Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom

It is no secret that I love homeschooling. That doesn’t, however, make me opposed to traditional schools. One of my major concerns during sixteen years teaching at home was, “Am I causing my children to miss out on Mrs. Richman?”

Mrs. Richman was my fifth-grade teacher. Our class full of easily bored and, hence, mischievous kids adored her. We worked harder in her class than for any other teacher. She introduced us to Shakespeare, setting us passages to memorize that I still remember. We honed our writing skills and in eighth grade I submitted a composition I had written for my fifth-grade class, and received an ‘A’ on it. She loved Greek mythology which, years later, led me to take classes in Greek and Roman classics in college.

I wish I could remember her teaching methods; all I know is that I looked forward to school every day and I credit Mrs. Richman with instilling in me a love of learning.  Our class and she partnered so well together that the next year she moved up a grade with us. Since as sixth-graders we now worked under a departmental system, she was only our English language teacher, but that subject remained a favorite.

I have no idea what Mrs. Richman’s politics were, if there was a  Mr. Richman and if they had children. I knew little personal data about her. She must have been old because as a fledgling teacher she had taught my father. She was a smoker, something we knew from seeing her on the street as we left the school building. She was a New York Mets’ fan, taking our class to a game one day and making us into diehard Mets’ fans for two years. Other than that, with the self-centeredness of youth, as far as we were concerned her life revolved around us. Mrs. Richman died shortly after school closed the summer after sixth grade, leaving a legacy of stimulated students behind her. 

What if, by teaching my own kids at home, I was depriving them of their own Mrs. Richman? I was fortunate to attend a wonderful school for both elementary and high school, and I had many good and very good teachers. There were one or two poor ones, but they were few and far between. As a teaching mother, I felt that I could equal them (sometimes doing the job very well, well or poorly) but not Mrs. Richman.

Over the years I resolved that concern. How I did so remains for another Practical Parenting post.

6 thoughts on “Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom”

  1. I re-read this post and the comments to my husband. He and I have a number of different friends who have homeschooled their children. We noticed that many of these friends did do the same things each year, but not our family.

    In fact, part of my insecurity came from the flexible way that we had been teaching and it turned out to be of great benefit to our younger two children. We have three children: the eldest daugther was an only child until the age of eight, and then we had our middle daughter and son fifteen months apart. They’re a bit like twins and our middle daughter once said that they are “post-gestational twins.” She was being funny because they were constantly asked if they were twins, and they’re supportive of one another.

    Our family lived in South Korea for a year when our eldest was in a private university in the Seattle area. Our eldest had been in the public school system (K-12). We learned a great deal from that experience, and then we chose to home educate the younger two children. We’re college educated, but I attended university while married and pregnant with our younger two. I received my own degree after having worked for six years in office occupations mainly involving billing and collections in medical-related office settings (pulmonary disease specialist, x-ray sales and service, dentist, urologist, general practitioner; of which a couple were within the same group.)

    I then chose to stay-at-home after serioulsy considering the pursuit of a PhD in Economics, and I have never regretted my decision. I think that I likely know more on the topic today than if I had pursued that higher degree. For example, I’ve learned the advanced math at home using open source materials offered by an MIT professor alongside my son (who’s now 20 and is working on the launch of a computer program.)

    Flexibility is a benefit of the home education experience. One can tailor the child’s studies for maximum usefulness. Closer family relationships are created within this structure as well. Wise adults know that they they have a certain period of time with their growing children.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear L.J.,
      It takes courage to realize (and to act upon this realization) that nobody cares as much about your children as you! Well done.

  2. My “Mrs. Richmans” were a few teachers, and some life experiences. I also had an insecurity that vanquished later about educating my children at home. We had moved and I still had two of my three children at home. After researching options, I chose to access a new online Public Schooling pilot program that was funded through the state. My middle daughter and son accomplished their 8th grade year completely online and it went well for them. They had a fantastic English teacher in this program. We then chose to home educate once again. It also gave me a much needed break during the year following our move.

    1. Flexibility is one of the benefits of homeschooling. I guess some people like knowing that they use the same things each year, but I liked assessing each year (and sometimes within a year) on its own.

  3. You are your children’s “Mrs. Richman” . If we had children, years ago, I would have home schooled. I am sure you and Rabbi Lapin are tremendously inspirational to your children. Especially with your mixed continent parenting!

    1. That’s sweet of you to say, and we have our strengths, but, as I’ll write in a future post, there are Mrs. Richmans outside of schoolteachers or parents.

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