It’s Tuesday morning and my kids and I are hiking at Rooks Park and Bennington Lake. It’s a school day for us.
My oldest daughter is nearly eight. She talks excitedly about a blue heron she’s just spotted on the top of the hill, a red-tailed hawk flying over Mill Creek, a red-winged blackbird and “the coolest bug (she’s) ever seen.” My son is 3. He’s riding his bike and pointing at all the buds on the trees — exultant that he can play at our impromptu “Signs of Spring” game. My-6-year-old daughter is collecting rocks and sticks, talking about shapes she sees in all the natural objects in her hands, while my baby girl holds onto our fingers and points at the trees, mimicking her siblings.
I never thought I’d home-school. My husband and I graduated from Whitman College about a decade ago, and save for a year spent in Alaska, we’ve lived our life in Portland. Portland is a charter school utopia; there are dozens of options for your precious progeny: German-American school, Chinese-immersion school, French-immersion school, environmental science magnet school, Waldorf-public school, art magnet schools, computer-science magnet schools — on and on.
I imagined our kids, most of whom were born in our living room in southeast Portland, would walk out of that same living room every day and blithely hold my hand as we walked a few blocks to our wonderful, hippie-loving neighborhood school.
A few of my friends home-schooled their children, and I would often study their kids skeptically to see if they had bizarre social skills or habits. I’d steal answers from them when their moms were occupied: “Soooo... You like home-schooling? Really? Hmmm... Do you feel like you’re missing out on what most other kids are doing? Do you have friends? You do?! And what are they like? OK, seriously — do you still like your mom at the end of a home-school day?”
One afternoon, three or four years ago, I shared with my husband that I felt like spending a lot of time raising my two girls was the best thing I was doing with my life. He wondered if I’d like home-schooling. So, a year or so later, after taking into account the results of my vast surveying of home-schooled kids and the good life I was experiencing with my girls, we decided we’d give home-school a good try.
Home-schooling is not picturesque and peachy keen every day. We’re not always hopping into chalk drawings. Every one of my days requires a ton of flexibility, grace and prayer. But for the most part, we’re loving it. My kids have a lot of time to be with each other, to be outside on our farm, to develop unique interests and skills and to follow their delights. And if we ever come to a point when we don’t mostly love it anymore, we’ll rethink it.
Along with our life of school at home, my kids benefit greatly from Walla Walla’s parent partnership school, Homelink. Homelink is a two-day-per-week school, where home-schooled kids are educated in a public school setting and get to experience everything a traditional school setting has to offer. If there were a charter school like this in Portland, the waiting list would be a few years long. When we moved back to the Walla Walla Valley last May, I was thrilled and shocked that this resource for home-schooled children existed here.
The other night I asked my oldest girl about her favorite part of Homelink. She replied, “My favorite part is science. I love studying electricity.” And my kindergartener, (a bit more loquacious), said, “I like three things: P.E., because we do all these fun games, and once we played with these hula hoops; then I like recess — the morning recess and the afternoon recess!; and then I like snack and lunch. I also like math and science and calendar time and art, too! I liked making the filters with colors and spraying them. It looked just like Chihuly! Mrs. Locati is my teacher, and she teaches us. I like her.”
For information about how to enroll, or for a tour, you can email the principal, Connie Taylor Randall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When poet Raymond Carver was nearing the end of life, he wrote:
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Joy and peace to you as you love and enjoy your kids, whatever your school choices may be. As you know, your children are a huge gift to you, to us and to our planet.
Sarrah Lynne Havens is a mama of four, with one on the way. She is also a part-time spiritual mentor on college campuses in Seattle, as well as an artist. View her work here.