(My answer might surprise you.)
When I was a kid I believed there were just three options when it came to education:
1. public school (where I attended),
2. private Christian school (which a few of my friends attended), or
3. dropping out, becoming a criminal, and ending up in prison.
I’m not sure where I picked up on the details of option 3 (perhaps my imagination?), but it was made clear that the only path to success began and ended with a formal education.
At eight I believed that not going to school meant becoming a “drop-out” (a label that–worth noting–was applied to the person rather than the action) and I attached many fear-based ideas of what being a “drop-out” meant, none of them rooted deeply in reality.
The point was: it was set up as a dichotomous choice: school or failure. There were no other options.
And assuming that I didn’t end up in prison, college was the only logical next step after my K-12 education was done. Again: school or failure. No plan B.
Fast forward to my own parenthood, and my life has followed a different trajectory. I no longer believe there is a narrow, singular road to success. I see many interwoven paths that lead to an adulthood that is rich, rewarding, successful, and full of joy.
And for my own family, I chose a different path than that of my childhood.
Enter option 4: Homeschooling.
My kids (ages 11 and 16) have never attended school in their lives. Nor do we “do school” at home. You’ll rarely find us around the table, pencils in hand, math and science books piled high. You’re more likely to find is in the woods or the creek, the kitchen or the workshop; our curiosity alight and full of a love of learning that was rare in my own childhood but a constant in my life today.
This might make you think that my answer the question above would be: The best education for your child is interest-led, project-based homeschooling! Obviously.
Except that it’s not.
Because this is my family’s right path, right now. It has nothing to do with a singular “best” option or something that’s a good match for anyone else.
And just like hot sauce or heavy metal, yoga or pet snakes, it’s not for everyone. It’s not supposed to be.
Choosing the right education for your child is a very private, deeply personal decision. A decision that no one should make but you.
I would be remiss in not noting that many parents don’t have the luxury of this choice at all. A majority of families do not have the means for private school nor the time for homeschooling, and have only one school on their list of options. Many of these public schools are struggling as well. Supporting parents and our public schools is critical to the education and success of these families.
For those of us who do have the privilege of deciding what is best for our families, we need to only look into our own hearts and–most importantly–those of our kids to find the best path.
Your options for your child’s education may include public school, one or more private schools, and a plethora of homeschooling paths.
The best match for your family will appear only when you stop looking elsewhere for answers, and turn inward, tuning into your heart.
Like other deeply personal (and potentially controversial) parenting decisions, choosing an education for your child is best done with research and with heart. I encourage you to do your homework, then turn off the noise and tune into your child. You’ll find your right path if you listen in earnest (possibly one that surprises you).
And, well, there isn’t a singular right path.
Do I think homeschooling is the very best educational choice? No. I don’t.
Like I have told countless friends and blog readers who ask me how we do it, homeschooling is most definitely not for everyone. Not for every parent, and not for every child.
It’s a 24-7 gig, days and weeks and months of unending togetherness, and is interwoven with plentiful opportunities for shaken confidence and fear. For our family though, we found a wonderful, near-perfect fit.
What tomorrow brings for my own family remains to be seen. Next year might mean public school or an apprenticeship or private university or the exact same thing we’ve been doing since the day our first child was born: living and learning, together.
Who knows what comes next? We simply watch and wait, listen and see.
Until then, we’ll be here, doing what we’ve always done: learning together, joyfully, at home and at our own pace. How grateful I am for the luxury of this choice.
I hope that you, too, find an answer that is equally resonant to your heart, your child, and this chapter of your lives.