2020 Redemption Countdown: Our Family’s Journey to Homeschooling

While 2020 was a year of serious challenges, tragedies, and divisions, there were some bright spots. In this blog series, the IWF team looks back at the year’s highlights, silver linings, and redeeming themes as we countdown the days to 2021.

When my children’s schools closed in March 2020, I worried. How would I continue to work with three kids at home all day? How would they learn in a virtual school setting? How would they fare emotionally? 

Naturally, my imagination went to work. The scenarios I crafted in my mind started at mild inconveniences–like the challenges presented in goofy rom-coms–and ran all the way to full disaster movies with fires, sinking ships, and aircrafts missing pilots. 

Eight months later, instead of a Poseidon Adventure or a Towering Inferno, my children have experienced more of an Incredible Journey (we’ve been watching a lot of movies lately). 

It didn’t start out well. By late April, I knew the online format my children’s public school was using wouldn’t work long term. There were no books, no paper worksheets, no real classroom interaction or instruction, and almost zero communications from the teachers. 

As the communication problems persisted and my own confusion about what my children were actually doing in virtual school grew, so did my sense of helplessness in trying to help my child navigate the complex online system (read my long-form article on how my kids struggled with online learning here). 

By the end of the school year, I knew that my children couldn’t continue in this system for long without losing ground educationally. At that point my husband and I began to talk about alternatives. What should we do? What was available to our family? The imagination started working again…this time the scenarios involved dragons and flying saucers. 

We knew private school was an option and that parochial schools were generally more affordable. And after years of the public school’s stringent secularism, we were happy religion would be a significant, openly celebrated part of our children’s school day. Yet, while this was an option for my youngest children, I began to worry about my oldest son, who had always struggled in the traditional school setting. He’d always earned good grades and was consistently praised by his teachers for his polite behavior and good manners, but he didn’t enjoy school and was falling behind in some subjects (despite the good grades).

Something was nagging at me. A little voice that I’d been hearing yet ignoring for many years was suddenly yelling at me.

“HOMESCHOOL!” it said!

“NO!” I yelled back.

I might have been yelling no, but I was also quietly wondering how and if I could manage it. 

I work! I have a job! I need the kids out of the house so I can concentrate and do my podcast and the occasional media hit. Plus, I’m not a teacher. I’d do nothing but yell. Heck, I don’t even know where to start!

The imagination kicked in again…this time I saw horror movies involving kids in school hallways running from the bad guy and angry, switch-wielding nuns yelling at a classroom of terrified kids. 

Yet, I did start. I started by talking. Talking to friends I knew were already homeschooling (thank you, Bethany and Mary Beth). I talked to a mom who had been doing it for years (thanks Deborah). I talked to another friend—a teacher who had so many amazing resources to share and who put me in touch with a woman who was especially helpful in making me understand how certain kids thrive in a homeschool environment (thanks Cynthia and Veronica). I also spoke to two moms who, like me, were new to the homeschool space, each of whom was trying to figure out which curriculum to use (thanks Jane and Katy!). I spoke to a few teachers and specialists and I spoke to our family doctor. I spoke to my own parents, who gave me the sort of reassurance that only a parent can give. I talked and talked.

Eventually I talked to an infinitely patient staff member at the curriculum company I chose for my son. She calmed my fears, answered my questions, and helped tailor a curriculum for my son that would gently ease him into a new learning environment while recognizing his love and aptitude for reading. By the time my oldest and I sat down on the first day of homeschooling, I wasn’t so afraid and my son was excited to begin a new journey. 

Three months later, my son is thriving, getting very good grades (and I’m a tough teacher!) and because I chose a classical, literacy-based program, he’s reading delightful, classic books as part of his class time—something that simply wasn’t allowed when he attended public school.

As for me, I’m still working and producing and doing what I was doing before. The hours might have changed a bit and I’ve learned to be more flexible with my own work hours, but I haven’t had to quit or change things much at all. I feel extremely blessed to work for an organization that encourages work flexibility and for bosses that care deeply for the wellbeing of their employees! 

Today, I still let my imagination go wild but the movie themes are more along the lines of the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Perhaps because that’s the future I believe I’m giving my son thanks to homeschooling. 

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