It’s January 28, which means that I’m in the thick of my annual agony regarding my children’s education.  Every year, for the past three years and counting, I face two deadlines in late January:  the deadline to re-apply for financial aid at our current private school (which we LOVE), and the deadline to apply for a public school transfer (because we need a back-up plan).

Because what if we don’t get enough financial aid at our current private school?  Or what if we decide that we can’t commit to the commute anymore?  (Yes, we are currently That Crazy Family that drives their child across the city for a better education.  At least I know we’re crazy, right?)

It doesn’t stop there.  I need more back-up plans. What if we don’t get chosen in the public school transfer lottery?

So, next week I’ll be attending an info meeting for a charter school near our home.  And I just signed up to join the email list for a new university model school that is opening in the fall.  And I’ve been researching homeschool curriculum.  And…and…and…someone save me from this madness!


Photo by liberalmind1012

We’re in this agony because we believe education is really important.  We believe it’s so important that we’re prepared for a certain amount of sacrifice, in order for our children to have the best education we can secure for them.  But where to draw the line?

Because the line does have to be drawn somewhere; peace and sanity and doing-what’s-best-for-the-whole-family has to be part of the equation, too.  Long-term sustainability must be considered, as well as financial viability.  And we want to form relationships with other families and friends that are there for the long haul.  So how to decide?

I know a wiser, more “seasoned” mother who homeschooled her two oldest daughters, now in their early twenties.  She once told me that when it comes to education, there’s no need to feel like you make the decision once and then it’s set in stone forever.  Instead, she re-evaluated every year, for each child.  Is homeschooling the best decision for this year, for this daughter?  Every year, she asked this question.

I have found this advice to be both liberating and exhausting.  It’s true, we can always re-evaluate.  We can always change our minds and try something new.  But oh, it would be so very lovely to simply have the issue settled – to not go through the annual madness of visiting schools and researching options and applying for aid and waiting on lotteries.


Photo by alamosbasement

The other night, I joked to my husband that I wanted to hire a governess.  Right now, I think that would be my ideal schooling situation for my family: the girls would learn at home, using a curriculum that I’ve carefully chosen, with plenty of freedom to go out and explore the world, while I’d be just down the hall, working from home, and able to join in on their explorations from time to time. Maybe my husband would work from home sometimes, too.  Sounds lovely to me.

I think part of my struggle lies in the fact that I really don’t want my children to be away from home for eight hours everyday.  To me, it feels counter-intuitive for family members to spend so much time apart from each other, especially when you consider that children can learn all they need to learn in three or four hours each day.  The eight-hour school day exists because of parents’ work schedules.

And in fact, before the Industrial Revolution, most families spent their days together.  Most fathers worked out of their homes, either in a trade or as farmers.  Children often learned at home, and then worked alongside their parents to help in the family business.  So, it’s actually a rather recent phenomenon, in the history of our culture, for families to spend their days apart from each other.

Yet, for me and for my husband, homeschooling doesn’t feel like the right choice for us.  We’re open to it, just as we’re open to many other options when we re-evaluate each year, but so far we always conclude that it’s not our calling.  And the reality is that we are not living in the pre-Industrial era.  We were born into THIS era, in this time in history, and this culture.  I believe that must mean something.

So, every year we continue to forge ahead and research and agonize and visit and apply and wait. We do what’s best for each child – and for our family – each year.  And we’ll continue to do so, because we believe it’s important, and because we can.

One thing I didn’t mention: we’re very aware that it’s a privilege for us to even have so many options, and we’re incredibly grateful for it. How have you approached your child(ren)’s education?

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