An Unexpected Choice: Why We Traded the Public School for Homeschooling
When I was 6 and my dad had been hired by the U.S. government to work as an economist, one of the first things he and my mom did after we moved was to call the few fellow Korean immigrants they knew in the D.C. area.
"Where are the good schools?" they interrogated. When they ran out of people to call, they called their friends' friends and asked the same question.
It took no time to build a list of acceptable school districts, a list that concurrently created the boundaries for where we would consider living. If a city was not on that list, it did not matter how affordable the housing was, how much more my parents could get for their meager dollars—a good school was the only choice that mattered.
Not surprisingly, when my husband and I reached the same point for our family, needing to find somewhere to settle down and raise our three young boys, the school issue became the first factor we considered as well. Of course we were going to live somewhere with a good school district. Naperville, a southwestern suburb of Chicago, had the right school credentials and a critical mass of our fellow church members who lived there. It was an easy choice.
We moved to Naperville for the public schools, but we ended up becoming a homeschooling family.
One day, I was interviewing a fellow Naperville mom for a project, and almost as a side note she mentioned that she had homeschooled her kids. I asked her what her main reasons were for homeschooling, and what she said stuck in my mind: "I wanted them to be able to enjoy their childhood. It goes by so fast."
My eldest son was then in the Naperville schools as a first-grader, and we were experiencing the opposite of "enjoying childhood." By the time he came home, ate a snack, did his homework, and practiced piano, it was nearly dinnertime. Every day felt like a grind, every day felt like we were in some sort of elementary-aged pressure cooker.
Also, we'd experienced red flags in his public school education experience, flags that I had just ignored or downplayed, but now they kept reemerging, clamoring for attention. Our son's grip on basic addition and subtraction facts was shaky. The teacher-approved first-grade readers he brought home were all picture books well below his level. A classmate was being manipulative in his relationship with our son: "You better jump from the top of that pole or else I'll stop being your friend!"