For the last year my husband and I have been discussing and debating education choices for our children, primarily our daughter. By the time she was two, most of my friends and family were asking when we would be sending her to preschool. I thought I had until she was at least four before I had to think about it. I quickly discovered that even the most reasonably preschool programs cost at least $100 a month, which is money that we just don’t have at this time. Registration begins in the spring; most the programs filling within weeks, if not days. While preschool isn’t necessary, this brought up the overall discussion of what kind of education we want to give our children. We both have reservations about public school and we can’t afford private school. Other options include hoping for the best in the lottery for the charter school or homeschooling.

I hadn’t really considered homeschooling much until last year when a friend started having preliminary meetings to form a home school co-op. While the organization hasn’t progressed forward significantly in the last year (our children are all preschool school age or younger and the woman heading it up just had another baby), the idea was one I could get on board with. The co-op would meet a few times a week (number of times per week and amount of time to be determined) allowing parents a break and children more interaction. We have had a few structured play dates that seemed to work well for the kids. Through the process of all of this I realized what it is I really want when it comes to my daughter’s education.

I want to be involved in her education, but I also want her to benefit from the wisdom and abilities of others. Learning a foreign language from a native or high level mathematics from someone with an advanced degree would be of huge benefit to her. I also need periodic breaks from my daughter for my own sanity and she needs the opportunity to interact with other children and adults. But at the same time I’m not willing to put her on the bus at 8 a.m. each morning and not see her again until 3 p.m. I find myself wondering what actually goes on during all of these hours. I know that educating in large groups takes a lot of time simply because of the sheer number of students. This means that, theoretically, a smaller group setting should get more done in less time. This would leave more time for creative pursuits, extra help in areas of weakness and extra challenge in areas of interest. Not to mention actual time outside exploring the world we are supposed to be learning about.

So I’m left with a few options. I can try to scrape the money together for preschool or try and schedule regular play dates with plenty of stimulating learning activities at home. For sure we will at least wait until she’s four before seriously pursuing preschool and in our state, you can home school informally until age 8, when you have to file paperwork with the district and begin providing proof of education. I find the whole process a little intimidating, yet I can’t let it go. The more I think about it, the more I feel that some kind of a home school / co-op hybrid education system is best for my children. Now I just have to figure out how to do it.