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How I Discovered Homeschooling's Best Kept Secret

Photograph by Twenty20

At about this time last year, I came to the realization that I would be homeschooling my soon-to-be-kindergartener once fall rolled around. Kaspar has a long list of life-threatening food allergies, and my conversations with the local public, private and alternative schools all pointed to homeschooling as our safest option.

Technically I was already homeschooling—Kaspar had attended a Montessori preschool for a couple of years in our former home city, but we hadn't enrolled him in a new one since moving a few months earlier. It was already a 24/7 kids and me kind of deal. But I hadn't thought of it as homeschooling at all, and the thought of it scared the sh*t out of me.

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Would my kids be as stimulated and enriched as their peers? Would they be adequately socialized? Would they be weird, like... not in a good way? Would I have any social life at all? I pretty much assumed homeschooling spelled a death sentence for all personal time, space, rest and autonomy with respect to myself, but there it was. Safety first. So we dove in.

As it's turned out, my kids are totally enriched and stimulated—learning about the world by living in it, exploring it on their own term around our cool city, and with other kids of all ages. Surprisingly, I've found that the freedom and flexibility homeschooling allows us extends beyond the "school" part of the equation and very much into the "home" part, too.

As it's turned out, my kids are totally enriched and stimulated—learning about the world by living in it, exploring it on their own term around our cool city, and with other kids of all ages.

Instead of feeling more stressed, tired and rushed as a result of homeschooling as I worried I would, I find that I'm able set a pace that best suits us on a day-to-day basis, collaborate with a whole community of awesome parents who are also bucking the standard schooling model for various reasons, and generally enjoy a more integrated, close relationship with my kids— all without the daily panic and stress around an 8 A.M. school drop-off.

We're not alone in discovering this hidden benefit in homeschooling. What used to be a largely rural, religiously-motivated movement, has in recent years become an increasingly popular choice among urban, upper-middle class secular families seeking a saner life in the face of "normal" schedules and pressures adding up to way too much.

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As Christie Megill, a former teacher and current homeschooler who shares insights, ideas and tips on her blog MicroSchoolery, says of her family's experience, "I was barely involved in my child's preschool, and as an elementary school teacher, that fact surprised and saddened me. While I was showing up to teach my students in the classroom, I felt incredibly disconnected from my own son's childhood.

The year leading up to our decision to homeschool was so chaotic that looking back, that way of life was entirely unsustainable. We were all on the road to burnout. Now that we homeschool, the sense of balance and calm of our home is refreshing, not only for my son, but for my husband and I, as well. Needs are met. Questions are answered. Inquiry is met with excitement, not with the exhaustion of two overworked parents who are wondering how to juggle their need for sleep with their young child's need to engage with the world."

So there it is: homeschooling. Like Christie and her family, and countless others who never thought they'd consider it but are teaching their own kids in their own ways, it's working for us. Who knew?

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