First of all, thank you all for your good and thoughtful comments. There were comments on both sides of the question, but they were all so gracious. Which is amazing. I mean, homeschooling is one of those internet-conflagration topics - almost as bad as disputing the greenhouse effect, advocating epidurals and telling people what you really think about extended breastfeeding. I mean, it's even almost as incendiary as insisting that Star Trek is better than Star Wars (DS9 forever!) So thank you so much for all your kind and helpful words.
The problem is, I would read one comment talking about how wonderful homeschool was for the commentator's family and find myself thinking, "yes, yes - days at home, learning beautiful things!" But then I'd read another comment talking about the virtues of public schooling and thinking, "yes, yes - I would never have grown in my faith as I did unless it had been tested!"
So . . . I'm still just a bit on this here fence.
What I am slowly coming to realize two things:
1) This might be one of those things where I have permission from the Lord to make the choice myself. My mother-in-law told me once that after seeking the will of God earnestly, when she was obeying Him whole-heartedly, that sometimes He would answer her question of, "what do you want me to do?" with the answer, "Well, what do you want to do?"
In other words, when we are obeying our good Father, He sometimes, like a good father, lets us make our own decisions, knowing that we are capable of choosing well in that particular instance. I'm not sure yet, but this seems like it might be one of those instances for me.
2) The decision of whether or not to keep Bess home for kindergarten is just that: the decision of whether to keep Bess home for kindergarten. I'm not making the decision of whether we will be a homeschooling family or a public school family forever and ever amen. Rather, for this child, and for this year, what would be best?
I don't need to think about whether Gamgee will go to kindergarten in two years, or how Lucy and Anna would do in public high school. I just need to think about whether, in September, it would be better for Bess to be at home or not. That narrows things down considerably, and seems, to me, to be a much more manageable decision.
So, do I think it would be good for Bess to stay home this fall? I don't know. But I am leaning towards saying "yes", for a couple of reasons.
First, this past year has been one of upheaval for our family. Half of us were hospitalized, we dealt with infant twins (I really think there's no way to express, in print, what an all-encompassing exhaustion comes with twinfancy), we moved, we were in RSV quarantine. It was, in all, a good year, but I do feel that, in some ways, Bess missed out on a year at home. We just weren't able to do a lot of the things we wanted to do. I feel like she could really benefit from one more year - a full, good year - at home, getting a solid foundation in the love of her family. The idea of having a whole year as the six of us sounds so good, so right, so wholesome.
The second reason - and it almost isn't a second reason, just more of the first - is emotional and spiritual readiness. My mom reminded me that I started kindergarten late; she and my dad sent me the year after I qualified to attend. And it was a really good decision. She opined that I just wasn't emotionally ready the year I turned five, and I think she's right - especially judging from how much I liked kindergarten when I did go. And I surely didn't regret turning 18 my senior year - it was fun to be able to sign myself out of school that last semester! All the research echoes my own experience: it's not a bad thing to be one of the older kids in your grade.
Also, if we wanted, we could keep Bess home this next year, and send her to first grade the year after, as kindergarten isn't compulsory in California. I'm kind of leaning towards this. I'm not worried about her academically (she's already got the first half of the kindergarten curriculum under her belt, according to CA education standards, and I don't think the second half would be hard to cover this year), and that would let her start school when she was emotionally and socially ready.
If I do send her to public school, and I still think we will at some point, I want her to go in thoroughly grounded in her faith and in the love of her family. Public school works for Christian kids when their home life is their home base, when that is where they feel they really belong and are really from. With this past year being what it is, I kind of think Bess could use an extra year developing that internal solidity.
On a slightly different note, I've been asked what my husband thinks about this. The answer is, being the rational man he is, Adam has basically said that it's up to me - ha! No, really, in his words, "I'm not the one who'd have to homeschool her." I love my husband.
Really, though, he had a less positive public school experience than I did, but we agree that both public school and homeschool can be done well and that both can be done poorly. He thinks our kids could do well in either environment, and is willing to start the experiment either way. For my fellow Vorkosigan fans, you can sum up his attitude in Emperor Gregor's tolerant phrase: "Let's see what happens."
Indeed. Let's see what happens.
For now, I'm still getting the paperwork and medical exams done, so we can register Bess if we want to, and we'll be going to the kindergarten open house in a couple of weeks, to get a better feel for our options. And I'm going to keep researching homeschool. And praying. And listening.
And I'll keep you updated. Thank you, again, for all the helpful comments. Though we're still not sure what we're going to do, it's so encouraging to know how many other parents are out there, raising their kids (and teaching other people's kids) with so much wisdom and grace.
peace of Christ to you,