. I didn't realize how this break from public school would change me, change us all.
The first thing I did was hook up with a large local homeschooling community. I never realized all the different reasons people were not using the public system. Having spent ten years in a fundamental Christian environment when my sons were little, I only knew about those homeschooling for religious reasons. I was shocked, firstly, at how many families are not traditional schoolers in the Denver area. Secondly, it was eye-opening to find a myriad of people groups represented in this community. Yes, there are religious people, but there are also free thinkers, atheists, and many people just have kids that don't fit in the box. There are kids with special needs, kids with cancer, kids with athletic careers, and families who travel and won't be tied down. The reasons for not participating in M-F brick and mortar schools are quite numerous.
In the last year and a half we have left public school, spent months de-schooling, attended public school virtually, used another public option which was less structured and had one day a week attendance, and explored unschooling, both as an educational model and as a lifestyle. I can't say that any one experience has won us over completely, but unschooling as an educational model has come close. This year we are using a private umbrella school that keeps us in line with the state laws, offers a few guidelines, but allows individual families to meet their educational needs with freedom and autonomy. At the end of the year, I'll submit a report with details about our year, how we addressed core subjects, and my kids can then build transcripts through their teenage years. At this point, I feel pretty confident labeling ourselves as eclectic life learners.
I feel optimistic about this upcoming school year. The kids have made meaningful connections in our diverse local homeschool/unschool group. They also have neighbor friends. Most importantly, they have become such good friends with each other. I am so grateful to have discovered our choices in education. We continue to evolve as a family, and as individuals. We're all learning so much and becoming more aware members of society. -A