Homeschooling is dangerous.
The grocery store clerk, your mother-in-law, the woman at church who teaches 6th grade at the public school ... they've all been telling you this for years.
I'm here to tell you that they're right. Homeschooling is not to be taken lightly. It's not a choice to be made flippantly. It's not something you can just do, or not do.
No. Homeschooling is dangerous, and should be treated as such.
What makes it such a heavy undertaking? It's not the fact that your kids may not learn how to hold their pencils correctly, or might miss out on the character-building experience of being picked last for a game of dodgeball. It's not that you're categorically unqualified to teach reading, or that putting Jesus in your kid's science book might cost him a couple of points on his SATs.
Those are the world's reasons for thinking that homeschooling is dangerous, and well, they miss the boat.
Homeschooling isn't dangerous because of socialization issues, uneven teaching potential, or a lack of exposure to cultural norms. Homeschooling is dangerous because it shifts the paradigm. It drops the scales from eyes. It begs questions.
Once you have thrown off the coverlet of expectations (Child turns 3, goes to preschool. Child turns 5, goes to kindergarten. Child turns 16, goes to prom, et al) you're left with a raw, unexplored landscape to ponder. O.k, so no preschool, because I just don't think Billy needs that whole "socialization with other preschoolers" thing in order to be normal. But everyone else does. Why? If that one thing is untrue, then what else have I assumed that I might now discover is wrong?
This time of the year always brings a crop of new homeschoolers out of the woodwork. People who always thought they'd do things the normal way. The safe way. The acceptable way. They had no idea, as they sat cradling their newborn three or four years ago, that when the time came-- when the "Now Enrolling!" signs began popping up-- that they'd sneak a peek of their darling in the rearview mirror, gleefully shouting along to a WeeSing cd, and feel a pang in their heart. They had no idea that they'd hear well-meaning friends extoll the virtues of this school or that one, and suddenly feel empty. They had no idea that they'd ponder three hours a day, twice a week and think, "At his age?"
They had no idea that they would say no. That they'd turn their backs on the establishment. That they'd have the audacity, the strength, the insanity to try and do it themselves.
I love this time of year. I love new homeschoolers. They always strike me as being something like Alice, who falls into Wonderland. A little befuddled, genuinely curious, unable to contain the wonder and awe that they're feeling, they hunt for veterans to guide the way. When they find one, they either pounce or carefully tiptoe into a conversation. They want to know that it can be done. They want to know that they will succeed. They want to hear that they're not dooming their children, that their own families will come around, that they're doing the right thing.
I always tell them that yes, if they feel led to homeschool, they're doing the right thing. And then I warn them:
Don't be fooled. Homeschooling is dangerous.
Now that you've taken the first step, there will be others. You might start to wonder why on earth that Disney movie has to have that teenage girl fawning over a boy. You might find yourself unable to partake of the "drop-off" culture of Sunday School. You might find that modern literature is rubbish. You might even wonder who on earth thought Youth Groups were such a good idea, or who in their right mind came up with the idea of teaching a 5 year-old boy who'd rather build with Legos how to write.
There will be changes in your family. Your husband might grow a deeper connection with your children as they age than you see developing with institutionally schooled families around you. You might consider "just one more" child not such a bad thing. You might learn of a missions need on the other side of the world and not think twice about ditching it all to follow the call.
Stranger things have happened, you know.
Homeschooling is dangerous. It opens eyes--and families--to whole new, undiscovered possibilities. It rips off the comfort zone band-aid that we apply in our lives, and exposes us to whole new ways of thinking. It changes lives; not simply the lives of children, but the lives of entire families and communities.
Be warned, as you step foot into the next season of schooling for your family. Homeschooling is dangerous. It can take you anywhere. It's an unlocked door that leads to places and thoughts that most people would rather not entertain. It's not for everyone. But for those of us who have taken the red pill, well ...there's no way we'd ever go back to sleep.