Our boys will be three years old and five years old in June. Yes, we homeschool, and not for religious reasons–we’re actually not a Christian family, and we are truly very accepting of all beliefs (or lack of). We enjoy the flexibility of homeschooling, the bond forming in our family, and how our boys are growing and shaping.
Based on some of the judgments by others–including family–I am sometimes left wondering about the choices we’ve made in raising our sons. We don’t force anything upon them. We encouraged our oldest to try taekwondo, and while he was very gifted at it he asked to take a break after 6 months of training because he was uncomfortable with it (namely the forced stretching and the sparring). We’re not sure if he’ll return to it, but we’ll support him no matter his decision.
At their very young ages, our boys love and are interested in martial arts, camping, fishing, wilderness, engineering, baseball, hockey, football, gardening, trains, construction, books, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, animals, bugs, birds, dancing, and archery. The only one of these that we’ve remotely pushed upon either of them was martial arts; our oldest showed our youngest some moves, and while they know how to defend themselves and some of the drills, they’re not interested in much of anything else to do with the art–at least right now.
As for their other interests, they got into those on their own and we went along with it. When we took them to an outdoor supply shop and an RV lot, they expressed interest in camping, fishing, and archery. Anytime either of the boys hear music–since they were around six months old–they start dancing and will even request that we play certain songs for them to dance to. My husband and I are football and hockey fans, so those interests were basically inherited by exposure, but their desire to learn baseball formed entirely on their own–we just bought the soft-strike T-balls, bat, and gloves so they could practice and play. Both boys perk up and take notice of and interest in airplanes, helicopters, trains, trucks, and construction sites (and my parents–their maternal grandparents–work in the construction field). For more than a year they’ve requested a place of there own in our yard so that they could grow vegetables and flowers, and now we have a garden that they help care for. Bandage Dad and one of their uncles are engineers, and both boys love museums and science centers. Since the boys were tiny we’ve read them books, and we make it a point to read at least one book, story, or book chapter every night before bed. The boys love the menagerie of animals, birds, and bugs attracted to our home and the canal behind our house, in addition to what they see at zoos, aquariums, and while camping.
We don’t feel it’s necessary to push or pry things onto them. Their interests are wide, and when they tell us about something they like or enjoy or are interested in, we pursue it with and for them. When I was little, I liked to dance, so my parents enrolled me in ballet. I’m not entirely sure why I quit, but I do know that I stopped when I was five or six…only to continue country line dancing (which I still do) and develop an enjoyment of instruments (namely the flute and piccolo, which I played for nine years). Bandage Dad was pressured into choir, ballroom dancing, and piano–all of which he disliked and quit as soon as he was able. He loved skiing, soccer, tennis, swimming, and hockey, which were hobbies he became interested in on his own.
As kids, we noticed how we felt when we were pushed into something and when we were allowed to do what and as we enjoyed. We wish that for our boys as well. We will support their decisions and introduce them to new things, but we decided a long time ago that we’d never push or pressure them into anything.
We have no plans of having them join a little league or softball team; we bought them bats, balls, and gloves because they tired of their plastic set and wanted to try something that felt more grown-up. If they become interested in joining a team, then we will let them, but we won’t drag them to try-outs because other parents have their kids in sports. Besides, baseball is something else that we get to do with them. And we have no intention of sending them off to camp or into Cub or Boy Scouts, especially when we love and enjoy camping, hiking, and fishing right alongside them and it gives us something more to do as a family.
We genuinely feel like we support their decisions and interests. We don’t push or influence what they do or take part in. We know plenty who would disagree with us and say we should get them into this club or that sport or what-have-you, as though kids can’t make decisions for themselves. Infants have the capability of deciding what music they respond to, what positions make them comfortable, and what foods they prefer. Kids–including toddlers–definitely have the ability and the right to choose what they like and want to do in terms of interests, sports, hobbies, and extracurriculars. It’s true that they don’t know what all is out there, but it’s our responsibility as parents and guardians to introduce things to them, not force them to like or do what we think they should.
As for homeschooling, this was and continues to be a unanimous decision among the four of us. Our boys get to learn how and what interests them and in what style of learning fits them (right now it’s learn-through-play), and daily we’re praised by strangers about our boys’ behavior and manners. Despite disapproval by others, we love the decisions we’ve made, and as long as our boys are safe, healthy, growing, and thriving, then we’ll continue along the course we’ve been on so far. No single method works the same way for any two families; our method is what works best for our family, and that’s what matters to us.