Michaela is Mom to Lily (11), Collin (8) and Myra (10 mo) and she’s also a full-time teacher, but not in the sense you’re probably envisioning. Michaela does something I could never do but have admittedly been thinking more and more about in the midst of all of this year’s school shootings, she homeschools!
When I reached out to Michaela to see if she’d be interested in talking with me about her journey to and through homeschooling, I didn’t know her very well. I mean, she was practically a stranger but she was the only homeschooler I knew and I was so curious to know more that I couldn’t not ask. And when she responded with “Fuck yes!” and suggested we meet up for drinks, I knew it was meant to be.
We met up a little after 8pm at one of my favorite dive bars on a Wednesday and stayed out until the early morning hours discussing motherhood, homeschooling, public schools, the weight of making huge decisions on behalf of our kids and everything in between. It was awesome and I’m so excited to share.
How did you grow up? What type of school did you attend?
I grew up in small towns and went to public schools and graduated from a public school. I graduated a year after Seth.
Okay, yes! I knew you weren’t in his class but that you were close in age. Back then, were you familiar with other types of schooling?
I knew a guy who went to Catholic school and I did have a homeschooler who use to sit by me in choir in 7th & 8th grade. She was funny and really kind and at the time I wondered why she didn’t come to other classes with us.
Did that play a role in your homeschooling at all? I mean, that seems a little young for it to be a factor but as your first experience?
No, not at all. When I went to cosmetology school later, I did meet another homeschooler and honestly, they seemed no different than any of my peers or public school friends. They were just typical teenagers; they weren’t the anti-social weirdos that society sort of makes them out to be. They were normal kids.
But really when my two oldest were younger, three and under one, I desperately wanted them to go where I grew up. So, I didn’t have this in mind at all. I had the wonderful memories and small town comfort and I really wanted that for them too.
Yes! Okay. There is such a stigma around homeschooled kids and the parents who choose to homeschool. Obviously you had good encounters and you’re homeschooling now. When did that become the plan? Because I know Collin and Lily were previously in public school, right?
Right. When my two oldest were younger, around three and under one, I desperately wanted them to go where I grew up. So, I didn’t have this in mind at all. I had the wonderful memories and small town comfort and I really wanted that for them too.
Homeschooling became a fairly forced situation, to be honest. I had toyed with the idea before but I’m a lover of public schools and most teachers, and I never had any reason to act on those thoughts. But things change and parenting is really fucking hard.
We had a trauma happen in our family and we had to re-evaluate what we were doing and we decided to redirect the needs of one child away from the stresses that public school was causing, in addition to the effects of the trauma. I had to do what I thought was best for my kids and that was homeschooling. Is it our permanent solution? No. Not because it’s not a good option for education, but because it’s not the best option for my kids needs. And when we venture back to public school and homeschool was needed later, I’d absolutely do it again
When you have a child who suffers from issues atypical to other children in his class – possibly caused by a school-related trauma – that are getting in the way of his ability to learn in a standardized classroom, you want to help them. It really came down to protecting my kids and ensuring their love for education wasn’t tainted; suddenly pulling my kids [out of public school] became ‘not so crazy;.
And in turn, our decision to homeschool allowed us the ability to move back from Colorado and find a new home while continuing the kids’ education without any larger hurdles.
Jesus. What a rollercoaster! I’m so sorry. I firmly believe you always have to do what’s right for you kid, whether it’s uncomfortable or whatever it might be. We’re their advocates, they have no one else!
But let’s go back to before homeschooling. You mentioned your love for small towns and public schools. Back then, what did your thought process look like?
With public school I just let the teachers do their thing. Now, holy shit, it’s a lot of pressure. I basically read SO MANY ARTICLES. I went nuts on statistics and different educational theories. I had gotten rid of Facebook and I regret that so much because not only did I lose all of my historical data and pictures, I was missing out on a large support system. Facebook groups are my best friends anymore. I have met so many awesome homeschooling moms and parents. They’re not nuts like I was worried they might be and they’re great assets to have. I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “hiring out” their education to more qualified people. Like, right now we tutor for math because…fuck math.
AMEN. I’m fucking terrible at math. I took basic algebra four times. Four fucking times. And it was worthless. But that’s besides the point, so what’s your favorite thing about homsechooling.
We are the closest we’ve ever been. Maybe it was the trauma, maybe it’s just homeschooling. Our relationships are incredibly tight knit and I don’t foresee us losing that now. I will look back on this experience with such a full heart later on.
And if there was one thing you could change?
I wish we were loaded. Homeschooling isn’t cheap; if we were loaded I might just homeschool forever – probably not, but maybe? And I wish I had more balance. It’s pretty obvious that I literally take no time for myself these days. You can probably tell via my 500 texts, I look for reasons to get out of the house.
I don’t homeschool and some days I am the same way. I could never do what you do.
But you know, I also think about the the cons of public school. A one-size-fits-all education plan doesn’t work for everyone. Opposite that, the big con of homeschooling is the pressure of their education falling on your shoulders.
I can’t even begin to imagine.
Homeschooling has helped us get through a difficult time and I’m thankful for that.
So, what’s next for you?
We do intend on starting public school again in the fall and we’re currently house hunting in certain school districts that will fit our particular needs. There are a lot of benefits of public school: making friends you see everyday, learning from the perspective of others, dealing with issues on your own to help you toward adulthood, which I know a lot of my homeschool friends have figured out how to replicate. I just haven’t been as successful.
Homeschooling offers a personalized education, more hands on learning situations, the ability to follow your interests more specifically, more time together but I think the kids are ready for the right public school as well as a consistent routine. We get to take random days off whenever it’s needed!
That sounds like an awesome perk!
Yes, it’s great! But I’m ready for a break and I’m optimistic about the public schools here.
Ok. last question! What’s your advice for new or first-time parents out there who are just entering this phase and might be at a standstill on choosing an education pathway or a community for their kids?
You won’t fit in everywhere. There are school districts that are important to me because I know their special education departments are stellar and my son will likely need these services for occupational therapy. I also want my kids to experience diversity, if we can find a damn house, so that plays a role in where we live. If homeschooling were a question, I’d say it’s not for every kid or parent and it shouldn’t be forced. Though the benefits are amazing and I do not regret it but it’s still a huge responsibility to consider.
Michaela, you are such a light and I’m so grateful to have been able to sit down and talk to you. If anyone wants to follow Michaela’s awesome and V real journey, go HERE to her blog, Tighed Up, and check it out; it’s interesting and endearing and so amazing.