It’s summertime. It’s time for some decisions. We’ve all been there, sitting at the kitchen table, pros and cons list in front of us, making the big decision. Should we continue with our child’s current educational path, or should we do something big, something scary, and head out on that weedy, bramble-covered path called homeschooling? Maybe you’re sitting at your computer right now wondering those same thoughts.
Here’s a cool homeschooling story to help with that decision; I ran into Cheryl Dulog at my son’s Model UN class and was speaking to her about her daughter, Emma-Marie. I had seen that she had recently been featured in Richmond’s Style Weekly magazine as a ‘16 under 16.’ The article featured sixteen kids, under the age of 16, who were already showing great signs of leadership. There was a tiny bit in the article about Emma-Marie being a homeschooler. So I was curious. I wondered how they had come to homeschooling and how it had helped to further Emma-Marie’s passions.
Cheryl told me of her struggles with Emma-Marie’s attendance at public school at a time when Cheryl was undergoing a health crisis. Cheryl had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Thankfully, she is in remission now, but during this trying time she found herself also grappling with the dilemma of what to do about her children’s educations. Emma-Marie was clearly very gifted and her mom felt the school system was holding her back.
Family life was also suffering. Between the school’s schedule, the large homework loads, and the enriching activities they were trying to pursue, there didn’t seem to be any free time left. One teacher even had the temerity to suggest that they shouldn’t do anything but school. Cheryl dreamed of having more time as a family to take trips and eat dinner together. If these were going to be her last months with her family, then this was going to be their priority. After a lot of soul searching with her husband, Marco, research and family discussions, they decided that homeschooling fit their needs.
Through homeschooling, Emma-Marie and her sisters, Sophie and Luci, are flourishing. Emma-Marie plays harp in the American Youth Harp Ensemble and recently came back from a trip to New York City where she played at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. Emma-Marie speaks three languages and is trying to learn more. She uses the internet to learn and explore math concepts, watch her favorite TED talks videos, immerse herself in history and even dabble with string theory.
I met Emma-Marie and her mother at Model UN, but as I alluded to above, that is but one of the many activities that occupy her and her family. They are also involved in 4-H, Girl Scouts and writer workshops, which help to round out an amazing educational experience. Because they are homeschooling, they have time to do these things and still sit down to a family meal. Cheryl feels that being in public school and trying to follow these passions would make for a chaotic, stress-filled family, the exact opposite of her dream.
When I spoke to Cheryl, she wanted to emphasize how wonderful homeschooling has been for their family. Even though she doesn’t have the cancer to worry about anymore, they continue to homeschool because she feels homeschooling will help her children to grow up as “whole people” with family at their core. Cheryl and Marco both share in the teaching duties, which gives them both quality time to be with their girls.
So if you are sitting at your kitchen table and making your list of pros and cons, take Cheryl’s advice and put family life at the top of your pro list. A family meal together beats the stress and chaos of juggling school, activities, and homework any day.
~Robin Martin enjoys an eclectic style of homeschooling with her youngest, teenage son. You can read about their homeschooling adventures on her blog, Martinzoo. Robin also volunteers as editor of the VaHomeschoolers blog, VaHomeschoolers Connection.