The number of times I’ve had people say to me “Oh, you homeschool, I could never do that!” is way too many to count, honestly. Sometimes the comment comes from a person’s deep-seated belief in the value of public institutions (for better or for worse) but more often it’s a self-effacing statement about their trust in themselves and their ability to educate their own kids. “Ohmygoodness it would be dangerous to see me teaching algebra!” or “Me, teaching my kids all day long? That would be dangerous, we’d probably kill each other!” Or even more point-blank “I have no idea how or what to teach – it’d be dangerous to leave their education up to me!”
Yes, there are perils to homeschooling, including:
– The danger that your kids’ standardized test progress will not be tracked with all the other school kids across the state and you won’t know how they statistically compare to others their age.
– The danger they won’t learn to eat their lunch in eight minutes because the first 22 minutes of their lunch period were spent in line.
– The danger they won’t learn to copy answers from smarter kids around them (trust me on this, having had the good fortune of sitting behind the valedictorian all through high school and making use of that good fortune)
Tongue-in-cheek answers aside, there are times when homeschooling does feel dangerous. Even the most confident and convicted homeschooling mother sometimes wakes up at night filled with angst and doubt, questioning whether what she’s offering at home is going to serve her child out in the world. Trust me on this one, too (first-hand experience talking here).
Like Gever Tulley says (watch his 9-minute TED Talk here), there are some dangerous things parents should let their kids do, including playing with fire and sharp objects. Check and check, on the regular. Glad to know I’m measuring up.
But honestly it can feel equally as dangerous not calling my son up from the basement for writing practice because I hear the power tools humming along down there. Or urging my college-bound daughter to drop a class at the Advanced Placement level in order to spend more time training her dog. These decision are not for the faint of heart.
“What the hell am I thinking?” I’ve asked myself, questioning my own judgement and wondering what qualifies me to take such risks with my kids’ education. There are days we take our school work to the bakery and spend more time debating the merits of strawberry shortcake versus black forest instead of completing an expository writing exercise. Or we spend too much time on our daily logic puzzle and game of Catchphrase and there’s not enough time to start a history video. Or my own schedule gets out of hand and the whole school day is scrapped.
None of this feels particularly good even if it’s for a good reason. It’s still scary stuff, I tell you.
But along the way, somewhere along this unexpectedly winding, hilly, divergent yet often circuitous and sometimes dangerous education path my kids and I are on, they’re growing into young adults rich with insight and experience. They’re not bombarded with work (most of the time) so the work they do, they’re able to give their full attention and absorb. They’re learning critical thinking and decision making and responsibility and accountability not only through their studies, but through their every day life. And that makes them dangerous.
Watch out world, my kids are coming out soon and they’re armed with smarts and good judgment and the burning desire to forge their own paths. And that’s about as dangerous as it gets!