On an honest homeschool discussion (i.e. rant)…

My husband and I had an honest discussion about the state of our homeschool.

Here’s the gist of how my side of the conversation went. Please note that these are all thoughts that I have had over the last few months, moving out of the eighth year of homeschooling my children.  These thoughts also follow on the heel of getting test results back on the yearly test that I get my kids to take.  And though I think standardized tests are stupid, I somehow manage to put weight in the results anyway.  Ok, here’s kind of how my side of this went.  Also note that I was crying through most of this.

“I just feel like you’re disappointed in me, in the way that our children have turned out.  That it’s all my fault that B can’t read well, or spell well, or write sentences with punctuation.  And I worry about it, too.  I worry that I’ve messed up and that you blame me and that it’s all my fault that I’ve gotten it all wrong.  Thinking about my kids and homeschooling brings up all these things that I loath in myself.  My need for alone time and how I am not crafty or artsy and that I’m an inconsistent, undisciplined, lazy person, and always have been!  I get these end of the year test results and I think I HAVE FAILED.  I HAVE FAILED MY CHILDREN.  I know they are smart, so smart.  And imaginative.  And happy.  But they spend too much time in front of screens.  I know this.  And I feel powerless in many ways to stop them because I’M ON MY SCREEN, TOO.

And I war within myself with how I really feel about SCHOOL.  Like as a concept.  Especially when they are under the age of 9.  Our kids have been read to since they were born.  We read “To Kill a Mockingbird” out loud for goodness sake!  I find it hard to believe that these children won’t grow up and learn for themselves what they need to know when they need to know it.  They have the basics.  They can read.  Well, J can’t but he can take numbers apart and put them back together in ways that surprise me.

But they think big thoughts.  And we have time to talk to them about that stuff because we aren’t yelling at them in the morning to get ready for school and in the evening to FINISH THEIR HOME WORK.  Because it’s all homework and there’s tomorrow.  And I’m the teacher and I’m giving them an extension.  And no one’s going to fire me if their test results aren’t improving.

And I work too much.  Or rather, if I didn’t work as much as I do (or not at all) then our school days would be more consistent and there might be more science experiments and art projects.  But we are comfortable with the amount I’m working and we still are able to go on long field trips and camping trips and visit the High and go to Washington, D.C.

And I can’t put them in school.  I think about it and I just can’t.  This is the life we’ve chosen for them and for us, and as much as there are days when I question every decision, there are days when I listen to other moms talk about school and bullies and drugs and teachers who don’t care and stress over meaningless tests and I think…WE MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE.”

(I don’t think I actually said all this, but I said some of it.  And Mac listened to my rant.  And I did let him speak…a little.)

I don’t know that I solved any of what I was feeling.  I still question my choices and my ability to do a good job at this.  But I also do love my life and trust my boys to take what we have given them, which I hope is a love of learning, the tools to find out what they need to know when they need to know it, and the space to let their imaginations thrive (oh and reading and math…we made sure they could do reading and math) and move forward into their lives with all the hope in the world.


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  1. You do the best you can and let God do the rest! Just the fact that you are questioning and doubting makes you a responsible, loving teacher to these boys. More so that you are their mom, not just a teacher in a classroom that sees the kids for 8 hours then sends them home and gets on with her life. (No offense intended, Mac) They ARE your life and you are theirs. You’re doing a great job and you’ll see it will pay off when they’re young adults and go through life without the baggage some kids carry from school!!
    God bless you and your family!
    Steve Mehal
    Richfield, Ohio

  2. Kelli H.

     /  July 9, 2015

    You made the right call! Keep doing what you are doing! You are not a failure. (You’re actually an inspiration.)

    a homeschooled kid all grown up 😉

  3. Sara

     /  July 9, 2015

    Hey, Katherine—-I have been homeschooling for 20 years, and it’s those big things you mention that are the most important (family time, big thoughts, long conversations, great field trips). Giving children a firm foundation with which to encounter the world is a huge benefit to them. While my “ideal” home school isn’t “school at home”, I always found it difficult to stop trying to replicate the System. Flexibility is good, vital, even, because these children are learning a whole lot more than just facts!

    Now, you *could* make some strict rules about screens during school time, or the whole day, in general. I shudder to think what it would have been like for me 20 years ago if we’d had computers and ipods, phones, and kindle fires! That is extremely important because it does seem to be affecting how (and what) children learn, not to mention the lessen the quality of some of those interactions with the children. You could also make the days you’re sleeping special somehow. Educational games all day? Reading days?

    You can also relax about how quickly Jude is learning to read. He’ll get it, unless he really has a learning disability. One of my friends is an unschooler who refused to actively try to teach her daughter to read. She said she’ll read when she’s ready! It was kind of a nail-biter when she was 12 and just starting to look at books, but she got it quickly and is an avid, grade-level (10th) reader, not to mention a lovely, creative young woman.

    If you ever want to chat about it, just shoot me an email. You’re doing fine. God gives all the graces you need for what He wants you to do!

    • Katherine Barron

       /  July 9, 2015

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. We have certainly gone back and forth on the screen time issue and I’m sure will continue to visit it. Trying to make it where they can watch on the days I sleep, but keep it to a minimum on the days I’m up with them. And stories of kids reading late are great to hear. They do “get it” when they need it.

  4. Deanna Ryan

     /  July 11, 2015

    Here’s a virtual hug from one of those crazy public school teachers. I’ve cried over the same things… But for a few more than two students. You give them the most important things when you know them and love them and challenge them to think the big thoughts and consider, but don’t stress over memorizing, the facts (for better or for worse our screens do this for us now). Standardized tests are stupid. Your boys are invited into our 7th grade labs when we have them!

    • Katherine Barron

       /  July 13, 2015

      Thanks, Deanna! I know there are great school teachers. I live with one! You guys do a lot with a lot of pressure and stress. I applaud you, truly.


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