Heading into another year of homeschooling… I have some wins to share.
We’re heading into our fourth year of homeschooling and I’m proud to say that it’s going better than I thought. Perfect? No. But my kids test out well ahead of the trajectory they were on at their pricey private school. Our homeschool days are far less stressful. Learning is a pleasure. We miss some of the daily camaraderie of public/private traditional schools, but on the whole, there’s not a lot more that we are wistful about.
There is, however, a bunch of stuff that we really don’t miss. Here’s what we’re managing to live without:
- Homework Wars – Since my kids do all their course and study work in the 3-5 hours a day they are doing their school work, at home, we don’t do homework.
- Theme Dress Day Stress – We don’t do theme days. Unless you count pajama day and wacky hair day. We do a lot of those, sometimes unannounced. No need to sent a memo or go all out. Just come as you are.
- Back To School Night – Not once this year have I had to sit in a child sized chair while keeping a forced smile on my face and my wallet intact. While I appreciate the Back to School night purpose, I have always found that these events were more about parent posturing, school fundraising, and general sizing up (who will be the room mom, who will volunteer the most etc) and less about really “getting in touch” with your kid’s lives.
- Awkward Guilt Inducing Assemblies – By this, I don’t mean the major school plays or concerts where your kid has an important solo. I’m talking about the monthly classroom spelling bees and presidential speech recitations and grade level sing-a-longs and recorder flute concerts where your kid is on for five minutes or less, singing something tuneless in a crowd. These involve a game of parent chicken: who will drop everything for the non event and who will wave a surgical mask, explaining that lives are at stake and they cannot possible come. It’s always subjective and unclear how important or not important these events really are. One time when I was traveling and did not come to a very minor class pizza party, another parent texted me a picture of herself with my very forlorn looking son, informing me that she was “there for him” since I couldn’t be, and how relieved he was. Um. Yeah. I’m here for all the pizza parties now, and I don’t have to miss a whole day of work.
- Teacher Appreciation Week & Teacher Gifts in General – I definitely think teachers should be appreciated. It is a tough job. Not least of which involves dealing with the parents. But at all of my kids past elementary schools, teacher appreciation week was a bribery-encouraged gifting event that mandated the purchase of individually sourced gifts off printed lists of our teachers favorite places to shop, eat etc. Teachers were brought catered lunches and mocha frappucinos daily for the entire week (parents signed up in shifts), and gifted with multiple spa gift cards, Nordstrom gift cards, and floral arrangements. Not gifts from the entire class, gifts from each student. The pressure to gift during teacher appreciation week, the holidays, teacher birthdays and at the end of the year was tremendous and costly, especially when you start to consider each kid had 4-7 teachers, plus helpful teacher’s aides. This year I bought myself a nice candle, bubble bath and a Starbucks card. Thanks me!
- Class party stress including sourcing peanut/gluten/soy/dairy/food free party items – As a gluten free individual with multiple food allergies I totally get the need for this. As a parent, it’s like traversing a minefield to plan a school party these days. Stressing out over non food items to share with the entire class, making sure every single kid in the class is invited to your kid’s at home party (including the one not listed in the directory) and all that jazz… Add this to the list of things we are not worrying about this year.
- Picture day – Although those cheesy backdrops, cheesy smiles and badly combed do’s are a laugh riot, we’re doing fine without an annual picture day.
- Claw hand – This is the unfortunate condition that afflicts parents the first week of school when you must fill out ten thousand forms in-triplicate for each school aged child. It will continue throughout the school year if you have a teacher that requires you to sign and return all homework, tests, assignments and if you child goes on frequent field trips.
- Class “fun” raisers – Somehow we have managed to keep up with our wrapping paper and cookie dough needs despite the lack of fun raisers this year.
- Unofficial “parent participation” projects – My kids have done 100% of their work this year. I have felt no pressure to type anything for them, print anything for them, laminate anything for public display or go all out with my scrapbooking supplies and glue gun to prettify their work for the masses. And that is a good thing. I’m keeping my crafting skills sharp without having to “help” them create self portraits, ancestry paper dolls, science fair contraptions, classroom election posters etc. They are working on their skills too – by exclusively doing all their work themselves.
- Bullies – There is no feeling more awful than the feeling of not being able to keep your child safe from a bully, especially when that bully takes the form of a teacher or admin at your child’s school. Different schools have different policies when it comes to teasing, name calling, cyber bullying and physical threats. Zero tolerance may be a mantra for our era, but in practice, mileage may vary. A sarcastic teacher, an under-the-radar schoolmate can create a lot of stress and drama that can have lasting effects. As a homeschooling parent you can take back control, avoid bureaucratic and political institutional fights, and have a say about who your child spends time with, and how they are treated. We’ve had zero bullying stuggles this year. Bully for that.
And the last/bonus thing we don’t miss one bit, since we have been homeschooling:
Head Lice!!!! …. and stomach bugs, hacking coughs, runny noses, etc.
Despite traveling the world we’ve gotten a lot less sick we began homeschooling. I don’t mean to nit-pick (and I don’t have to!) when I say, so far, I’m not missing any of the above school year trials, now that we are homeschooling.