Yesterday afternoon, for the first time, I decided to share the secret fantasy I'd been having for a while.
I had just come out of the bathroom after enjoying a long shower (which is when I do my thinking), when I approached my husband.
"I've been having this fantasy. But I don't know how you'll react if I tell you about it''. A quick look of panic crossed his face, as he asked,
"Oh? What is it?" The forced casualness of his voice was clearly aimed at masking his alarm.
"I've been fantasising about homeschooling the kids, " I confessed, waiting cautiously for his mocking response.
Instead, he laughed! A laugh of relief, it seemed - no doubt because he'd been expecting my awkward confession to reveal a fantasy of a very different kind.
So, encouraged by the absence of the mocking sneer for which I'd been bracing myself, I told him everything - about the blogs I've been stalking and articles I'd been reading. And how, for a while now, while I'd been pretending to listen to him talk about his work, I'd actually been plotting my fantasy day as a homeschooling mum in my head.
He listened and pondered. "Um, but ..." he started, but I knew that I could not convince him about the brilliance of my proposal, so I marched him to my laptop and sat him down in front of an array of open Internet Explorer tabs - all focusing on homeschooling.
I'd started becoming fascinated with the idea of homeschooling when I started to follow this blog. It is authored by the amazing (and that truly is an understatement) mother of 8 kids who homeschools. I am fascinated by their lifestyle and their focus on education in the broadest possible sense. I am in awe of her organisational skills and the way she manages her home, their school and their family of 10 (while I can barely keep track of what the 6 of us are up to). I am impressed with how their core values and beliefs permeate and form an integral part of their education. And how her kids still are better socialised than my own (who are in conventional schools).
Recently she wrote this post http://www.se7en.org.za/2013/02/02/a-homeschool-day-in-the-life-of-se7en-1 about a day in the life of this homeschooling family. It struck a chord with me as my heart truly yearned to be able to give my kids the all-encompassing relatively stress-free lifestyle which she described. The hard work and discipline clearly required for their type of lifestyle is daunting to me, but this becomes totally worth it when I consider the prospect of a schooling system wherein which my kids can focus on learning (in every sense of the word) instead of the issues like peer pressure (which is the cause of many a tummy ache in the mornings in our home).
When I was little a family friend approached my father about the possibility of forming a little 'homeschooling community'. She was a teacher; so were my parents, aunts and uncles. Between themselves, they would be able to cover every subject without us ever having to attend conventional school.
My wonderful brilliant late father, was concerned about the socialisation aspect of homeschooling kids. He was concerned that removing his already-painfully-shy children from school and placing them in a fairly 'isolated' situation, would just exacerbate their existing shyness and social awkwardness. And that made sense.
So we remained in school. Every day was stressful for me. I would say fervent prayers each morning on my way to school - that I would not be embarrassed or insulted by a teacher, that my one and only friend would not be absent, leaving me to stand outside our classroom back pressed firmly up against the wall - all alone. And that nobody would be rude to me.
That continued from Sub A until matric. I envied people who were cool, calm and happy; who didn't care what others thought of them. Every negative social interaction or each time I stood alone and friendless - left me feeling more and more emotionally scarred and bruised. Which, instead of toughening me up (as one would reasonably expect and as my father had hoped), left me feeling more sensitive and vulnerable.
And this situation persisted when I started working.
(I should perhaps clarify something - my classmates were NOT awful. They were normal happy kids - I was the one with the problem. I was so afraid of rejection and of being hurt, that I would never approach anyone to initiate a conversation - which is why I clung to my one and only friend (for most of high school) for dear life.
Sadly, and I confess that I am fully to blame, my kids are exactly the same. Shakeel (13) spends so much time worrying about not having friends at school. Whether or not he's had a good day at school depends on who spoke to him that day. He stresses so much that, 2 weeks ago he actually stayed out of school for 4 days - with tummy problems. Although I don't coddle him (as it seems to worsen his anxiety - as opposed to giving him motivational encouraging talks about being positive, which for some reason, seem to calm him down), his focus seems to be mainly on the stress of the socialising aspects of school as opposed to the work and extramurals. I can totally relate to this.
I asked myself whether my desire to homeschool is borne from overprotectiveness. After all, I cannot protect my kids from the harsh realities of real life. And really, that is not my intention. I just want them to be able to focus on what matters, namely, learning and enjoying their childhood (whether through extramurals or just playing). Watching my toddler shake with nerves before creche this morning broke my heart. I feel awful seeing my kids suffer with tummy aches due to stress - it just seems unnatural. Couldn't all this negative energy be more positively focused?
The issue of socialisation is dealt with here http://school.familyeducation.com/home-schooling/human-relations/56224.html
" Children often do not respond well to large groups. They become nervous and
overexcited by noise and too many people. Learning becomes difficult. Behavioral
problems develop. After analyzing over 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore
concluded that, contrary to popular belief, children are best socialized by
parents -- not other children.
What kind of socialization occurs when 20 or 30 kids of the same age are
placed in a classroom together day after day? Peer pressure is enormous. Kids
feel like they need to look and sound and be like everyone else, at the risk of
forgetting or never discovering who they really are. This results in rivalry,
ridicule, and competition - hardly the environment for healthy socialization.
A homeschooler who interacts with parents and siblings more than with peers
displays self-confidence, self-respect, and self-worth. She knows she's a part
of a family unit that needs, wants, and depends on her. The result is an
independent thinker who isn't influenced by peers and is self-directed in her
actions and thoughts".
Read more on FamilyEducation: http://school.familyeducation.com/home-schooling/human-relations/56224.html#ixzz2JxDqnQVZ
the issue is further dealt with here: http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/08/06/se7en-socialization-questions-homeschoolers-ask-and-get-asked
and also here http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/13/home-schooling-socialization-not-problem/
From my own experience, I know that sending a child into the school situation does not necessarily mean that the child will develop excellent social skills or become skilled at dealing with life's knocks.
But all this might just be a moot discussion, since - as Mo pointed out - I care way too much about other people's opinions and cannot handle the idea of anyone disapproving of me. Initially, I felt quite sure that I would be able to withstand the onslaught of criticism I will no doubt receive from people who are convinced that homeschooling is not the best option for my kids. But then, about an hour ago, I ran the idea past my mum and her response was, "No, children have to socialise - especially your kids who are so extremely shy. They need to come among people more often.''
I didn't even bother to point out that I am a product of conventional schooling and it did absolutely nothing for my self-esteem, chronic shyness and ability to socialise. That taste of disapproval (despite it having been given with our best intentions at heart), was enough for me - as much as I'd love to provide my kids with this lifestyle, I just don't think I'd be able to brush off and ignore the naysayers. I'd constantly feel as if I had to prove our success to everyone else, which - knowing me - would mean that I'd place enormous pressure on the kids to perform, which would, in turn, defeat the purpose of homeschooling them.
So, for now, I shall shelve the idea. There is very little about me about which I am proud and confident, but I am certain that I'd do well as my kids' teacher - and that they'd love it too.
But, it seems that for now, that idea will remain within the realm of fantasy.