Saying goodbye to homeschooling

March 22, 2015
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Tomorrow will be a big day for us. After two years of homeschooling, my oldest daughter Hannah will be going to school. Okay, kindergarten. For half a day. But still, this is a big change for us. If all goes well, in September she will be going to Grade 1.

The obvious question: why? When I first started homeschooling two years ago, my husband and I told each other that we would take it "year by year and child by child", but we were both hoping to homeschool all our kids until high school.

It's not really the academics - at five years old, Hannah is reading chapter books and is doing well in every subject.

It's mainly the social aspect. I have heard it said that Ottawa has a large homeschooling community, but frankly, I have been feeling very isolated as a Catholic homeschooler in this city.

There is an active Protestant homeschooling community in Ottawa, enabled especially by the Rideau Valley Home Educators Association (RVHEA). There also appears to be a large Muslim homeschooling community - in fact, Hannah's homeschooling French class was 95% Muslim. Then there are the crunchy, earth-mama homeschoolers, and the homeschoolers whose kids have medical issues or disabilities, or who have been bullied.

But I haven't felt drawn to hanging out with the secular homeschooling groups. We just don't have that much in common, as our values are often very different. The whole reason for my homeschooling was to pass on our values to our children. I did take part in some activities with the Protestants, but we are not Protestant, and I still ended up feeling too alone.

Over the last few years, two private Catholic schools have opened up in Ottawa: Maryvale Academy and Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel. These schools cost thousands of dollars each year, but they offer a quality and "orthodox" Catholic education, and many Catholic homeschoolers have switched over to sending their kids to these schools.

Perhaps as a result, the Catholic homeschooling community here is just not nearly as active as I had hoped for. The few remaining Catholic homeschoolers are scattered far apart geographically (with many of them being in Quebec), making frequent get-togethers difficult. I realize I could try to organize things and whip up more community involvement, but the truth is that I just don't have the energy for that, on top of everything else.

The breaking point for me was when Hannah was reading a book that asked her to name her best friend, and she named one of her dolls. Hannah loves to be around other kids, and treasures her little friendships. But while we do get together with other kids, it's just not as regular or as frequent as she needs at this point - and most of those other kids are in school, making friends there every day.

We'll see how it goes

Hannah is excited to go to school now and to make friends. And I'm really happy for her, and sure that this is the right move for us at the moment. At the same time, we are not certain about the future of this experiment.

We are sending Hannah out to the public Catholic school system, not into a private school. The Wynne government has just pushed through an aggressive sex-ed program that will try to normalize all kinds of behaviours that we disagree with, and also introduces all kinds of concepts to children far too early. We plan to take Hannah out of those classes, but we won't be able to shield her from everything. There is a lot wrong with public Catholic schools these days.

So, we might end up switching over to private school in a couple of years. Or we might go back to homeschooling. It all remains to be seen. We will definitely be keeping a close watch and monitoring how Hannah is responding to her new environment. And as always, we will be taking it "year by year and child by child".

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