I used to swear I would never homeschool. Like ever. I knew a few kids who were homeschooled, and my perception of them wasn't positive. The kids had super strict dads, and the kids' moms almost all had long permed hair and wore ankle-length jean skirts. The families said "the Lord" a lot in conversations that were not anything close to being about spirituality (think which apples should I buy at the grocery store?). The kids were incredibly socially awkward, often not knowing anything about fashion (besides aforementioned permed hair and long skirts) or music (besides the piano music they all played). The entire family rattled through town in a white full-size van, and my guess is they were rocking it out to some Southern-style hymnal music while filling out workbook pages on their laps.
I knew one thing: I did not want to raise weird kids. Therefore, I wouldn't be homeschooling.
At the age of 22, I walked into my first classroom as the teacher, and I continued to teach for eight years. I loved teaching so much that when I wasn't in the college classroom, I was teaching grade-school kids at the university's writing camp, tutoring, or assisting my friends' older kids with their high school papers. I was also writing dozens of articles for various publications, blogging, and working on my books. Writing is my passion.
After my third child was born, my teacher wardrobe of dress pants from The Limited and hoop-earrings was replaced with yoga pants and exercise shirts from the clearance rack at Target. I no longer get up in the mornings and style my hair and carefully apply makeup. I'm usually sporting a Kimmie-Gibbler-meets-The-Flintstones ponytail, and I am perpetually sweating and desperately hoping for a few spare seconds to pee alone. When I quit my teaching job, it was out of practicality. Childcare was expensive, and I wanted to be sure I didn't miss any of my kids' firsts.
Today, among my tasks as wife, mother, and stay-at-home-writer, I'm also... brace yourself... a part-time homeschooler. And here's how it happened:
When my oldest daughter was in a private preschool during the first year I had quit my teaching job, she came home one day excited. "We learned about Martin Luther King today, Mommy!" she squealed while jumping up and down. "You did?" I asked, rather surprised. Most teachers don't talk about Dr. King until January, the month of Dr. King's birth, but it was only October. The next month at parent-teacher conferences, I asked my daughter's teacher about her lesson on Dr. King, and she pointed to a nearby felt board. There was Martin Luther, initiator of the Protestant Reformation.
As a mom of three Black children, it is critically important to me that my children have a firm understanding of their racial history. Most of my college students, both Black and White, had very little knowledge of Black history beyond the basics of slavery, Civil Rights, Dr. King, and Rosa Parks. They might have read a few poems by Maya Angelou or read about racial tension in To Kill a Mockingbird. They hardly knew enough to qualify them to pass a non-existent class of Black History 101.
This incident initiated my homeschooling journey. I began to read my children the biographies of Black leaders, athletes, inventors, and musicians to my two oldest children. We watched online videos of Marian Anderson singing and Dr. King speaking. The kids illustrated the accomplishments of Ruby Bridges and Dr. Mae Jemison. We listened to Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Darius Rucker, and Jamie Grace. We learned about legendary Black athletes, past and present, like Michaela DePrince, the Williams sisters, and Jackie Robinson.
On the days I was too tired or busy, the kids would beg me to "do school" with them. The stories they heard and the projects they created filled them with joy and pride. Homeschooling empowered them to know their history and to celebrate it. Not only were the learning, but I was using my teaching experience in a refreshing way while bonding with my children. Their bond as sisters was strengthened as they helped each other put together a floor puzzle or learned to read.
Over the course of the past year or so, I have learned that there is no homeschooling "type" of parent. I know homeschooling moms who have nose rings and tattoos. I know Black women who homeschool. I know those who call themselves "unschoolers." I've met parents who homeschool one child, and I've met others who homeschool six or more kids. Yep, some of these parents drive huge vans. Some even like to wear long skirts and play the piano. Their kids are well-rounded, intelligent, compassionate, and talented.
Since I've claimed the title of Homeschooler, I've also found that parents may choose to homeschool their kids for many reasons including the child has special needs, the child is being punished frequently and unfairly in public or private school, private school is too expensive, the public school assigned to the child isn't safe or isn't a good school, the child is struggling to bond with his or her parents (by adoption), the child is lagging behind or is far advanced for his or her assigned grade level, the child wants to be homeschooled, the family travels a lot and wants to take their child's education on the road, and many more.
No matter the reason, it's a valid reason.
So before you pipe up about socialization or public school preparedness or homeschooling stereotypes (all homeschooled kids are weird) please remember this. The homeschooling parent standing next to you is doing what all good parents do: what's best for their children.