After a week of staring with horror at the painfully young faces of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, people who never thought they were homeschool parents are looking at it, many for the first time. They're wondering if it would keep their children safe and stop tragedy from happening in their own families.
This immediate emotional response makes perfect sense. Parents send their children off to school and understand there to be a sort of sacred trust, i.e. "We will entrust you with our beloved children, and you will teach them and send them back to us." It is part of what compounds the horror of the massacre, this sanctuary was violated and the trust was broken. Which leaves the question "What do we do now?" If the schools are, as we fear, no longer a haven of safety for our children and security for us all, what do we do? Is it time for parents to begin homeschooling in order to keep their children safe?
Maybe, but maybe not.
While the images from Connecticut are gut-wrenching, the reality is that school shootings are exceedingly rare. The possibility of this horror being replayed in other elementary schools is miniscule. The vast majority of children will never experience this kind of violence anywhere, except for on the evening news, in their lifetimes. While the knee-jerk reaction of many parents was that to keep them home would be to keep them safe, I'm not convinced that it's necessary.
Fear alone is not, in my opinion, a sufficient reason to take on the Herculean task of educating a child at home. The energy caused by the adrenaline rush of panic might be enough to carry you through withdrawing your children from school. It might even hold you through a few weeks of lessons, but that kind of frantic zeal burns out...and then what? What is the plan for when that happens? Will you continue teaching them at home, or will you be re-enrolling them by April?
What fear can be good for, in this instance, is causing you to take a long look at the choices you have made for educating your children. Is traditional schooling the best choice for them? Is it the best choice for your family? Here's your chance to do some research and talk to people who are actually living this life. Have you ever met a homeschooling family? Do you have a clear picture in your mind of what it looks like to teach children in your home? Do you know where to go for resources, textbooks, and peer groups? Do you know any homeschoolers you could talk to and get help and advice? This is where you need to begin, not in reflexively yanking your children from their classrooms without a clear sense of direction or a plan for getting there.
As a veteran homeschooling mom, I would caution against making this important of a decision out of fear or grief. This is a choice best left for when you can think calmly and rationally. I know that you're scared by what happened to the First Graders at Sandy Hook, and this can look like the easy and safe solution to a lot of people. I know that keeping your children home and close appeals to the part of us which just wants to hold our babies and never let them go, but homeschooling is so much more than just keeping them safe. It's a commitment about which you should educate yourself, and a lifestyle you have to be willing to live, not just today but for months and years to come.
Is that something that interests you? If you even think "maybe", then you should give it some serious thought. Then reach out to the homeschoolers in your community or over the internet. Most of us welcome honest questions, and are willing to advise, counsel, and even point you in the right direction when we can. This can be a wonderful way to live and raise your family, and you can succeed at it, but you have to do it for the right reasons. I'm not convinced fear is one of them.