As I embark upon this adventure in life and learning with my wife and four-year-old son (homeschooling, unschooling, call it what you’d like), I thought it appropriate to set down in words my rationale for taking this alternative path, if for no other reason than to articulate that which just feels right. Perhaps in 12 years it will be useful when Aidan asks us the much feared question–“What were you thinking!” Or perhaps much sooner such an articulation will prove useful to hold the grandparents at bay with their raised eyebrows, curious looks, and doubtful comments. In any case, it seems a worthwhile exercise.

So, you homeschool your kid, huh? That’s interesting. Err, why would you do that?

Well, let me tell you–over the next several posts.

Our son has been attending preschool for the past year–two days a week, four hours each day. The program seems fine, relatively speaking. With four full-time teachers, a handful of part-time teachers, a constant stream of student interns, and seldom more than 30 kids in the room, most parents aren’t complaining that their kid is not getting enough attention. Aidan attends preschool at the community college where I work. It’s fun because we can go to school together two days a week and talk about how it went on the ride home. Still, something bugs me. On the days when I finish in my office early, I head over to the preschool to observe Aidan (from the secret viewing area, complete with two-way mirrors and hidden microphones). I enter the long, narrow, darkened room and look out into the light of the classroom–scanning for my son. Where is he? After a moment, I find him sitting at a table with his head on his hands gazing up at the wall or staring at the ceiling. Every time, he looks so very bored, and worse yet, sedate. This is not my son. The Aidan I know is filled with energy–jumping and laughing and dancing. Or in his quieter moments he sits immersed in books or puzzles or in conversation with me or his mom. He never looks bored at home or out and about with us. Having observed this transformation of my son two days a week for the past year, I became troubled.

“It’s snack time, Aidan. Go wash your hands and get ready for snack. Don’t run, walk. Put your stuff away first. Go to the bathroom before you wash your hands. Wait in line. Sit still.” I listen and observe each week as his teachers give him gentle commandments about how to behave in the classroom, about how to act as a responsible young boy growing up a little more each and every day. I watched as teachers (whom I hardly knew) acted as surrogate parents to my child two days a week. It didn’t sit right. His mother and I are his parents. Fundamentally, isn’t it our responsibility to help him grow up? To teach him right from wrong? To help him reach his potential and allow him to become the person he is becoming? Each and every day? Honestly, school in the early years seems focused (and rightly so) on teaching kids to be good people. Fundamentally, this is the parents’ job, and one that parents can do best. It is our job.