Parents everywhere are tiptoeing into very new territory with their children newly distance learning. And as they learn of the structure that is expected with these programs, many are choosing to take ownership of the process and homeschool. In CA it is simple to file a private school affidavit, buy or design curriculum, and keep records. If you are feeling called to do this because you are not satisfied with other options, I can help!!
The following is an excerpt from my book Nesting Season that tells how I decided to homeschool in 1999. I’m sharing it because you may be feeling that becoming your child’s teacher as a reaction to current events is impulsive and stressful. This could be true!! But it may also be the perfect choice; even just for this year. I did not make this choice after tons of research and contemplation, and it worked out better than fine!
It’s ok to listen to your gut and heart and figure out the details later sometimes!
I want to encourage you that schooling at home doesn’t mean you have to try to replicate the traditional school model. It doesn’t have to take from 8-3 PM, Monday through Friday. You don’t have to remember Algebra off the top of your head to teach it! And, maybe most importantly, it can be so very much fun to see the lightbulbs turn on when your kids enjoy learning.
Setting up the excerpt, Audree and I were knee-deep in our first year of raptor rehabilitation at the close of her 8th-grade year. We had two red-tailed hawks and a tiny screech owl that were taking so much of our time. Effie the owl needed nighttime care that would have been impossible if Audree needed to show up in a classroom each morning. Since we had the flexibility homeschool offers, we were able to take a deep dive into an area of interest that contributed to both her confidence and knowledge. If you follow my posts, you know it all led in a fabulous direction for her.
Please read the following knowing that I support all parents and all paths of education. We are most certainly ALL in this together.
“ As the days merge, one into the next, Audree and I are thankful that we had a manic fit, finishing most of her 8th-grade year of schoolwork a few weeks ago. Effie’s night-time care is intense and we are beat. Today we must finish some testing and science lessons and she will be completely done for the summer. Then we can just focus on the birds (Oh, and our freakishly hectic life).
I never really intended to homeschool this troop of Bingman’s that are all nearly grown and graduated now. It was one of numerous big decisions I made in a split second which has snowballed into an essential part of our lives. Sort of like bringing a hawk home in a box.
In 1999, when my curly-headed, five-year-old Andrew was ready for kindergarten, Brett and I enrolled him in a sweet church school that was literally in our backyard. I was not looking forward to being away from him every day but this is what you do when your kid is five. We went to family interviews and he took some tests to get him squared away. A consultation with the principal that Brett couldn’t join me for was all that stood between us and the school year ahead.
That morning, I put on my best dress and went to chat with our future administrator. Upon arrival, he gave me a warm welcome to the school with a tour and handbook. We stopped off in his office for some paper signing and to answer any final questions. I did have just one that I never imagined would be a problem.
I explained that a few weeks into the school year, Andrew had a trip to Yosemite planned with my parents and I wanted to ensure that his absence wouldn’t count against him in any way. When the principal objected, saying that family trips needed to be planned strictly during school vacations, I was sure he just didn’t understand.
I explained, “My dad is a veterinarian and his technical conference is on this set date. Since my mom was an elementary school teacher, Andrew will be spending this time at a National Park learning history, geology, and even art. My mom never takes the kids anywhere without it being a rich educational experience, but this will be extraordinary. It’s Yosemite after all”.
The principal never wavered and said plainly, “Since I know about it ahead of time, it will be an unexcused absence.” I lost my cool (just the tiniest bit) and said, “So you mean to tell me that you think it is better for my son to be here drawing letters in shaving cream on a desk than to be at a National Park with his grandmother, a teacher?” He quipped back, “Your son needs to have structure and to be in school”.
A sort of mother lion autopilot took over and I heard myself say (after a month of jumping through hoops to get into this school) “Thank you for your opinion. It seems that our views differ enough that it might cause us both too much frustration in the future. Andrew will not be attending school here next year, but thank you for all of your time.” I’m sure that he had not imagined this is where his answer would lead and seemed to scramble a bit. “You will not get your registration fees back” he insisted!
I thanked him again and tried not to run, five months pregnant, out of his office door. It didn’t set in what I had done until I was in the car. Now I had to tell Brett that Andrew no longer had anywhere to go to school, but I was resolved. I… we, needed to have the last word on what was best for our children; not this guy in a tweed jacket.
I phoned Brett in Pasadena and broke the news so that he would have time to simmer down on his way home if he was ready to divorce me. He agreed though. “How ludicrous to make an issue of attendance for a kindergartener. And we’re paying them! It’s a private school. If Andrew was taking Physics and British Literature, I could understand”.
High on his approval of my impulsive behavior, I said, “I want to homeschool him, honey. I can teach letters, and colors, and math facts. I know I can do it!” Brett said, “Jessica, homeschoolers are weird. We are not doing that to our kid. We’ll figure something else out”. But something else meant driving out of town each day because there were absolutely no other local options. And since kindergarten is only a 4-hour program, this called for two hours a day on the freeway pregnant and eventually with a newborn for just a few hours of school. It seemed like a silly use of precious time for something I knew I could do.
I said, “Give me one year. If I’ve turned him into a weird kid, I’m sure he can recover. Let me try and show you it will be great!” In that little moment over the phone, something big started. The year did go great and grew into many, many years ahead. I didn’t ruin the children and we have learned that homeschoolers are most certainly not weird.
The kid’s areas of interest are unique though. I don’t think there is a bird rehabilitation elective at our local middle school! My seemingly impetuous decision has allowed the kids to really dive into the subjects that they wanted to pursue. Now, over 20 years later, Audree can finish her 8th-grade year in her room, tending to Effie between assignments. I’m so glad I politely told that gentleman off.”
We have had some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days homeschooling. I like to remind myself that everyone has a bad day doing their favorite thing now and then. It’s also been sparkling, shinning, wonderful a lot too. If you are on the fence, I would love to help you make the leap! You can comment, email me, or send a private message on social media. Blessings for a seriously fantastic school year, no matter the setting.