I got an email from a worried mother recently. Can you relate to some of what she writes?
I want to homeschool. Did it for one year, yet I struggle with fear ... what my parents will think of me? (They think I am nuts, and think I will ruin my children's social skills and life.) My fear about how my children will navigate social difficulties if I "protect" them from it. Fear that my kids will end up with no friends and I will have to be their companion and playmate all day long! Not getting any free time myself! Fear that my husband and I will have very little time together. I know fear doesn't come from God, but the fear comes and makes me feel anxious in my body and I tire of fighting it.
Fear can haunt every aspect of parenting. And the decision to homeschool is no exception. But here's what I say to that mom:
I think most moms deal with these fears. You are not alone. We value our parents' thoughts and approval. But homeschooling is counter-cultural and therefore many grandparents are unfamiliar with it and worry for their grandchildren. It can help to remember that homeschooling today doesn't look like it did when your parents were raising you. It's much more common and there are so many great resources and homeschool groups out there to help.
If you haven't already, take time to talk with your parents. Share your goals and explain how you plan to accomplish this worthy goal. You might show them the Sonlight website (or the actual materials, if you already have them), so they can see their grandchildren will be using a proven and robust curriculum. Be transparent. Share how they can be involved if they want. Many grandparents patiently listen to children learning to read, or help with Read-Alouds either in person or over Skype.
Then, before God, act as you believe He's calling you. If our parents disapprove, we homeschool and trust that they will come to see the fruits of our labor. Many, many homeschoolers can testify that their parents came to applaud their work. (Read Jill's personal story in "When family disapproves".) But even if your own parents never approve, you will see the fruit of the time you invest in your children, and will be able to move beyond the critique of parents.
Regarding social skills, most homeschoolers find plenty of opportunities to interact with others in both formal and informal settings. From sibling time to playground friends to soccer teams and homeschool co-ops, the possibilities are endless. For example, my children swam on a team, played an instrument in an honor band, studied karate under a man from our church, attended activities with their church groups and participated in Awana. Nowadays, homeschoolers have even more options for outside activities. These experiences broaden our children's exposure to their peers and other adults. And a major benefit of homeschool scocialization is that kids learn to interact comfortably with children and adults of all ages, not just their immediate peers.
As an introvert, my biggest fear was the idea of having my children around me all the time. When I first started homeschooling, my children did stay nearby, but as we found our groove, they got to the point where when we finished our schooling time together, they were happy to go off to play. I believe homeschooling trains our children to work quickly and efficiently (good life skills) by giving them the freedom to go off to do what interests them once they finish their day's work.
When it comes to time with your husband, fear not. When I first started, my husband found a babysitter for us to leave the home once a week. He knew I'd need a break. That could be an option for you as well. But homeschooling also presents an opportunity for an exciting joint venture together with your husband. You get to work together towards the shared goal of educating your children. My husband began reading to the children every evening - a precious heritage they remember with joy to this day.
And remember – homeschooling has worked for thousands of families. Many statistics that show that homeschoolers test significantly higher than their private or public schooled peers. There are many reasons for this: the tutoring model of homeschooling keeps kids from falling through the cracks, the home is a safe and calm place to learn, kids do better without being taught to the test, and so on.
Fear not, mom. Resist the lies the Enemy brings. Bring all of this before the Lord in prayer. Homeschooling is not the only good way for children to learn, but it is a tried, true, and wonderful option! Commit to one more year and evaluate at the end of it. I believe you can do it.
P.S. If you ever want more personalized help overcoming one of the fears above, or with anything else in your homeschool, contact a Sonlight Homeschool Advisor at no charge.