Friday, October 28, 2011


Let me just say right out of the gate that I don’t home school and I’m not very familiar with the ins and outs of it.  I understand the basic concept, but I cannot speak to it with any type of authority.  My kids have always gone to a traditional brick and mortar school.  I also have only recently (through many blogs posted by you all out there) come to know the term “unschooling,” and although the concept fascinates me the unstructured-ness quality of it leaves me with many unanswered questions.

That being said, there are some things that I am, and that is a mother who loves her children and wants to see them grow to be smart and successful adults.   So, when I went to my 2nd graders parent conference last week, I was naturally very verbal, asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of explaining about the things we do at home to supplement what’s being taught in school.  My daughter’s teacher was very receptive to my questions and encouraging in regards to continuing to work with Bella at home.  She said to my husband and me, “You can always tell which are the children who spend a lot of time with their parents, doing things with their parents, and she is definitely one of them.”  Well, this made me feel a little sad for the kids that don’t have parents at home that spend the kind of time we do with our kids, doing the kinds of things we do in order to ensure that they are learning and developing appropriately.  However, it also made me realize that all along I have been doing the thing I thought I wasn’t by sending my kids to a public school – homeschooling.

My very first job as a teen was as an after-school aide in a preschool.  I loved working with the kids on projects and I always thought I would go into teaching.  Alas, things don’t always turn out as you expect them to and I became a Sociologist instead, but the love of teaching is at the very core of who I am.  Fortunately for me, I have been able to pursue that love with my children.  Even at nineteen, with a new baby and no idea how to raise a child, I have always instilled a love of learning in my children.

With Julian, it started with books.  Both my husband and I love books, and so naturally we wanted our son to love them as well.  When I was pregnant with Julian, Luis and I would sit in bed at night and take turn reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales to my belly.  As soon as Julian was able to open his eyes and stay focused for prolonged periods of time, we continued “reading” to him by showing him picture books and talking about the pictures.  At seven months, my son spoke his first word and by one year he was speaking in clear and complete sentences.  At nine years old he was reading book five of the Harry Potter series on his own and by twelve the favorite was Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code.  He has always also excelled in math and science and has an amazing ability to remember complex concepts at a very detailed level.

When Isabella came along, I thought, “Ok, this one is going to be my ‘normal’ child.”  We followed the same pattern with her, reading from infancy and encouraging exploration and learning every day.  However, when at one year she had the typical repertoire of 10 or so words, which is probably developmentally ok, I began to panic.  Of course, my only comparison was Julian, my brain child.  I had to continually remind myself that she was developing just fine and that I really needed to stop comparing her to her brother.

The toddler years brought on may fun days of painting, coloring, cutting, and pasting.  Talking about letters and numbers and colors and shapes.  Because we are working parents, we tried to maximize the time we have to expose our children to as much learning as we can.  I let go of the comparisons and relished in having another little one through whose eyes I could re-experience the world.  Then, when Bella turned four, something happened.  Something clicked in her little brain and in six short months, she went from reciting her ABCs to reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

Once she started kindergarten, it became instantly apparent that I needed to step up my game a t home because the school curriculum was simply not going to cut it.  We began reading more at home, doing more spelling and writing activities, and practicing some simple addition (“If I have 5 apples and I eat 2, how many do I have left?”).  Now, my daughter is in second grade doing third grade math and reading at an almost fourth grade level.  She probably could have skipped kindergarten altogether.  I still panic that whatever clicked in her brain at four years old will click back someday and she will fall behind; so I relentlessly continue to push her to her limits at home.  I love the social environment that she is exposed to at school and so does she.  She loves going to school and I would never take that away from her.  However, I also know that school is not enough…that I need to use my time at home to fill in gaps and continue to create an environment for her where she can feel challenged.

So, I guess I have come to the realization that education does not need to be a one or the other type of approach.  There is really no such thing as traditional school v.s. homeschooling.  I argue that you can have both.  You can’t really pigeon-hole kids and judge the decisions that parents make regarding the children’s education.  There is no right answer for everyone, there is only the right answer for your child right now.  My kids?  Yeah, they go to public school…but they have also been homeschooled all of their lives by two loving parents who feel that learning happens every moment of everyday, whether you’re sitting at desk in front of a chalk board or sitting on mommy or daddy’s lap reading a book.  Learning doesn’t start and stop…it is a continuum…and we are all students as well as teachers.


  1. I agree! Learning is a continuum. How lucky your kids are to have 2 parents that support and nurture their love of learning.

  2. You nailed it Gail :). I think kids are most successful when their parents are highly involved, in school or not. Every child is different, and different structures meet different needs for every child. I have learned too, that no one structure meets all needs. It's impossible. :). Cheers to you, you have obviously done a wonderful job mama!!