Self proclaimed homeschooling mama by default.
What I mean is that I had zero intention of homeschooling my child. When she became school age Baby Reinvention was enrolled in our local public school. Walking distance from our home. I had researched the school and Mr. Reinvention and I had decided she would do just fine there. Her new school had a transition program for kindergartners that she attended and enjoyed. She was going to be in the Dual Language English and Spanish Program. Sure, the school had a fair rating and yes many of her classmates did not have the same advantages she has but I naively thought that this is our neighborhood and we have to be willing to commit to being here and making a difference here. I compared my own experience of public schooling, where for my childhood self I felt safe and secure. I excelled at school and was often given compliments and attention from my teachers. School was consistent and predictable. A stark contrast from my home life. I presumed that Baby Reinvention would excel in her classroom environment. Just as I had done.
Except, she didn’t.
She hated school from the first week. And her fear and anxiety and loathing of school grew and consumed her. To the point that instead of her bubbly feisty self she resembled a limp worn out dishrag. Her school anxiety began to cause physical symptoms like headaches, tummy aches, restlessness, irritability, diarrhea, poor eating habits at school, inconsolable crying at school. Public school was eating my daughter alive.
We tried a variety of different strategies to work with her at home. We tried to get the teachers and staff of the school on board. They acted dumbfounded by her behavior and looked at us accusingly as if we had done something wrong. “Well, has she ever been to preschool?” “And you say she’s never behaved this way before?” They refused to communicate and work with us on strategies to help Baby Reinvention to be happy and secure in her school environment. To the school administration and teachers, Baby’s problems were low priority. They had children facing much larger basic need concerns like food, clothing and shelter.
So I kept googling and researching and crying and fretting. When your baby hurts you hurt. I felt like I had done something wrong. Mr. Reinvention and I kept working with her and sending her to school despite the deterioration we saw daily. It was heart wrenching and frightening.
Through my research I had stumbled upon homeschooling. And it sparked a possibility of hope. Hope, that my daughter could return to her former free spirited self and reclaim her love of learning. I feared that forcing her to remain in an environment of “learning” that she hated and was wilting in would eventually kill her natural drive to acquire knowledge, create, explore and question her world.
Mr. Reinvention and I talked about the idea to each other and to a few trusted friends and family. We learned the parameters of homeschooling in our state. Then we decided to make the jump into the homeschooling world. Our thought was that we couldn’t screw kindergarten up too badly and if it wasn’t a good fit we could explore other options.
We made a plan. We hired some help so that I continued to work part time. I researched curriculums and styles of homeschooling. I read and learned as much as I could. Our family supported us even if they didn’t agree with our decision. The one area I was having trouble with was finding other local homeschoolers. I knew they existed. I read statistics. I wanted an open secular group to become a part of and lean into for both Baby Reinvention and myself. I craved guidance on this exciting but scary new journey. I scoured the internet and Facebook until finally I found someone. I messaged her a vomit of all my questions, concerns and fears. And this total stranger calmly and matter of factly responded. Reading her responses it was as if “Hallelujah” played in the background. The relief I felt was palpable. She was so helpful and knowledgable. She communicated to me that there was a local secular group who met at the park twice monthly and I could go and check it out and join if I felt so inclined. And that’s exactly what I did. And we have never looked back.
We are on our third year of homeschooling. We love homeschooling. We love the freedom and opportunity it affords our family. I have zero regrets. That’s not to imply that it is an easy path. We make sacrifices and have bad days. But for our family it is a wonderful adventure. We have grown and shifted on this journey and have learned a tremendous amount. We are a part of something. We have wonderful friends and support.
That’s what I wanted this post to be about. The pleasant surprise of becoming a part of something I never imagined I would lay claim on.
The thing about homeschooling is that to be willing to deviate from the social norm you have to own the fact that your choices will elicit positive and negative questions, comments and implications from that norm. People will judge you. People will make assumptions about you and your child and your family. You have to be ready to accept that fact and decide how you will deal with those regular occurrences.
As a homeschooler you are already a bit of an outcast. Marching to the beat of your own drum. Picture that in a large group. Fifty plus families from all walks of life with secular homeschooling being the commonality. We are like a rag tag Bad News Bears team minus the derogatory language, except for yours truly. And we are awesome. I love seeing us all together. It warms me to no end to witness our diversity. We work and play and support each other fairly harmoniously. We accept each other. We do not judge each others’ choices. Our children reflect that acceptance. They can embrace their own unique qualities and their peers without skipping a beat. It’s gorgeous to behold!
Now, I am not implying that this is some fantasy utopia group where we never disagree and it is completely drama free. That simply does not exist. But for the most part we support each other and are able to cooperate and collaborate despite disagreements and differences. Or we resolve the issue. We model adult behavior.
I was never much into “Mommy groups”. I never really felt like I found my people in those groups. I never really fit. But here, I fit, with my fellow homeschooling mamas. These are my people. This is our home. These women. They are really special people. They have supported me innumerable ways. Ways they don’t even realize. And yet, had I not found this group we probably never would have met. These ladies are smart and strong and sassy and funny. These women are REAL! They inspire me! These mamas allow me to be me without judgment. In fact, I think they even like me as me! They celebrate Baby Reinvention and see her radiant shine and spice. Together, we accomplish some amazingly cool events for our kiddos and once in a while we allow ourselves a planned respite too.
Our support goes beyond the realm of education as friends or an extension of family. We lift each other up in hard times and celebrate together in good times. We are each others’ safe space in a world that may perceive homeschoolers as weirdos or socially awkward freaks.
Becoming a part of my homeschooling group has been a really wonderful lesson in being a part of a village, a community. It’s a lesson I am so grateful to sit in on. It’s a lesson the world at large could benefit from. It is a lesson of acceptance and love and open mindedness.
Thank you fellow homeschooler mamas!