I never planned to homeschool my 5 kids, but I let them choose what they felt was right. They all chose differently.

  • My husband and I have five children who initially were all in in-person school.

  • Our three oldest chose to be homeschooled for different reasons, and the youngest wanted to stay in school.

  • They taught me to honor them as individuals with their different needs.

I cannot imagine being homeschooled myself. Such an effort would have been totally beyond the interest and ability of my mom and dad.

When my husband and I began raising our five kids, I devoted all my energy to creating some semblance of peace and order. By the time the family dinners were served and the bedtime stories read, I was exhausted and congratulated myself that at least I was doing a better job than my parents had. I rejoiced as my offspring boarded those bright yellow buses every day, headed for well-trained educators in an atmosphere conducive to learning.

And so, for many years, my kids learned their lessons from the professionals. I assumed we'd continue as we'd begun, with all five in traditional schools.

3 chose to be homeschooled for different reasons

But then, our oldest son decided to pursue music seriously. By 10th grade, Sheridan was juggling a full course load in public school plus countless additional hours of music composition and instrument practice. I remember going to the high school guidance office and being told that they couldn't accommodate a shortened school day for him. And so, his choice was made: he'd begin homeschooling. We registered with the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Association and were able to access the school district textbooks on our own.

Sheridan would need to complete his school work independently and be evaluated at the end of each year. It became clear that classes that usually stretched over a seven-hour school day in rooms full of students could be polished off solo in two hours. Those remaining five hours were pure gold. He plunged into his music and was accepted to his top choice conservatory.

Rose, our older daughter, spent her junior year of high school in Thailand as an exchange student. When she returned home after a year of incredible adventure, Rose felt very disconnected from the high school world of study halls and senior proms. She'd proved to us that she could navigate an extremely challenging international experience, and we agreed when she opted to become Pennsylvania Homeschooler number two. Like Sheridan, she was able to get her work done quickly and efficiently, with time to spare. Happy college years in Boston followed.

Seeing how well some of her siblings did out of school, our younger daughter Julie lobbied hard to complete her studies at home too. As with Rose and Sheridan, Julie aced her work, ending up at a wonderful college.

In all three cases, I mainly served as supervisor, checking in to make sure everyone stayed on track — and they did.

Meanwhile, our other two sons had no desire to leave high school. Evan and Patrick were thriving there, enjoying all the traditional programs offered. They also weren't as self-motivated as the other kids; I'm afraid I'd have yelled and nagged and generally made life a homeschooling misery. The guys graduated, went on to fine post-grad institutions, and, best of all, our good relationships remained intact.

I learned that everyone needs something different

My experience tells me that honoring each of my children as individuals made a huge difference. And knowing myself didn't hurt either. It was a bit scary to cut loose from our school district at times, but it would have been disastrous had it been during kindergarten. I lack the patience and focus to guide little ones all the way through school, though I applaud those who have those gifts.  For us, making those decisions later, in high school, was definitely the way to go.

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