You are not more surprised to find me teaching my children at home, than I am. In May, this was not on my radar. By August, we had begun.
Our start was rocky, as everyone adjusted to the new world order. My scramble to form a plan and routine, since the decision came quickly, didn't help matters. Some days are still rocky -- one child may find her toes more fascinating than her math, while another seems to enjoy the view from time out -- but I see improvement. Our days are still busy, but not rushed; they are full, but not burdensome.
But why the initial change of heart? There was no single reason, but rather a combination of different things, briefly listed here:
[Disclaimer: These reasons are very specific to our family. They are not meant as blanket statements about the pros and cons of a traditional versus home school. I would not suggest that anyone home school their children unless they feel called to do so.
Also, our decision is unrelated to the quality of education in Maryland, which is solid and filled with wonderful teachers. In truth, when I found out that Isaac could have had the same kindergarten teacher as Anna, I seriously considered sending him, after all. Still do, some days.]
(1) Traditional schooling takes a huge chunk of time. Ironically, we considered this the main benefit not so long ago. Imagine how much could be accomplished on a day without children! I could get a job, get in a decent workout at the gym, or even dust all those hard-to-reach baseboards. I anticipated my own world opening wider, but at the same couldn't shake the feeling that our kids' worlds were about to get smaller. There are many non-academic pursuits we wanted to incorporate, including bible study and physical activity. Adding in homework, downtime, eating, and sleeping, we anticipated more busyness and less quality time as a family.
On a broader scale, it was increasingly difficult to plan family visits. As I'm sure you're aware, air travel is very expensive and horrible, so when someone is flying somewhere to see somebody we want to maximize our time with them.
(2) Physical activity. As in, not nearly enough. Anna's school offered only one outdoor recess per day, and none at all if the weather was cold or wet. As a result, half the year there was no outdoor recess. As for physical education, one per week seemed insufficient -- particularly given the lack of recess.
I'm not saying we do laps around the neighborhood now, but even on poor weather days we incorporate plenty of bouncing, tumbling, jumping, and wiggling. We also feel freer to sign up for soccer, gymnastics, etc., because our days are less rushed.
(3) Social activity. There are two aspects to this. First, I didn't feel there was enough social interaction or friendships developing at school for my extroverted daughter, perhaps due to lack of free time during recess. Second, as a family we were not building a community through her school. No doubt, my introverted nature contributed to this lack. In contrast, the home school group we attend is composed of kids from all ages, and it's small enough that I know the parents and they know us. And again, we feel freer to be part of extra-curricular social groups (e.g., scouts, Awana) without feeling over-scheduled.
(4) Even if home schooling is a bust, I won't regret the time spent together. This point was made by my dear friend Christina, whose children are also home schooled. Her words tipped the balance for us this summer.
(5) Character. Every child is so different, making it tricky to figure out what your particular one might need as they grow. At this point, ours needed more time their family. Anna in particular reminds me of a green bean seedling, growing strong and straight at first, but risks becoming too tall too fast if planted outside before it's ready.
(6) I felt called. When you feel called you pray, discuss, read scripture, and follow through if everything points that direction. It did, so we followed through. This is really the crux of the matter. Despite the reasons listed, there is much that is illogical about our decision to home school. To wit, the financial cost. We certainly could have used the money from my employment: nicer house, better vehicles, airline tickets to see family etc. But I felt called. And now I have that deep sense of joy and peace that only comes when you follow the call. Yes, our decision was swift, but no less thought out or accurate or prayed over, for that.