I was a bit saddened and a bit disappointed to hear that after a year and a half of homeschooling, a friend of mine is sending her kids back to school.
Like the decision to start homeschooling, there are lots of ideas and complexities at play in the decision to stop. What it really comes down to, though, is that as a family, it is just no longer feasible for them to continue.
In a reasonably common scenario, they took control of their kids education when it became apparent that their oldest was being failed by the school system. Although clearly not coping, the school had not even identified that there was a problem. My friends took their oldest kid out of school. Their youngest, due to start kindergarten, never attended, and they both spent the next eighteen months homeschooling.
Over that time, they managed to identify their oldest kids learning problems, and work out how to rectify them. They also managed to catch their kid up from from being way behind average to what is expected for their age. There were huge improvements, not only in academic levels, but in social capabilities also.
While this was happening, their youngest kid was skipping through his work and thoroughly enjoying it. Like homeschooling everywhere, it came with its ups and downs, but overall, they were doing very well.
Of course, there are hidden costs to homeschooling. This particular family runs a small business, and like many in that situation, both adults need to dedicate large amounts of time and effort to keeping that business running. They just can’t afford to have one of them staying at home with the kids any longer, regardless of the benefits.
My friend was really gripped by a sense of anxiety over how to prioritise things. If homeschooling is given top priority, there is a real chance that their business would collapse and possibly take their family with it. If they focus on the business, they lose all the benefits of homeschooling, and also run the risk of their kids being lost in the system again.
Regardless of which way this decision goes, on a bad day, they will be haunted by the thought that they should have picked differently.
Greater than that is an inescapable sense of failure. Having pushed so hard against the system, and achieved so much, it is a very hard thing to then have to say ‘We are better off with the children at school.’ There is a real sense of loss here. It is very much a broken dream of what could have been.
Despite all the worry and pain involved in this decision, I think that if our situations were reversed, I would probably do the same thing. Without the benefit of hindsight, there is no way of knowing which decision is ultimately the best one.
I think that what is more important is that this decision is a mindful one. Their kids are not going to school because that is what kids do. Their kids are going to school because after an exhaustive weighing up of pros and cons, it seemed the best option all round based on what they had to work with. What more can you ask of people?
As for the sense of failure, I think that will lessen over time. I certainly hope so. They have achieved so much in helping out their eldest kid especially. They have clearly identified what the problem was at school, and now have a bunch of tools in place to make things easier for everybody. There is also a great deal of interest and awareness in how their kids learn, which is a definite bonus in any scenario.
Whenever I think of failures in my own life, they are marked by making me cringe a bit inside and wish that I had never done them. I cannot see my friends ever experiencing that with their homeschooling. I think that both kids and adults will always look back on this period of their lives and remember how they were having an excellent time while it lasted.
That is surely a sign of success.