Before we adopted our first child, I had never heard of homeschooling. We assumed any child of ours would have the typical public school experience.
But when our daughter was born, I went from being completely immersed in my career as an attorney to being completely smitten with this beautiful little girl. It became more and more difficult for me to split my worlds between practicing law and the blessed experience of motherhood.
The decision to choose one over the other became easier when I gave birth to a biological child a mere 17 months later. Now we had two kids in diapers, two kids drinking bottles and a more than doubly complicated life.
Something had to give.
When my husband accepted a job in Wheaton, Illinois — some 80 miles away — I chose to lay down the law and became a full-time mother to my two little girls.
I loved almost everything about being home with the girls. The library trips and stacks and stacks of books around the house were common. The girls were curious, learned easily, and were sources of great fun.
We didn't really call it preschool — but in retrospect, that was what we did. Their lively minds and incessant questions challenged me, but I loved it.
In those early years, I met and befriended a mom with several children. When she told me she homeschooled them, I became interested in the idea. My kids, who were about 5 and 4 at that point, were already reading. Where was the risk?
When my oldest daughter turned kindergarten age, I was fraught with conflict. Things at home were going well and my children's education seemed as natural as breathing. What was really the best choice for her?
After reading many books and meeting more homeschooling families, I decided on our path. While homeschooling life was more stressful, the kids were close to one another, the parents were able to infuse their faith into their studies, and the families seemed happy. It seemed like a logical extension of being an involved parent.
Our first years of homeschooling were filled with books, science experiments, nature studies, exposure to the arts, and satisfying writing experiences. We had no major problems with math, or indeed any subject, because if one approach didn't work we simply tried another.
Our family grew. We adopted two more children from Korea. They each arrived a couple of years apart at 5 months of age and brought us great joy. The prospect of educating four children seemed initially daunting, but we knew we would figure it out.
These initial experiences prepared us for the challenges ahead. Teaching two inquisitive little girls taught me to be organized, flexible, and open to "doing school" in a way I had definitely not experienced in my years in Catholic and public school.
As our last two children grew, we observed challenging behavior as well as cognitive deficits. Child number three had significant learning issues as well as inattentive ADHD. Child number four had minor learning issues and swinging-from-the-chandelier hyperactive ADHD. I took courses and read (and wrote!) books about how to teach kids who learn differently.
The individual attention they received, as well as the therapeutic teaching techniques I learned, allowed them to grow and thrive.
As the older kids reached high school graduation, my husband got cancer. At the same time, our oldest daughter began to exhibit mental health issues. This coincidence of life events made our home pretty chaotic for many years.
The first two girls graduated from homeschool high school. We belonged to a fairly large support group and they had a very meaningful ceremony with a dozen or more kids and a commencement speech given by a senator. It became clear the choice to homeschool, which we thought we'd do for all the kids, was not the best choice for this season of life. The younger two entered school in the fourth and sixth grades. They have done well, which I believe is due to the intensive one-on-one tutoring I was able to provide them during our years of learning at home.
Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat.
Our unique constellation of needs made homeschooling a logical choice for my kids. The older kids were able to learn at their own pace and explore a wide variety of interests. The younger two kids got more individual attention than they would have gotten in any other setting. No one was stigmatized or labeled.
Homeschooling is not for everyone — but it is a perfect fit for some. It is a legal, flexible, joyous way to raise your kids, for however long you can do it. Those years, once gone, are gone. I have no regret for how I invested my hours.
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