Last spring, I found myself researching school options for my oldest boy, a rising kindergartener. When I say “researching,” what I really mean is obsessing over all his options as though my five year old were heading off to college. I’ve always been that type of mother who questions, researches, and drives myself (and those closest to me) crazy before making an educated decision.
Perhaps what made this decision so hard is all the amazing education opportunities Birmingham provides. Our metro area is home to many of the top-rated public schools in the state, a plethora of well-respected private schools, and a multitude of homeschooling options with co-ops to fill every day of the week. I remember wishing there weren’t so many great options so our decision would be easier.
We finally made the decision to send our son to a small private school for kindergarten. It turned out to be a perfect fit for him. While it was a great fit for him, it wasn’t necessarily the best fit for our family. We had two boys on two different schedules. And not to mention, we were spending an hour and a half in the car each day. Plus, we were spending money to send him to school, which took away from other opportunities and travel. But we forged ahead and finally found our groove after Christmas break. I clearly remember feeling a sense of accomplishment in the schedule we had created, and we were thriving by March.
Then COVID-19 happened. And I found myself with a case of déjà vu just one year later.
Exploring Education Options Once Again
The reason I poured over every option for my son a year ago stems from my own interest in education. I’ve always had a deep love of learning, and I want that for my boys.
I also believe every child is unique, and I wanted to make sure the school or method we chose best fit our son’s personality and needs. Our faith also played an important role in our decision. My research led me toward homeschooling originally, but my husband was not as eager as me to go down that path. While he never questioned its value in providing an excellent education for our son, he was sincerely worried I would lose my sanity. We chose the small private school that shared our same values. It also offered shorter and fewer school days each week.
Embracing Quarantine Homeschooling
When the quarantine began in March, I felt like the rug was pulled out from under us with school closures. I felt so angry and frustrated those first few days. I also grieved for my son who wouldn’t be finishing out his kindergarten year with his classmates. But after the first week, I decided it was time to sincerely try homeschooling as a viable option for our family.
It took us no time to realize we did not miss the morning hustle and commute each day. We instantly fell in love with our slower mornings. To my surprise, our son — the most extroverted member of our family — talked very little about missing school. He seemed to be loving completing school in less than an hour each day and spending tons of time outside with his brother. Before long, we decided not to invest more time and money into his private school next year. With that decision made, we were left with public school or homeschooling as our options.
Why We Landed on Homeschooling This Time
We love our neighborhood and all it has to offer. We can walk to the park, the neighborhood pool, award-winning restaurants, and a top-ranked elementary school. On top of that, we have several friends from our community and church who love our local elementary school. I am thankful we have the option to send our boys to a great public school. We wouldn’t hesitate to send them if it felt right for our family. But this experience brought on by COVID-19 has reinforced my original belief that homeschooling is a great fit for us.
So, what changed? A year later, my husband and I are now on the same page, which is key to making this journey a success. After being quarantined, we value our freedom more than ever: freedom to choose our schedule and to create the environment in which our boys will spend the majority of their days. We want a flexible schedule that allows us to have slow mornings or spontaneous outings with friends. Our family loves to travel, and we don’t want to work around a school calendar. We want to spend hours outside, which makes everyone in our family happy. We also thought our son would only thrive alongside peers, but the time at home made us realize he is just as happy learning at home.
The quarantine brought our family closer together. While it hasn’t been easy to remain at home for nine weeks, it has been the sweetest time in so many ways. We think homeschooling will allow us to hold on to most of the good things we’ve come to appreciate more than ever. Here’s to hoping we can all keep our sanity!