ONCE upon a time – because isn’t that how most great stories begin? I was a 27 year old physical science tech who could barely button my lab coat. I had one of the coolest jobs ever, to me anyway. For several years I worked on a military base, making sure our water was safe to drink, and our wastewater was cleaner than the river it flowed into. Making things bubble, smoke, and change color, was all part of my job description. I even got to take boat rides several times a week checking water quality. The pay was great and so were the benefits.
I could barely button that lab coat because I was carrying our first-born. Many conversations arose with my lab partner (who was a brand new mom herself) about motherhood, and often the topic of homeschooling would come up. We scoffed at the idea, labeled it as weird, and wondered who in their right mind would want to be with their kids all day! On a Friday in February, unbeknownst to me, would be the last time I unbuttoned that lab coat. My water broke while I was getting ready for work on Monday, and early Tuesday morning, I became a mom.
I had saved up 12 weeks of maternity leave. As my return date got closer, my husband suggested I stay home with her a while longer. I agreed, but wondered how it would work. I earned half of our income and had those fantastic benefits! We adjusted. He took a second job, traded his brand new Mustang for a fixer-upper, we got rid of satellite t.v., ate at home more often, and watched our spending – or lack thereof.
Preschool – because that’s what you do next.
At only 2 years old, we enrolled our baby in a church preschool – because that’s what everyone else was doing. It would be good for her and me everyone said. I had been her sole caretaker for two years, and she needed to be with strangers for half-a-day for socialization. I continued to do this for two more years. Nothing bad ever happened. In fact, it was a positive experience for her and me at the time. It wasn’t until registration papers for kindergarten started showing up in her little book bag that I began to feel anxious about sending her to school all day everyday.
Get ready for Kindergarten!
Finding out we lived in one of the worst school districts in the county sent me on a search to find something else. Unfortunately, no one (not even the church preschool) bothered to inform me that I had options other than public education. I had to find them on my own. There wasn’t many choices, as there was only one private Christian school at the time. I considered it, visited it, and quickly decided it was not for us. We knew one other homeschooling family well enough to ask questions. Homeschooling sounded good, but I questioned would I be enough? I’m not a teacher, how can I teach what she needs to know? How would we find friends? My husband and I mulled over it for a couple of weeks, and then decided we’d give it a try.
No one was more excited than me…..really.
Not many seemed to share in my excitement of this radical idea we had of homeschooling our daughter. Honestly, I feel like my family just didn’t “get it”. I had done a good thing by staying home with her until school age, but “now it was time for her to get in school with ‘real’ teachers” I would often hear. “How long are you going to keep this up?”, “is she behind?”, “next year, she needs to go to school”, “such and such is already reading”…….
I was glad we were only in the “let’s try it” stage, because with the exception of my husband, I certainly didn’t begin with a strong support system. My one homeschooling friend loaned me a copy of Cathy Duffy’s Top Curriculum Picks. I learned about learning and teaching styles, types of curriculum, and read product reviews. My friend took me to a home school curriculum store a few hours away to look at the options I had read about. I came home with some things to get started with, and a good dose of excitement to begin homeschooling. Little did I know, something that was never my plan would forever change my life.
What I learned before we ever began.
- If you loved your job before, you will love your job as a mom even more!
- Be willing to make finical adjustments. Put aside selfish luxuries, get back to basics, and do whatever you can to stay home with your baby. You will probably find yourself to be much happier with a used car and 3 channels to watch on TV.
- Just because everyone else is putting their babies in preschool, don’t feel obligated to do so. While it was a positive experience for us, I don’t think we would do it now. Your child is not going to be “behind” by not attending a preschool.
- Public education is absolutely not the only option. (Few will tell you this).
- You do not have to have a degree to teach your child.
- Don’t expect much support when making the decision to homeschool. Not everyone understands, so don’t let them hold you back.
- You don’t have to be an expert in everything. You don’t even have to know everything. Enjoy learning alongside them.