When is Elle going to school? Where are you enrolling your little girl? Will your daughter go to preschool this year? I get these questions a lot from friends, family, and fellow moms at the playground. More often than I ever expected. But until now, I hadn’t settled on an answer. Usually, I’d stumble through a shy excuse, saying I was thinking that maybe, I guess, I was thinking of homeschooling — that I liked the idea of keeping my daughter home, but hadn’t yet decided.
No one was ever outwardly disapproving when I said this, but most responses were tepid. It’s clear that there’s still a stigma around homeschooling, and those closest to me weren’t afraid to push back a bit. A family member said she doubted home schooled kids’ ability to get into college. One friend argued that Elle wouldn’t get the socialization she needs. Soon, their doubts fed mine.
For one thing, I worried I wouldn’t do a good job as an instructor. I freelance for a living so I’m home all day with time to spare, but I realize that just because a parent can homeschool, doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Teaching doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Plus, it’s true that Elle probably wouldn’t socialize as much in our homeschooling as she would in a crowded classroom. But I kept coming back to the idea of teaching her myself, mostly because I’ve long been terrified of school shootings.
I was 8 years old when the Columbine tragedy happened and, even though it occurred far from my California home, I was deeply affected. Every time another shooting hit the news cycle, I’d have to take the day off school or work. My chest would hurt for a week, and I’d find myself crying when watching the news. I’d lay awake in bed at night, picturing stores and restaurants I liked, going through emergency exit routes in my head.
Granted, my worry isn’t always gun-specific. I’m no stranger to anxiety, and while I try to manage it, my nerves often get the better of me. I know planes are generally safe, but I avoid them as much as possible. I worry about car accidents, so I do my best to be home before dark. I don’t want anxiety to control my life, but it’s hard.
My biggest hesitation about homeschooling isn’t that she won’t get a good education or won’t have enough social opportunities; it’s that I’d be robbing her of an experience just to accommodate my own irrational fears. I also worry that not signing my daughter up for public school will feed my anxiety, eventually evolving into a ban from other things that are normal until they’re dangerous, like concerts or even friends’ houses.
I want to ignore my anxiety, send my daughter to school, and trust that gun violence is rare enough that my kid will be safe. I want to buy a little-kid backpack and lunch pail and, when I’m at the neighborhood park, I want to bond with other moms when we realize our kids will be in the same class. I started to think that preschool wouldn’t be that bad.
But then Uvalde happened, and I made a decision.
I’ve thought that my concern over school shooters was irrational, but now maybe it isn’t. After lots of tears watching the news and nights spent awake, I’m convinced the only thing irrational about the situation is that we’ve let this happen again and again. I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to homeschool my daughter, and I’m going to take it. I’m convinced that a lot of parents these days would do the same, if given the chance. Maybe I’m letting my anxiety win, but I don’t care. At least not now.
So, in the fall, Elle won’t be heading to preschool. She and I will sit at the kitchen table and study numbers and letters and read stories. And every so often, I’ll lean over and give my child a hug, thinking of those parents who can’t.
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