I homeschool my 5-year-old daughter Isla…by choice. It’s weird to suddenly add the “by choice” part at the end of that sentence but it strangely seems necessary now given everything going on. It immediately lets people know we weren’t forced into our decision and truthfully it also means avoiding a debate regarding a long list of pandemic or government related school reopening issues.
Pre-COVID many of my friends, neighbours and acquaintances would bring up our decision to homeschool Isla and ask a question they felt was fair to ask “So when are you going to put Isla into a normal school?”. Sometimes it would also be followed up with a weird statement like “God I could never be with my child everyday to homeschool them so good for you”. I could optimistically hope they weren’t asking with any judgement but let’s face it…the awkward smile and lack of follow-up questions taking a real interest in what school looked like for us or how Isla was doing academically, developmentally, socially or emotionally showed me otherwise. The questions always seemed more focused on simply when we think we’ll choose to follow the rest of mainstream society sending our child to a brick & mortar school outside the home because that’s what just about 96% of the population automatically did. That’s what kids in homes with 2 working parents did. That’s what children of single parents did. That’s even what most kids did in a home with a stay at home parent.
For most people the summer of 2020 has been the first time they were forced to consider an alternative option to what they dearly held on to as “normal”. Suddenly parents were backed into a corner required to make an important decision for their own children instead of just doing what most of society did. Sure there’s a long list of new COVID related health & safety concerns and government restrictions on the table which has forced people into a position to even need to make a decision but the point is I’ve gone through that decision of weighing out the pros and cons of homeschooling vs. traditional schooling about a half dozen times and my daughter is only five. I chose to question the educational norm on my own and consider all options because I wanted to. I think just about every single homeschooling parent I know has made an effort to reassess the wants and needs for their children’s education and wellbeing on an on-going basis when considering both homeschooling and traditional public or private schools. A worldwide pandemic hasn’t made us do that.
I am by no means against any kind of traditional school. I went to public school and have tons of awesome memories of classrooms, friends, sports and activities and I know lots of incredible school teachers. Traditional school just hasn’t been a right fit for us yet. We genuinely don’t have a plan and have been making decisions as we go which works for us. I’ve also seen the memes to support each parent with the difficult decision they’re making right now because they’re just trying to do what’s best for their own family (although it would have been nice had people been widely sharing those compassionate words of kindness for homeschooling families before all of this). I’m just suffering from decision fatigue from a whole bunch of other important life & work related decisions that I am thrilled I have one less decision to make.
I never had a longterm master plan to homeschool Isla that I was dreaming up since the day she was born. It was a bit of a journey to get to that decision as it just naturally evolved over time. For us it mainly had a lot to do with work since as a husband & wife wedding photography team we’re often in and out of big all-inclusive resorts in Mexico for several overnight stays without anyone to watch Isla for days at a time, wanting to keep a flexible schedule for our love to travel (both internationally & locally) and a genuine belief in an alternative means to educate our child. Isla is now 5 born in February 2015 so this month we will be starting Sr. Kindergarten..our second official year of homeschooling.
I’m working on several posts where I can dive deeper into homeschooling tips and walk people through some ideas as to how we do things. I don’t have a teaching background but just a passion to focus on helping my daughter in these early years. With Isla being in kindergarten we don’t follow any kind of online component or curriculum yet (there are kindergarten level curriculums available but I personally don’t feel it’s necessary at this age) so instead we use a lot of fun hands on resources, learning through play based activities, worksheets, books and just exploring the world around us! I know there are many kids right now who will be doing remote learning but there are still lots of ways parents keeping their children home can compliment their learning and overall at home experience. I’ve already noticed so much of that judgement that used to accompany homeschooling conversations has lessened. I know it’s become a sensitive, emotional, difficult and extremely complicated topic for many as we’ve all been trying to navigate the changes a pandemic has brought on but I’ll do my best to help out simply with advise as I continue to homeschool by choice.