In response to the following homeschooling message board query:
"Does anyone feel sad about the good school things your child misses?"
My friend S., a wise unschooling mom of a fully-fledged adult daughter, calls this "FMS Syndrome" -- 'Fraid of Missing Something Syndrome. Then she points out that any time you make a choice, you're missing something. Have Cheerios for breakfast and you miss out on Froot Loops. Marry Bob and you miss out on marrying Bill. Homeschool and you miss out on school. That's how life works. You can't live your life regretting not having the things you didn't choose.
When I was on the threshold of declaring myself a homeschooling parent, I had similar concerns. At that point my only frame of reference was schooling, because I was schooled. So when I envisioned a homeschooled childhood, I envisioned something vague and intangible devoid of those school experiences. But I didn't really appreciate what would go into that void instead.
Now that I'm almost a decade into homeschooling, I can say with assurance that the instead stuff rocks, that schoolkids miss out on a heck of a lot. I can point to zillions of moments, experiences, connections, warm-fuzzies, relationships and adventures that my kids have had that school children could not possibly experience. Every once in a while I pull myself up short, look at what my kids are doing at a particular moment, and think "this is fantastic -- and there's no way this would be happening if they went to school"
To those who wax nostalgic about that sense of belonging to a grad year ... I wanted to say that I think that for all the sentimentality we formerly-schooled adults feel, it's pretty shallow stuff. It was the best we could do, to draw our sense of community identity from our grade-year. It was a contrived institutional pseudo-community, but it was all we had, and we made the best of it. In fact, we were so desperate for a sense of community that we elevated the 'grad class' identity and values to ridiculous and pretty meaningless heights. Sometimes, fortunately, real meaningful human connections formed that transcended the institutional pseudo-community. Not often, but fortunately sometimes.
My kids draw their sense of identity from deep within themselves, from the real community they live in and from the real work and real connections they form over the long term with other children, adult friends and mentors. They don't need the arbitrary and contrived pseudo-community of agemates / grad year. What they have is very rich indeed. Instead.