I’m about to come clean. Deep breaths. I don’t homeschool all of my children. In fact, I don’t homeschool most of my children. Pause for pearl-clutching.
Of my three kids, one is homeschooled and two attend public schools. My husband and I do what works best for each child, and right now this is what works. This arrangement is likely to change in the future as each kid's needs change. But for right now, this is the set-up that allows each child to thrive.
I didn’t always have kids scattered across educational settings. I started out, like many families, just assuming I’d send my kids to the neighborhood school. I assumed that school for them would work the way school did for us, and I admit I very much looked forward to the hours I’d have to myself during the day to get some work done, meet friends for lunch, catch up on Netflix, or just nap.
I’d never heard of a public school not working for a family, or families choosing to homeschool for any reason other than religious conviction. We managed to snag highly coveted spots for our children at the our celebrated school of choice—the best elementary school in all of the surrounding counties. We were thrilled with how promising the future looked, how easy it was about to get once all three kids were in school.
Homeschooling was absolutely, completely, impossibly off my radar.
Then we discovered that we had a very square peg who just could not fit into the very round hole that is public school.
Education Is Not One-Size-Fits-All
It took a long time—years even—to realize that we had options. It had taken years to discover that our middle child was, to our incredible shock, profoundly gifted. We had no idea what to do with him, and I spent hours poring over websites and forums looking for answers. I knew there had to be other kids like him out there, and I was desperate to discover how their parents handled the incredible responsibility of such an incredible brain.
The answer was right in front of me, in black and white: homeschool.
We tried a lot before homeschooling. We stuck with public school for a full year and a half after my husband and I discovered he is gifted.
Eventually, and oh so emotionally, it became clear that this wonderful, award-winning school was just never going to be able to meet his needs. In addition to not being able to learn anything new, he was struggling with sensory overwhelm and some pretty intense anxiety. We tried so many options that didn't work:
- a grade skip
- a 504 plan
- an IEP plan that was revised about a million times
- a teacher’s helper
- additional Talented and Gifted enrichment
- years of counseling
This school, the school that everyone was dying to get their kids into, wasn’t a fit for my son. What had worked so well for so many for so many years was just never going to work for him. It wasn’t the fault of the school, it wasn’t the fault of him for being so different, it was just a building and a system that was built for the majority.
He was an outlier, an anomaly.
Public education is largely planned as a one-size-fits-all service, but as you know, children are not all the same. Some fall through the cracks and some hit the ceilings of what a school can offer.
We brought him home two and a half years ago to homeschool and have never once looked back.
Education Is One-Size-Fits-Some
As my middle kiddo began to heal and thrive at home and as I began to fall unexpectedly in love with homeschooling, I started wondering about bringing my other two children home. The scheduling would certainly be a lot easier, and homeschooling was just so fun! I took a good hard look at their conditions and needs… and was surprised to find that they were doing just fine. Better than fine, they were doing great.
My youngest is in that same prize-winning school of choice and my oldest has moved on to a small coding-based public middle school, right up his nerdy little alley. They have scads of friends and fantastic teachers who recognize their unique needs and strive to challenge them. They are loved and understood by those who teach them. They are happy; they are thriving.
My youngest has had the incredible opportunity to have the same teacher for two grades in a row, someone who knows her well, protects her from her allergens, and is in constant communication with me with regards to her own giftedness as we discover just how profound it is.
My oldest earned an invitation into an advanced science and mathematics program that allows him to take three years of each subject in only a single year. As he’s been challenged by this program, he’s discovered a new love for science and an incredible aptitude for mathematics. This program not only challenges him, it will allow for him to earn several college credits before he even graduates high school.
Are these all things they could have at home? Sure.
My daughter would be protected and challenged at home and my older son could move as quickly as he wanted through any subject he chose. But they’re doing great where they are, so I don’t feel the need to bring them home. They like where they are; I like where they are.
Their needs are being met by the public school system for the time being, and apart from my own desire to hang out with them more of the day, there is no pressing reason to change anything. I’m not trying to fix what isn’t broken, and everyone is happy and flourishing because of it.
Decisions Are Not One-Size-Fits-All
- Sometimes homeschooling is a necessity.
- Sometimes it’s a conviction.
- Sometimes it’s just something you want to do.
But it’s never ever a shackle or an all-or-nothing decision.
Homeschooling is a privilege, and I thoroughly enjoy it. But that doesn’t make it the right choice for every family, for every child in a family, or even for every year. Kids are notoriously fluid. What works today probably won’t work tomorrow, and just as you get through one stage they throw you for a loop by starting a brand new one.
Right now, homeschooling one child out of three works for our family. My middle child may decide someday to give public school a go again, or my other children may come to a point where they either want or need to come home.
Ultimately, as homeschoolers—as parents—we’re just doing what we know is best for our kids. That means individual decisions and individual educational settings. You don't have to feel tied down by any one choice you make whether it's child by child or year by year.
About the Author
Jennifer Vail proudly lives in the great state of Texas with her very handsome husband and three very funny children. All three kids are educated in three very different ways according to their very different needs, which is exhausting but fulfilling. Jen's hobbies include naps, 90's pop culture, Netflix binges, buying books with the best of intentions to read them all, photography, and extroverting. She holds a degree in counseling but has found her calling by writing for and spending time with families of differently-wired, outlier kids—the square pegs of the round world.
She stays up way too late and drinks way too much caffeine, but has no intention of changing either. She is the community manager and contributing author at Raising Lifelong Learners where she writes about homeschooling gifted, anxious, and otherwise different kiddos, but also rambles at This Undeserved Life from time to time. She feels compelled to mention that she still very much loves the Backstreet Boys and rarely folds her laundry.