Recently I read an article that addressed sacrifices homeschooling parents must make. I appreciated the author’s thoughts and the honestly conveyed experiences she described, but I found that many of the sacrifices she wrote about are things I would not have thought to describe that way. That, in turn, got me thinking about the whole idea of sacrifice in the context of parenting and homeschooling.
All the definitions of sacrifice that I could find deal in negatives. For example, this one from Merriam Webster: to suffer loss of, give up, renounce, injure, or destroy especially for an ideal, belief, or end.
Even if one is “happy” to sacrifice, the connotation is one of martyrdom. “Alone time” is one thing the author of the article talks about losing, and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard this concern expressed in relation to homeschooling. When you’re in the thick of it, the awareness that other parents potentially have several hours a day to themselves while their kids are in school might, at times, make it feel like you’re giving up “alone time,” but I remember my homeschooling days quite fondly. Once we settled into a synergy, I was able to claim my space just as my kids claimed theirs. We spent as much time working alongside each other, on our own projects or play, as we did working together.
Money is another oft-referred to sacrifice. Homeschooling is criticized for being an option available only to the economically privileged, while at the same time families lament the financial sacrifices they make in order to do it. Loss of income and sidelining careers fall particularly hard on women, who for whatever reasons, possibly including the fact that they still don’t enjoy equal pay, are often the ones to take on the primary homeschooling workload. In my family, my husband and I both worked outside the home in jobs with flexible schedules, which allowed us to both be involved with the day-to-day of parenting, but the whole idea of sacrificing a career undervalues the very important work that parents do every single day. A homeschooling friend of mine, Erin Matica, wrote eloquently about this recently in an article titled “The Value of Homeschooling.”
Another sacrifice made for homeschooling? “Feeling normal.” This is no small thing. Human beings are social creatures and going against the grain can be hard. After a couple years of homeschooling this went away for me for me, until some comment or experience in the world would remind me that, oh yeah, homeschooling is kind of radical, and maybe I am kind of weird. Being part of a strong community of homeschoolers AND spending a lot of time in the larger community, whether volunteering, working, or socializing, helped, but what would help even more is for homeschooling to be seen as just another way to educate your kids.
While finding alone time, enjoying quality one-on-one time with each child, budgeting on one income, maintaining a very lived-in house, and bucking the system can all be issues facing homeschoolers, do they amount to sacrifice? Are high salaries, careers, house cleaners, and PTA meetings automatic givens in the lives of families?
For me, the choice to homeschool was empowering. It made me realize I didn’t have to do things the way everyone else did, that I could forge my own path. The lifestyle we enjoyed, which included lots of play, trusting our kids to learn and unfold in their own time, and active community involvement, offered so much more than it took away. Homeschooling was a choice, not a sacrifice. Every single choice we make in life involves giving something else up, but ideally, the positives we gain make up for it.