Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Realization That Homeschooling Is Changing My Life

It dawned on me recently that my homeschooling was more than a side issue in my life. It is more than a hobby. It is more than something I can do in my free-time. It is an honest to goodness new lifestyle choice. We are all used to hearing people talk about lifestyle choices. Sometimes I agree that they have a new and different lifestyle and sometimes I think they are trying to make something out to be more grandiose than it actually is. This time I think I've hit on one of these new ways of living.

Let me do a quick historical summary to illustrate what I mean. Until relatively recently in history, people married, had kids, raised their children and made a living as a family unit. The whole family (sometimes a whole tribe or community) all traveled, worked, learned, entertained, ate, slept, did every major life activity together. On occasion one member of the family had to leave (such as going to war or going off to hunt), but even then this was done as a group activity and those left behind were continuing the usual activities as a group. With the industrial revolution, it was more common for member of the family to "go to work" and then come home to the family. The raising of the kids, education and all those other things people do became a separate thing from "work." In recent memory, family sizes have dwindled and more and more women have gone to work in addition to the men who have been in the main workforce longer. You still get people hashing out the "Stay-at-home Mom" vs. "Working Mom" dilemma. There are more options now. You have "Stay-at-home Dad," "Work at home," and "Part-time work." There are extended families that work out the various needs in a family for the division of labor. We currently live in a world that allows for great variety of solutions for how to have, raise, and support a family.

O.K. the history review is over. I started thinking about this recently as I've been homeschooling a preschooler, then a kindergartener, and in the coming year a first-grader. At first, homeschooling was just helping my kids learn (as I've done since they were born). Then it was a little more than that. It was more academic learning than it was before. It took a little more time and a little more need to understand learning styles, methods of teaching, and patience to discover what works best for my kid. Now as I'm starting to look at a new school year where I will be teaching more subjects and spending probably about twice the time we currently spend on "School-work." As I've been making plans and gathering the resources we will need, I've realized that I'm a teacher. Really! I'm not pretending! I'm not a wannabe! I really do the job of a teacher.

This was a bit of a shock to me, you see. I had declared mightily during my college years that I was not going to be a teacher. Every teaching assignment I've had through the years (either volunteer or in my career), I always said that it was temporary. "I'm not a teacher!" I would declare. But, in the past few years, I've been exercising those teaching skills and here I am.

I have found myself in a new lifestyle where I'm a "Stay-at-home Mom", but I'm also a "Working Mom" at the same time. I "Work-at-Home"and also "Take my kids to work." I'm not sure how to answer questions anymore when people ask me what I do without going into more detail than the question intended. Usually people want to know what category do you fit into. Somehow, the former categories no longer contain all that I do.

I suppose the term homeschooler is supposed to cover it, but somehow that doesn't help put me into a specific category for easy communication. After all, there are so many different ways to homeschool. Then of course, there are all the mistaken stereotypes out there. Even among homeschoolers you can't just say "homeschooler" and be completely understood. You have to detail what methods you follow or other details of what your homeschooling experience is like to understand similarities and differences.

So, all that being said, I'm stuck with the idea that maybe this is a new lifestyle for our modern world. A way to get some of those traditional and historical family duties and relationships into our modern world. Our modern world is somehow shaped differently and we needed to find a new way to do those old things.

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