Home Education Magazine
January-February 2003 - Articles and Columns
Empowered by Homeschooling - Jennifer Miller
My husband and I pulled our son out of kindergarten five years ago because we wanted him to thrive and love learning without the restrictions a classroom setting imposes. We wanted him to grow up free of labels. We wanted both of our children to enjoy an extended childhood with afternoons spent watching ants crawl and listening to the wind. We wanted them to pursue an interest-based education because we felt it would empower them to realize their dreams. Homeschooling has empowered them, I'm sure, but most surprisingly, it's been empowering for me.
When I had children I never dreamed I would homeschool them. I had friends who homeschooled their children, but I never considered homeschooling as an option for our family. It just wasn't the next step after learning to walk and use the toilet. School was. Everyone knows first you find the right preschool for your child so he will have a good start on his school career. Next you register him for kindergarten, read to him, make sure he does his homework, gets enough rest, and wakes up bright and early for school every morning. You feed him a nutritious breakfast every day, and you keep in touch with the teacher, following her suggestions to ensure your child's success. After thirteen years in the public school system (private schools if you happen to be wealthy), you send him off to college knowing he is on the road to happiness, fulfillment, and social productivity.
I had my own plans for my children's school years. I would increase the hours I worked so my husband and I could afford a bigger house and maybe a new car. We were going to be the perfect family with 2 kids, 2 cars and a showcase home. Isn't that what life is all about? Isn't that what makes people happy? I thought so. So, why would I throw it all away to homeschool my children? Seems something more important than the American dream came up. I had to rescue my child.
My bright, curious, energetic son was being smothered in school. If you are homeschooling, you've probably heard countless variations of the same story. My son's teacher wanted him tested for ADHD and other learning disorders, despite the fact he was a fluent reader and a highly capable learner. She urged us to medicate him. Her language was vaguely threatening, so we made a decision that altered the course of our lives.
I was prepared to sacrifice my own career and become a stay at home mom. We started working right away toward my resignation from my job. I was a little nervous about coming home. I feared people would no longer respect me. However, I have to say being a homeschooling mom was something I was, and am, very proud of. I think the decision to homeschool is a courageous one, and even those who disagree with it can't help but admire the independent, confident spirit required to make such a decision.
Since I would be quitting my job, we decided to try for a third child, something we had wanted to do but decided against because I couldn't think of a way to work and raise three children. I was pregnant within a year. By the time I got pregnant our thinking had begun to change. We no longer did things because everyone else was doing it. We no longer considered the "experts" to be the final authority when making decisions that affected our lives.
Because we had learned to question the experts, we researched alternatives to childbirth in a hospital. I read books, searched the Internet, and finally made an appointment with a midwife to discuss home birth. Until I homeschooled, I had never met anyone who had given birth at home. Now, as a homeschooling mom, I know several. I don't have any statistics on the matter, but I'd venture to say a greater percentage of homeschoolers choose home birth than women in the general population. I think the same spirit that allows you to question the experts about education carries over to every other part of your life. Setting the spirit free allowed me to question the medical experts and choose to give birth to my third child at home.
Entering the world of homeschooling empowered me in yet another way. I find I'm rubbing elbows with women who are independent, creative, and industrious. Their lives aren't just about educating their children. These women--my friends--are writers, artists, business owners, philanthropists, consultants, empowered. Is it homeschooling that empowered them? I think not. I think we all have an empowered spirit within us, and that spirit is what allows them, and me, to put aside the advice of the experts and follow our own paths. It is homeschooling, though, that helped me get in touch with the empowered woman inside.
When I started homeschooling my children I woke up and opened my eyes, and now I see everything differently. I no longer dream of a showcase home and two new cars in the garage. I dream much bigger dreams now. I want to be everything God created me to be.
Robert Browning said, "My business is not to remake myself, but make the absolute best of what God made." I know now what he made is pretty incredible, powerful even, and I've only begun to imagine the things of which I am capable. I want to be the absolute best I can be. I want the same for my children, and I think homeschooling them is the very best start.
© 2003 Jennifer Miller
January-February 2003 - Articles and Columns
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