So, I'm in the trenches here, hoping to give you some insight, hope and practical advice as you think about venturing into the process of educating your children at home. In the last two posts (here, and here) I talked through four different hesitations you might have. I will address two more here: What if your husband isn't thinking this is such a great idea, and how will your children get social opportunities?
Concern #5. My husband doesn't want me to do this. He thinks I'll be too stressed or we won't do this right.
Well, let's talk about that husband of yours. On second thought, let's talk about mine. When my oldest son was four years old, I was sure we were going to homeschool him. We don't live in a "bad" school district. I just had a number of homeschooling friends and I knew I wanted to help my son grow and learn and I wanted' to keep him away from certain influences and to keep him with me as long as I could. My husband felt differently. He had dreamy recollections of his elementary school years (which weren't perfect, but he had fond memories). I didn't know how strongly he felt about public school for our son until the summer prior to Kindergarten. He said, "Aren't you supposed to call to enroll soon?" I was caught off guard and said, "For what?" He said, "For kindergarten." "I thought we were going to homeschool," I replied. He explained that he wasn't in favor of that. He wanted to give the public school "a chance" and he knows me well. He knew, intuitively, how much this undertaking would exact from me in terms of preparation and dedication and he was nervous about the fallout that would have in terms of my availability, energy level and emotional "temperature" in the home (you know, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy -- or in proper homeschool grammar, "If mom is not happy, no one else is either.") Either way you say it, he was concerned. So, he said, "no." And I spent a few weeks cajoling, giving good argument and fretting a bit. Then, I prayed and I gave in. I said to God in prayer, that I would wait for God to turn one of our hearts around -- either win me to public schooling or my husband to homeschooling. But, I stood ready to submit to my husband's decision in the end. And I did. My son attended Kindergarten in the public school. I won't go into much here, but I will say there were red flags from the very beginning for us.
Again, the summer before 1st grade, I asked my husband about homeschooling, and again he said, "no." So, my son attended 1st grade in public school. That year he had a really good teacher, but we saw a hardening of his heart and character based on other factors there. Over that summer we saw him willing to hug us more often. He also built forts and played happily with legos (all these things had drifted away over his two public schooling years). I said, off hand, one night a few weeks before public school was going to start, "Well, we are going to have to say, 'goodbye' to some of the sweetness we have seen in our son over this summer. He'll go back and toughen up a bit like he did last year and I'll spend so much of my time working against what is happening to him there and doing homework in the afternoons after he is burnt out from a long day." I really didn't expect my husband to say anything. He said, "I know what you mean. I think we only have one alternative if we are going to preserve him and help draw out what we see over the summer and that is to homeschool him." It was two weeks before the public school would start and finally I had the green light. But, it was over three years after I had initially brought up the subject.
I tell you this story to say this: homeschooling is a family experience. Your husband may do very little or he may teach the children some formal lessons regularly or he may oversee things -- the role of the husband in the education of the children varies from home to home. Either way, you are in this as a family. You just can't homeschool without his support. I know that sounds really biased, but I am not just speaking from my own experience. When the hard days hit, you will possibly call him and let loose about what is going on and you will need him to be there for you. You won't want him to be in the position of, "I told you so," or "go enroll them back in public school today."
So, if he is not on board, what can you do?
1. You can pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. God knows your heart and He cares for your children's and your family's best interest. Pour out your longing to Him and trust Him to move you or your husband until you are aligned.
2. You can share articles and books with your husband. Help him to see how you are preparing. This will help him know that you are serious and that you will do a good job when you take this on. Often we are gaining so much information about home education and we should not leave our husband in the dust about it all. Sharing with him keeps you on the same page and makes unified decisions more likely.
3. You can ask homeschooling dads to talk with your husband. Now, you probably won't approach them directly, but you can have your homeschool mom friends over with their husbands and give them a heads up that your husband has some questions or reservations he would like to talk over with their husbands. Sometimes men can share things with other men that we just can't express in the same way. It is helpful for him to hear about homeschooling from an experienced man's perspective.
4. Hear him out. Your husband may have some realistic concerns. If you listen to him and let him share his heart, you are honoring him and also letting him help you in preparing for whatever outcome you both choose.
5. You can wait. Sometimes God has other plans and He will surely use the experiences your child goes through for good. He has done that in our case for sure. Nothing is wasted in God's kingdom. Trust Him no matter what the outcome of you and your husband's decision making process regarding education.
Concern #6: How will my kids socialize? (and, How will I socialize?)
One of the largest myths (and greatest fears) about homeschooling is that it is this isolated experience where you only socialize with your own immediate family and you sit, imploded, in your home all day, every day. Now, there are seasons or weeks where we are home more often than not, but truly that is not our usual week or even day. We struggle to be at home as much as we need to be (and, yes, we do happily school in our PJs on some of those days). There is just so much to do and there are so many opportunities to get together with other people.
Let me give you a peek into our typical week (in this season) and you will see what I mean. Most days we have our formal lessons in the mornings from around 8:00a - noon. Mondays we leave for an art class that my friend is hosting at her home. Following art class we go to Piano lessons. We come home and my boys play with the neighborhood kids. Two Tuesdays a month we have our science co-op (where the moms take turns teaching science from an agreed curriculum) from 1:00-2:30p. We go to the park with that group some Tuesdays after Science. Wednesdays we are home as well, but it is "early out" for the public schools around us, so my son hustles to get his work done so he can play with his friends in the early afternoon. Thursdays my son takes a 12:20pm class at a local support center for homeschoolers where tutors offer a variety of courses. This term he is taking "Junior Philosophy." Thursday nights I often host a movie night here and the neighborhood kids come for movies and pizza. Fridays we are home. Whew! But, every other Friday another homeschool family whom we love hosts a later lunch and playtime all afternoon, so we join them if we are able. That is just this term. There are "playgroups" that meet at parks, groups on Facebook, moms groups, co-ops, charter schools, you name it. I belong to a group of moms who are studying the original writings of Charlotte Mason and we meet every six weeks for a time of discussion. I host "Moms' night of Refreshment" at my home every six weeks or so. Moms come over and we chat, have dessert, listen to a CD from a homeschool conference and then share, encourage and pray for one another. There are opportunities to be in book clubs, prayer meetings and Bible studies with other homeschool moms. We get more than our fair share of social opportunities -- and you will too.
I once saw this meme cartoon with a picture of a fish in a fishbowl by himself with the caption, "What people think we do"; the next picture was a bunch of fish sitting at desks staring forward at a blackboard and the caption read, "What they call 'socialization'."; and the final picture was an ocean with a variety of fish happily swimming in their natural "schools" with the caption, "What we call socialization." That's what we really do. We swim in our natural school and we are free to mingle with all kinds of other fish along the way.
So, pray over this decision and hear your husband out. He may have valid concerns and input. Help him get educated about your options as you are finding out new facts and possibilities. Keep him in step with you. Don't pester him. Give the Lord room to work. And, know that God provides all your needs (and your children's) including the need for social support and relationships.