It is hard to veer off the main path. My mom, the retired schoolteacher, wanted to grab the wheel. I knew that she didn't want to control us, but she was afraid we might get lost. We talked, and over time she became more reassured about our decision. We had a map that showed us how to get back to the main road anytime. Some friends were a little miffed. A couple of them took our decision to homeschool as a judgement of their journey. Some couldn't understand why I would want to get off of this seemingly flat, smooth well-marked road. Was I just deciding to be contrary and different? Was I being elitist? No. And no.
While it felt like most of the other parents were on the main road toward the holy grail - COLLEGE! CAREER! SUCCESS!! - we decided to take a scenic route and focus on the journey, wherever it lead. If we focus on having a joyful, fulfilling journey, how can we not end up in the right place eventually?
Most importantly, our son expressed some relief when we talked to him about staying home. I remember feeling honored by his trust in us. As long as he would still be able to see his friends, he was happy to leave school behind. School was not a bad experience for him, but he did not flourish there. His teachers often remarked about how quiet and compliant he was . This pleased them, but it worried me. It was almost as if he was holding his breath all day, because when he came home he would often unleash his aggression and anxiety at me and his younger brothers. Keeping him home was going to be good for all of us.
Serendipity had it that the summer after our decision to homeschool, the Live and Learn Conference was taking place about a half hour from my house. I knew nothing about unschooling, but I casually walked in with my kids on that Friday, asking if I could register at the door. I told two conference divas at the check-in that I found about about the event on the internet two days before and I was interested in checking it out. *Blink* *Blink* Was I aware that this was a national conference and that people had been planning for months, travelled from all across the US to attend? Um...no. *Blink* *Blink* They let me register.
So, as luck would have it I got to listen to a keynote speech from Ann Oman, another session with Sandra Dodd, and yet another with Valerie Fitzenreiter. I was immediately immersed in a sea of happy unschoolers and I knew I was in the right place. Looking back, I don't know how long it would have taken me to come to unschooling without this conference at my back door, but I know we were spared the struggles of school-at-home and the cost of many unnecessary curriculum materials because of that weekend.
Four years later, I can honestly say that I only wish we had pulled him out sooner. Family and friends have evolved along with us, and I cannot remember the last time someone said something unsupportive to me. My mom still worries, but she also listens and she is respectful of us. She and my dad have enjoyed their opportunity to spend extra time with the boys, taking them places, visiting for the day, being with them. My in-laws do not share their thoughts about what we do. I sense their concern, but there is no dialogue. That's fine. I hope they are seeing that the boys are growing, learning, and enjoying their lives without school. I couldn't be more confident that they are.