Despite having a kindergarten and a second-grade student in my home, we are not included in that group. Every day is a school day at our house, but our school year won't officially begin for another couple of weeks.
It's not something that I've ever written about, but we are actually a homeschool family.
When our oldest was just an infant, Andrea and I started discussing his future education. Like any decent parent, the education of our children is one of the most important things in our lives. It took much thought, discussion and research before we arrived at our conclusion to homeschool.
When we came to the decision to homeschool, both of us realized we'd probably need thick skin to make it through it. In Alabama and especially in our area of the state, homeschooling is still a relatively new idea and an idea that is way, way outside the realm of what is perceived as normal. Anyone who's read this column on more than a few occasions would probably realize that the Phillips family tends to stay a little north of normal.
At this point, people's reactions to our decision to homeschool have almost become funny. I wish I could capture it somehow. Usually it starts with a look like I have some strange appendage growing from the top of my head. Sometimes it ends there, sometimes it gets worse -- even with family.
We've had family members basically tell us our kids were going to be stupid because of this decision. That's not very helpful, but you work through it. At this point, I don't think many in our family understand the decision, but I think most of them have reached a place where they want to be helpful. The statement, "It takes a village to raise a child," is very true, and I think they've realized that. I also think most of them have realized how important our children's education is to us, and that's why we are doing what we do. We make a lot of sacrifices to do school this way.
One negative comment that I receive most often is our children won't be very social. Some kids aren't social in school either. So far, that isn't a big worry for us. Our little ones are involved in sports and dance. They also do homeschool outings with our cover school, and there are many people their age at our church. You may think that's not a very diverse crowd, but I'm confident our children have interacted with just about every race, religion, economic group or sexual preference. We work hard to teach our bunch to love and respect everyone. Within that love and respect, I think socializing, breaking bread and building relationships with people different from you is a big part of it.
We often get asked the question, "Why do you homeschool?"
Are other parents ever asked, "Why do you send your kids to school?"
People expect us to explain our decision with a long list of reasons. I do have many reasons. Too many to list here, but I can say all those reasons can be summed up with the statement, "We feel it's best for our children."
That's not to say that it's best for all children or even possible for all children. I think each parent knows their child and can make that decision for themselves.
Since we started homeschooling two years ago, there have been a lot of positives.
We've met a lot of great people and have a lot of friends who also homeschool, and they're not all weirdos.
I've also seen our home turn into a place where anything can be a learning experience. All three of our children love to learn. They all learn in different ways, but that's a part of the fun as well.
We are a close family, and I think homeschooling brings us even closer. There are many other things that we've enjoyed about homeschooling -- again, too many to list here.
If anyone out there is considering homeschooling or does it already, don't hesitate to contact me. It's always good to hear from others.
James Phillips can be reached at 221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.