The Decision to Home-School
The kind of experience I want her to have
“You have to be really disciplined. If I did it, we’d all sleep in and wouldn’t get started until around 10 a.m. There’s no way I could do it—we’d both end up crying. I hope you’re not using one of those online things . . . .”
I’ve held off writing this first post about our home-schooling adventure because I needed to let things percolate. The above are the most common responses I’ve heard so far when I tell people. Everyone seems to know someone who is home-schooling, and most views on it have a negative tinge to them. It is a challenge, to be sure, but so is teaching in general.
I used to wake my kids up at 6 a.m. so I could pile them into the car with their on-the-road breakfast waffles in hand by 6:30, so I could make it to my Wednesday morning faculty meetings. They’d entertain themselves in my classroom until extended day opened their doors at 7:30 when they’d walk themselves over, and my oldest would check my youngest in before heading to her own classes. I wouldn’t see them again until 3:30 . . . unless, of course, I happened to have detention or homework hall duty that day, in which case, they’d busy themselves outside my classroom until 4:30. If I knew I didn’t have groceries, we’d stop on the way home. Finally, we’d be walking in the house by 5:30 – 6:00, and it would be time to make dinner. After dinner is—yawn—homework help time and read to the youngest time. Now it’s time to grade—yawn some more. Get myself to bed. Wake up the next day—start over. Of course, if it wasn’t a Wednesday, we’d all get a half hour more sleep—yay!
The point is that I always felt a sense of injustice in the routine. Here I was a teacher working hard each day, and I barely ever had the mental or physical energy to devote to my own kids during the school year. I was exhausted. When there was a special program going on in my youngest daughter’s classroom, it took an enormous amount of juggling to try and get there. Sometimes, I just couldn’t. When my oldest wanted help with homework that she had to have completed by the next morning, but I happened to be slammed with my own grading deadlines, it was a battle. I was admittedly not always in the mood.
I made the decision to home-school because I just decided that every time I picked my daughter up from the end of a day and saw the pile of worksheets falling out of her school bag, my heart knotted. I knew best what kind of a learner she was, and I knew that she’d be fine. That she’d learn, and she’d continue to grow into the cool person she was becoming. But something was still wrong. And here I was a teacher, just standing by and letting it happen because the majority of society does it that way. “I went to public school—I turned out fine.” Yes, and so did I—and so could she . . . but if you had it in your power, in your ability, to make it better than fine, wouldn’t you?
Jenn Gutiérrez holds an M.F.A in English and Writing. Previous work has appeared in journals such as The Texas Review, The Writer’s Journal, The Acentos Review, Antique Children, and Verdad Magazine. Her 2005 debut collection of poems titled Weightless is available through most online book outlets. She currently teaches composition at Pikes Peak Community College and is working on a doctoral degree in Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Denver.