My son, Maddox, had been asking me for nearly two years if he could change from a traditional public school to a homeschool platform. I was reluctant mainly because my husband and I both work full-time and aren’t home to run a homeschooling operation. And I read the blogs, people. Homeschooling is indeed a major operation.
But I had started to see those K12 commercials and it seemed like a potentially workable option. After exploring the whole thing in detail and checking out a few of the networked schools that appealed to us, we settled on one and went through the registration and enrollment process. Maddox was thrilled to finally have the homeschool opportunity he’d been hoping for and I felt perfectly confident about the decision.
Maddox is a very studious, smart, focused person. He is only 9 years old, but wise beyond his years and just very scholastic. He understands his lessons clearly, requires very little help with homework or assignments, and (much unlike his mama here) was gifted with some sort of inherent knack for school and learning. Its bewildering to me, really, as I was quite over the whole schooling thing by third grade or so. But he is who he is.
Which is exactly what convinced me that he might actually know what’s best for himself in this department. I certainly wasn’t doubting my ability to call the mom-shots, but I felt in my heart that Maddox knew what he needed in this area of his life better than anyone else did. So when an opportunity came up that made sense for him, I was completely supportive and happy to help it come to fruition for him.
The driving force behind this entire thing was that I trusted my children to make this call for themselves. My daughter absolutely did not want to homeschool. She wanted to be with lots of people…she missed her friends and her teacher. She craves a highly social learning environment, which is perfectly and totally okay. Maddox felt pulled toward the exact opposite.
This isn’t surprising…my kids are one another’s exact opposite in almost every way. A complete listing of their common interests includes Disneyland and that Minecraft game that kids play now. Other than that – Completely. Different. People.
So we planned for their two unique choices and went about the business of both. Then last week, the final week before school officially started, Maddox had some orientation and welcome courses to take, meant to familiarize him with the online platform, his course listing, what is expected of him, and all of that good stuff.
Those orientation classes were a clear indicator to him that this was not the right option for him.
After going through them, he felt overwhelmed and uncertain. He felt ill-prepared and unsure that he would be able to stay on-task in the online classroom. I assume these courses were meant to give students confidence as they begin a new system, but Maddox left the courses feeling like that new system was not a good fit for him after all.
Since this whole endeavor was motivated by the belief that my kids can make good decisions, even if it is a last-minute decision, I accepted Maddox’s feelings about it without any reservation. If he felt wrong about this, I was not going to argue with or condemn his instincts. My greatest aim in all of this was that my kids feel empowered and able to make decisions for themselves. Obviously supervised decisions (I’m not an idiot) but decisions nonetheless.
So we stopped everything. We cancelled enrollment. We sent the books and materials back to the school. We put the furniture back the way it was prior to adding a desk to the layout. We made sure his previous school still had him registered. And then did the whole uniforms, backpack, lunchbox, new shoes, and spiffy new haircut dealio last weekend before the grind kicked back on Tuesday morning.
And everyone is perfectly happy.
For us, this was never about sheltering our kids from mainstream education or trying to protect them from pop culture. And it definitely wasn’t about intervening with basic scientific or educational norms, since I am really not the type to rob my kids of general factual information. I am totally confident that, like myself and other intelligent believers, they will reconcile (to the extent possible) the realities of science and history with their spiritual teachings and Biblical understanding as they move into adulthood.
What this was about was showing my kids that I respect them as individuals. Showing them that they can explore things and make decisions, and that they can make adjustments when needed. Showing them that there’s not always a right way and a wrong way to do things, and that each of us may take our own approach. We don’t all learn with the same methods and we don’t all excel in the same environments. But we’re all people and we all have feelings and desires and things that drive us, and we have to honor those things.
This experience has shown me that my kids (and probably most kids) know a lot more about life than one might first think. So I will keep encouraging them to explore different paths and will absolutely seek their input on big decisions as they grow up.
(But I’m still not footing the bill for this kid to take up hockey. He can start himself a GoFundMe campaign or something.)
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