My name is Tara Block, and I'm an editorial content director here at POPSUGAR. I was homeschooled up until fourth grade, and since I was too young to remember the experience, I haven't thought much about how it shaped me as a person. All I do remember is struggling with math that first year in "real" school because my mom always said she was terrible at it.
I'm not a mother myself, but as a 30-something woman, I am surrounded by friends and co-workers who are making decisions about what type of schools to send their children, and so I was curious: why did my mom decide to homeschool me? I don't know why it took me so long to ask her about it, but when I did (20-plus years later), I found her response fascinating. Here's what she told me.
On why she chose to homeschool:
In answer to your question about what made me decide to homeschool you . . . I could spin it a couple of different ways, and looking back, I tend to be more critical about my motives, but honestly, it was a gradual decision with a lot of thought, reading, and wrestling.
I had been listening to radio talk shows discussing the topics of how to choose schooling options and gravitated toward homeschooling for the early years.
I will admit fear played a factor. I was an anxious, perfectionist, first-time mom who didn't babysit much and hadn't been around many younger children on a regular basis while I was a teenager. So I chose what felt safest and "best for the child" and read and listened to the data that reinforced this approach. I didn't think it was bad or wrong to send a child to school; I just really felt like very young children feel most secure and therefore develop best in the home with their mother and father teaching them.
The things that drew me personally to homeschooling were:
- "A safer place for young children who are still learning how to handle authority figures that might do or say something inappropriate — to avoid all levels of mistreatment from harshness to outright abuse. Safer physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Less comparison and/or competition with other kids so you were able to work and grow at your own pace . . . with less pressure and less peer pressure to learn bad habits.
- More influence over teaching our value system and inclusion of our worldview from a Christian perspective with a positive attitude toward the Bible and the church.
- I had read that homeschooling was better, or I should say, more efficient, because there is less busywork that is used to manage large classroom settings. You can learn more in less time with more time to enjoy being a child.
- By having you home I could be a good role model of a wife, mother, and homemaker.
On how the day-to-day logistics worked:
As I read and learned about parenting an infant and toddler and the importance of play that fostered the developing brain as well as psyche of our child, we naturally started doing things with you that might have been considered preschool-type learning — visual stimulation, singing songs, learning to speak, all normal parenting stuff. You seemed advanced (as many first-time parents believe about their own children) and capable of learning quickly, so we just included more and more activities. I had friends who homeschooled, and we started swapping out play days that included some prekindergarten workbooks. It started very low-key and you loved it. Having me sit down with you and work on letters, sounds, numbers, counting toys . . . it was all very fun for you. And I enjoyed it, too.
My friend and I each wanted and needed a free day from full-time mother/homemaker duties, so every Tuesday you went to their house and every Thursday her youngest daughter came to our house. She taught science (hands-on experiments) and PE, and I taught cooking/baking and art. It was very play-oriented but still educational and social while giving each mom a break day. You learned more from her because her daughter was older and was using real curriculum by that point.
At first I was nervous and felt unqualified to teach much beyond kindergarten and I only committed to one year at a time. Kindergarten was very relaxed, with no real curriculum, just a lot of tips from other moms I knew who had been homeschooling multiple children for many years. But it was so easy for you I only did that for half the year. Then we started using real first grade curriculum a little early (5 1/2 years old, I think) but got interrupted when we moved states. I took half a year off of actual schoolwork for that transition but started back up and worked through third grade. So really only first through third grade was me using curriculum.
Her final thoughts:
I assume it wasn't all positive; there are downsides to everything. I have my own downsides, too, which is why I put you in school and why I didn't homeschool your brother. Of course, it would be really hard if you hated it or saw it only in a negative light, especially since I really enjoyed it and thought it went pretty well. Very glad that although you were behind in math because of my dislike and fear of it, you recovered and ended up doing so well in math later. And your love of reading really started in those early days.
On the math front, I did get a B that first quarter in fourth grade but ended up in math club by eighth grade (and valedictorian of my middle school). Oh yeah, and that whole reading thing came in handy.