Saved By The Bell

Written by Lydia Benedict.

With school back in session, mothers let out a sigh of relief. For a home school mother like me, however, it's time to take a deep breath and plunge into another school year. It's a massive responsibility, but I'm happy to be in control of my kids' education.

I haven't always home schooled my children; they have been in the public school system. My experience there led me to take them out. It wasn't that I had the misfortune of living in a poor district with failing schools. In fact, the schools my children attended were labeled "Blue Ribbon" by the state. But labels aside, this school had typical public school issues.

For example, now that standardized tests are—well, standard—flexibility in the classroom is disappearing. Curriculum coordinators now decide –based largely on testing—not only what the curriculum will be, but also how it will be meted out. Thus a teacher has less room to alter her teaching to better suit the needs of her student, be they the students at the top of the class or the bottom.

Another public school turn-off happened when it came time for my son to memorize his math facts. I was surprised to learn that this was not part of the curriculum. Very little time was devoted to this step in the classroom. Yet it was essential to progressing mathematically. The solution? Teach him myself. So like many public school children, mine gained much of their academic foundation not at school, but at home.

These common public school issues (and others) caused me to do something uncommon: opt out and teach them myself. It is a huge undertaking. To think that I am fully responsible for my children's preparation for college, to enter the work force, and to be responsible citizens is at times overwhelming. Yet more and more parents are doing the same. As of 2007, there were 1.5 million U.S. children schooled at home. That number is undoubtedly higher today.

But of all the possible concerns that come with a home school education, I am surprised at how often parents comment, "Aren't you worried about your kids' socialization?" My reply is yes. And the so-called socialization happening in our public schools is the last place I want my children to be "socialized"—if there is such a thing.

Another common response I hear from parents is, "I could never do that. My kids would never cooperate with me." For people who think that home school kids have this special ability for turning off sibling rivalry or that they suddenly become more cooperative than usual during school hours—think again. Children that are home schooled have their issues like any other child—mine included. The difference is that my school has no principal or special needs classroom. It's all up to me.

However, despite the countless hours I dedicate to my kids' education, I know it's not wasted time. Instead of walking the aisles of Wal-Mart trying to find particular school supplies as dictated by the various teachers, I spend my time online researching the numerous curriculums available. (Can someone please explain to me how a canvas zip-up, two-inch, three-ring binder is mandatory for learning?)

Rather than attend multiple orientation meetings, I make individual school schedules for each of my four children. (I've attended enough of these orientation meetings to know that they are all pretty much the same).

Furthermore, I get to skip the mountains of redundant paperwork and enjoy the end of summer having fun with my kids. (To think we have to sign a student handbook promising—among other things—not to bully shows just how far we haven't come.)

Additionally, there is less wasted time for the children. No need for fundraisers, assemblies, and classes that teach kids to "just say no."

My job even comes with some perks. Instead of health benefits, I get healthy kids. Instead of sick pay, I don't get sick. To spend time with my kids I don't need vacation days. Yes, I am the one responsible for my kids learning math and science, history and geography, Spanish and music, reading and writing. And the responsibility is awesome. But it is also immensely rewarding to watch my children grow into smart, capable, well-rounded people. While many parents may welcome the first bell of the new school year, this mother welcomes the chance to educate her children at home.