How Homeschooling Made Our Home
In this excerpt from "One Big Happy Family," Paula Penn-Nabritt discusses the ups and downs of homeschooling.
Excerpted from One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love by Rebecca Walker. Courtesy of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA).
Let’s start at the beginning. My husband, C (his name is Charles, but so is our eldest twin, so C is easy, plus that’s what his mother calls him), and I came to homeschooling by default. I wish we could say we planned this, oh so carefully, but that would be a lie. In the same vein, I wish I could say we all loved the process of homeschooling. But unlike many homeschooling families, ours did not love it, at least not while we were doing it. My husband and I were often tired and discouraged, and whether they actually meant it or not, our kids told us they hated being homeschooled—and they told us every day.
Unlike many new parents, not only did my husband and I not know we would homeschool, I’m not even certain we had heard of homeschooling outside the context of nineteenth-century history. Our in-depth analysis of educational options began in 1983 when the twins were three years old. It was pretty much limited to the traditional triumvirate of public school, parochial school, or private school. Period. Back then, charter schools didn’t exist, nobody was talking about vouchers, online learning happened only inside multinational corporations, and as I said, we thought homeschooling, with the possible exceptions of missionaries, Mennonites, and the Amish, ended with the pioneers and other purveyors of Manifest Destiny. We were not part of the progressive and informed parent party.
But educational ignorance notwithstanding, there were some things we knew right at the beginning, unequivocally and beyond the shadow of a doubt. We knew we loved Charles, Damon, and Evan abundantly and beyond measure. We knew they were each unique and fascinating children.
We didn’t concern ourselves with the question of what they would become quantitatively. We weren’t interested in whether they would become doctors or lawyers or engineers. We were interested in the qualitative; we wanted them to become healthy, conscious, and contributing members of the world’s community. We knew we really, truly enjoyed their company. We knew they deserved a holistic and wellbalanced launch into the universe. We knew we were responsible for doing our best to ensure that they received it. And as a corollary to all of the above, we knew we wanted to be a fully functional family, not just a bunch of people who shared some genetic material and a mailing address.
In retrospect, I’m certain some of the stuff we knew seemed so exquisitely intense and illuminated to us because we had such a difficult time having children. We suffered two miscarriages before we had the twins, Charles and Damon. The pregnancy with them required almost six months of strict bed rest. We then suffered two more miscarriages before we had Evan. And his gestation was not without its own nail-biting aspects, as I contracted pneumonia during pregnancy. Ultimately, the difficulties converged with the successes and created an abiding sense of intense gratitude. We were so consciously aware and thankful that God had (finally) blessed us with strong, healthy kids that embracing a sense of obligation for good stewardship with them felt easy.