I have shared before how choosing to homeschool came as a bit of a surprise to us. However, choosing to homeschool is just the first of many choices to be made when it comes to home education. I think it has to be near impossible for a parent to go into something like this with complete confidence. After all, our society places a huge emphasis on education. It is easy to feel like you are holding a child's entire future in your hands when you consider how to approach their education.
One of the greatest pressures I felt early on in our homeschool journey was that we should join a homeschool community of some sort. Of course the question of "socialization" is one that inevitably comes up over and over. For our family, having an only child only makes this something we probably think about even more. At first, this led to falling into the trap of comparison and over-analyzing.
Like with any decision I have had to make as a parent, it has taken time and experience to really help me grow in my confidence with my choices. There is always that initial period of doubt and questioning after any big decision. I often have to try every other option out first before I finally go with my gut. I am definitely someone who often learns through mistakes... lots and lots of mistakes.
For our family, choosing not to join a homeschool group has proven to be the best choice, at least during this season. This was not a decision we made lightly, and it has taken me a good year or so to stop questioning it. I find that many of the lessons I learn come in clusters. I have shared to some extent over on Instagram that this has been a time to really pulling back and kind of sinking into a place where I am kind of isolated. I feel like I am being challenged to peel back a lot of layers to expose some stuff that I need to work on, and I definitely worried at first that taking this time would have a negative impact on Aiden's social development. I struggled with obedience as I kept trying to find ways to still find a community of some sort that fit within our current situation. Over and over I found the same answer seeming clear though... God created families for a reason.
That "only child" thing was still the greatest obstacle for me. Families who homeschool only children are rare, and so often when I look for ideas and inspiration I see tables full of siblings and friends and that doubt starts creeping in. I see post after post online about great homeschool cooperatives and communities, and I start letting that familiar feeling creep in that maybe I am not trying hard enough. It is so easy to jump straight to the negatives of our situation instead of seeing the awesome benefits... like only having to keep up with one student! That is another topic entirely, though. The question at hand is that if I believe God created families and parents to be the safe place for children to grow and learn in their early years, don't I also need to believe that He has a plan for families who are blessed with only one child? My answer? I really do.
I still love the idea of joining a co-op and finding a community of families to take this journey with. I do hope that someday we will be in the place to do that. I do not, however, think that it is absolutely necessary to have a successful homeschool experience. Even with an only child. We definitely don't keep our child in a bubble. He has taekwondo 3 days a week, and during the fall and spring he has library programs twice a week. He has opportunities to interact with people of all ages, and learn to get along with and care for younger children through our home day care experiences. He plays often with the neighbor kids, and every trip to the park is an opportunity to make a new friend in his eyes. However, his deepest connections and most significant relationships are still with his parents and his Grandma. As a six-year-old, I think this is both healthy and normal.
It is hard enough to keep a 6-year-old boy focused on learning without adding in extra kids. I know he would adapt, and I know that having those opportunities to learn in a group setting are valuable. As he gets older, we will continue to consider what is best for our family. I am just happy to finally be in a place now where I can confidently say that I don't panic and question myself every time I read about a friend's awesome homeschool "tribe" or "co-op" or "community" or whatever you want to call it. I don't see a lot of homeschool parents talking about being confident just homeschooling at home, and so if I can provide even a little reassurance to another mama making a similar choice, I want to do that.
There is no one right way to raise a child. There is no one right way to educate a child.
Every child and every family is unique, and each of those families and children will go through different seasons over the course of 18 years!
All we can really do is support each other along the way, recognizing that if we love our kids and do our best it doesn't have to look the same in each home.