The Woods Academy is two-thirds finished with its third academic year (not that I’m counting down the weeks or anything). I can’t believe that I have almost completed 3 years of homeschooling and I have neither duct taped my kids to their chairs nor resorted to any controlled substances to maintain my sanity. I’m kidding…sort of. <Sigh> Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, not for anyone, anywhere, but particularly in Hong Kong, where academics is worshipped like a god. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure placed on going to the right schools, then having the right tutors, then participating in the right activities. It’s a grind and the kids are dumped into it when they are just barely toddlers.
We began homeschooling in the U.S. before we moved to Hong Kong, not in anticipation of the move (we started before we knew we were moving), but for a lot of reasons which are a little too complex to describe in this post. When we learned we were moving to Hong Kong, we decided to keep an open mind about putting the kids back into conventional school. The schools in Hong Kong have an excellent reputation internationally. Plus, we thought, the kids could benefit from the cultural experience of going to school in a foreign country. Ultimately, we decided against dropping them into a local school and continued with homeschooling.
Homeschooling is quite uncommon in Hong Kong and when you tell people (even “western” expats) that our children are homeschooled, I immediately get a look like I have grown 3 heads. I remember one time I was talking to an Irish fellow who was a teacher at an international school. He asked me where my kids went to school. When I told him I homeschooled them, his eyes widened and he said to me in his thick Irish accent, “I admire you Americans. You aren’t afraid to just take charge and do what you want to do. In Ireland, people would be afraid to do such a thing, thinking it was against the rules or something.” I looked at him oddly and said, “oh, I’m not trying to be a rebel or anything. I just think it’s best for my children.”
I usually don’t get that kind of reaction, though. Mostly it goes something like this:
“What do you mean you homeschool your kids?” “Do you mean YOU teach them?” “Do you have teaching experience?” “What do you teach them?” Where do you get your curriculum?” And then there’s the uber popular “But what about their social development???!!!!” Oh so much concern for the social development of my children. Those who ask such questions obviously do not socially interact with my children much. Their social abilities are just fine, especially my daughter who is at ease (and almost prefers) holding conversations with adults and to a lesser extent, my son, who charms just about everyone he meets in an instant.
As counter-culture as homeschooling is in Hong Kong, I have slowly developed such a wonderful network of both local and expat families who are bravely, but discretely, bucking the system. I’m especially intrigued by the local families who grew up in the Hong Kong education system (and who, I might add, were extremely successful in that system), but are now turning away from it. It’s curious to me and also inspiring. They recognize the failures of a “one size fits all” paradigm (notwithstanding their personal successes within it) and the needless oppression it can place on children.
We are part of a Christian homeschool group that is through our church, Island ECC. I am so grateful for the gift of friendship of these lovely ladies!
Each of us slogs it out daily teaching our children not only academics, but more importantly Christian discipleship. It can be ugly and messy and I haven’t met a homeschool mom yet who pretends her days are filled with crafts, baking cookies and doing fun science experiments. Although now I will show you the edible cell that we did on one of our Science Fridays.
And our field trip to plant rice
And OK, I guess we do a little crafting…sometimes
What’s great about our homeschool group is that we are all painfully aware of how difficult all of this is. In my opinion, there is nothing more revealing of the condition of my own heart than homeschooling. It can truly be an instrument of His sanctification. So, we encourage one another, provide advice and support and most importantly, we pray for one another. I love how we pray for one another and for our children, our husbands and families.
For the record, I am not one of those homeschool moms who loves, loves homeschooling my kids. I enjoy the time I get to spend with them (usually) and I am proud of the work they produce (most of the time). But I am quite sure I am one of the most boring homeschool moms out there. I stick closely to the scripted curricula because I’m too fearful of missing something and too creatively challenged and pooped to come up with anything original.
Despite all the tears (and there have been buckets of tears shed by both me and Benjy), gray hairs (which are multiplying by the day if they haven’t already been torn out) and feelings of inadequacy and failure, we press forward because we believe that He has called us to it. Most of the homeschool moms I know feel this way. We die to self each day because it’s what we are called to do. “For [the Lord’s] power is made perfect in weakness….For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I am reminded of this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”