Homeschooling. It’s amazing how a topic can evoke such a vast array of responses from different people. Homeschoolers often dread the possibility of the topic coming up in casual conversation with those who choose more traditional schooling options for fear of being judged, stereotyped, or misunderstood. And non-homeschoolers often seem to be unsure of how to respond when someone does say, “We homeschool.” Some people are critical, others are genuinely curious, and a few are horrified. The thing is, homeschooling has evolved so much recently that most people don’t even know the vast spectrum that homeschooling entails anymore. There’s road-schooling, un-schooling, world-schooling, classical education, child-led learning, traditional schooling, internet schooling, unit studies, eclectic… the list goes on and on.
Every family has their own reasons behind the choices they make for their children and their families as a whole. And, what works for one family is not always the best fit for another. We are all so wonderfully and uniquely created and those individual personalities each play a part in developing the overall personality of the family unit. For our family, homeschooling is a wonderful choice and our decision is the result of numerous factors.
I first started researching and considering homeschooling while I was pregnant with our oldest child. At the time, I was teaching at a public high school and I loved it. I had always thought that I would teach until I retired. And then my due date drew closer and closer. And I wasn’t sure it was going to be as easy as I had thought to leave my baby every day. And I wasn’t so sure I wanted her to lose the love of learning that I saw so many of my students had lost years before they stepped foot into my classroom. And I wasn’t so sure I wanted my kids to be subjected to the bullying I saw every. single. day. It’s amazing how becoming a parent can change your perspective on so many things. And so I researched. Because I am type A through and through.
Well, next thing I knew, I was cradling my newborn in my arms and enjoying my maternity leave and adjusting to this new stage of life and trying to figure out this whole mom thing. And then maternity leave was over. I had to go back to work. I was both excited to return to my classroom and students and sad to leave my child. I was so blessed, though, to have a great friend that I trust with all my heart to leave my baby with because I was leaving my heart with her every day. But, it was still hard. Luckily, summer vacation was close and soon, I was back home with my baby again. But I knew I would need to go back tot work in the fall. There was no way we could afford for me not to work. And so, I taught for three more years.
I loved teaching but I also longed to be with my children (our second child was born two years after our first). I continued to witness things in the public school that reaffirmed my desire to homeschool. And then, our life was completely different in an instant. A rapid series of events had us moving to a completely different state and provided us with the opportunity for me to stay home with all three of our kids (I found out we were pregnant with surprise #3 while I was packing up the house and preparing for our move).
By this time, I had already started some “homeschooling” in that my oldest was naturally curious and has always had a desire to learn. So, we would do some fun activities that taught her numbers, letters, shapes, colors, and writing. But, we weren’t officially homeschooling yet. She was only 3, after all. But then, I knew. We would be a homeschooling family. And here is why:
I knew I wanted to instill in my children a love for learning, encourage their natural curiosity, and help them to think critically and independently. Because of the fit-in-the-box expectations of school systems, the difficulty of catering to 30 different personalities in the same classroom, the pressure to perform well on standardized tests, and all the regulations and coming from the top down, that love for learning often dies and dread of school takes its place. At home, we can go on tangents when the kids have questions about something we are learning, we can put down the books and go outside to look for the pants we are reading about, or jump in the car for an impromptu field trip to the museum to dig deeper and learn more. And it’s always fun! And the kids want to ask questions and learn more. We don’t have to worry about whether it’s going to be on the test or not. We don’t have to worry that it’s going to take too much time and we won’t be able to finish the curriculum by the end of the year. We are always learning and “doing school” no matter where we are or what we are doing because learning is a part of experiencing life.
I also know exactly what they are learning, and in what context, so I am able to help them find answers to their questions and connect what we are learning to other things we encounter on a daily basis. Instead of having them come home from school and being unsure of how best to help them with their homework because I don’t know what they discussed in class that day, I can direct them to work out the answers and problem solve and develop the skills to research and find the answers they are looking for so that they can become independent and learn how to find the answers to their questions on their own rather than look for a simplistic answer out of a textbook, and then relate what they discovered back to the lessons we have been working on.
And, I’m not thrown for a loop when they come back struggling with hard topics that they came across in a text book or in a story they read in class, wondering what the context was or how it was discussed in the classroom. When we read or hear about or witness death, bullying, racism, suicide, war, etc., we can pause and really talk through it and I can help them process it and hopefully they will develop healthy understandings of these topics and they will develop a strong and loving character that will speak up and battle injustices rather than participate in such actions or stand with the masses cheering or recording while these things along with their peers.
Schools are not what they were when I was a kid. It is amazing to me how much younger kids are being exposed to things. The amount of bullying that happens, the younger students are that are getting pregnant, the amount of drugs found in schools. There are so many negative influences. And, especially when children are young, it has a significant affect on their character. I hope that my children will be kind, stand up against injustice, be respectful, be responsible, be charitable. These virtues are easier to instill when I can encourage them to practice this all day long, model it for them, and create situations where they can put these lessons into action by having them volunteer with me at places like the homeless shelter or the animal rescue or by helping someone we see who has a need.
Now, some critics of homeschooling argue that homeschoolers are socially awkward and sheltered and that kids need to be in public schools in order to be socialized. The truth is that you will find socially awkward and sheltered/reserved people everywhere, even in public schools. That has far more to do with the personality of the child (or adult) than where they received their education. I met plenty of awkward, shy kids in public schools during my teaching years. My kids are some the friendliest and most outgoing people I know, despite the fact that their mother is an introvert 🙂 They will talk to absolutely anyone. They love playing with their friends at co-op, children of our friends, and the neighborhood children along the street (after those children get off the bus at 4 pm and only if they don’t have homework).
I love that no mater what we are learning, my kids can always ask how that relates to what we believe. In school, questions related to faith would not be allowed or they would be quickly brushed aside, or would possibly be answered in a way that incorrectly reflects our beliefs. And, most likely, they would end up being ridiculed or shamed, possibly by a teacher, probably by other students. At home, they can ask absolutely any question they would like without fear of judgement and when we come across something in a lesson that does not line up with what we believe, we can take the time to stop, analyze it, and discuss it. It is my hope that my children will not just follow some idea or some person blindly but truly analyze and understand exactly why they believe what they choose to believe and make it their own and know why they have chosen not to believe other things. There is not freedom for these types of discussions in public schools.
This is probably one of the biggest reasons we homeschool. It is also one of the biggest perks to homeschooling. We get to determine our schedule every day. When we first started homeschooling, my husband’s work often took him away from home for weeks at a time. Sometimes he would come home from a trip at 11 pm and then be gone by 6 am the next day for another couple weeks. Sometimes he would have a few days at home before taking off for anywhere between two days and two weeks. And, occasionally he would have a whole week or two at home.
If our children were in school, they would hardly know who their father is because they would be in school almost the entire time whenever he would be home. With homeschooling, we get to decide our vacation days so, when daddy was home, we would do little or no “school” and instead go on family walks, go to the park together, or go somewhere special like to visit relatives or to the children’s museum or the zoo.
Now, Brandon is home every day but he gets up for work at 1 am, gets home around noon, and is in bed by 6 pm. If the kids didn’t get home from school until 4 like the neighbor kids, we would basically have dinner as a family and that is it. Instead, we do our schooling in the morning and/or evenings and spend time together as a family in the afternoons. Since we don’t have to worry about 30 different kids, travel time in the hallway to get from class to class, etc., we are able to cover more material in a shorter time which means our “school day” is shorter while we cover as much or more in our lessons. The kids don’t have to get on a bus at 6 am and arrive back home at 4 pm. At this age, we can finish our lessons in a couple hours a day (or less) and have the rest of the day for hands-on activities, exploring outside, field trips, and playing. As they get older, we will need to spend more time on lessons, but, even so, we will still have plenty of day left for other things. I can also give my kids breaks whenever they need them and have them play and run for a bit which helps them come back ready to concentrate and learn rather than be stuck fidgeting at a desk all day long.
We also school year round because we are always learning. We take “days off” when it works for our family and are able to take advantage of the quiet zoos, museums, parks, beaches, etc. and avoid ginormous crowds which is a major plus to homeschooling 🙂
Homeschooling fits really well into our family goals. Brandon and I are working really hard at becoming debt free. We are also working on becoming 100% self-employed and self sufficient, which leads to so much freedom. Freedom to travel and explore the world, freedom to experience things as a family, and freedom to invest in our children. We want to instill in our children a love for learning, a love for life, a love for family and others, and the ability to think for themselves and take care of themselves. What better way to teach these things than through life experiences? If they were in school all day, we wouldn’t have as much opportunity to teach them how to grow their own food, how to repair their own car, how to use their money wisely, how to store, preserve, and prepare food, how to build their own furniture, how to manage a business… the list goes on and on. Sure, we could teach one or two of these topics well but we wouldn’t have enough time to teach them all and they certainly wouldn’t receive the same amount of hands on experience. And there is no way we would be able to expose them to all the places and cultures that we hope they will be able to visit and learn from first hand. We would probably be put in jail for exceeding the allowed number of absences in the public school system. Instead of absences, they will be learning each and every day and all of those experiences will count as school.
Some people think homeschooling is expensive – and it can be! But public school can be just as expensive, if not more so. And let’s not even get started on the cost of private schools! It is easily possible to homeschool for free or you can just as easily spend a ton of money. It all depends on your personal preferences and your homeschooling goals. There are amazing resources online – all free – that can get you from preschool all the way through graduation. The library is also a homeschooler’s best friend. And, you can re-use curriculum for each child which saves money.
It is easy to get excited about all the awesome homeschooling resources – the curriculums, co-cops, educational tools, etc. – available but they are not necessary and you only have to spend the amount of money you really want to. Public schools are “free” but by the time you buy the backpacks (generally a new one every year), the school clothes (I only buy clothes when my kids have outgrown the ones they’re in and it’s usually from a garage sale), classroom supplies from the list provided by the teacher/school (a separate list for each child), school lunches or special items to pack in your kids’ lunches (we generally do leftovers and water in our house for lunch), special snacks for the whole class, field trips, fund raisers, special events, gifts/snacks for class parties… the dollars really start adding up! For us, it is much less expensive to homeschool and homeschooling fits very comfortably into our budget.
These are just a few of the reasons why we homeschool. Overall, homeschooling is a great fit for our family, especially in this season of our life. It may not be the best fit for everyone as each family has their own style and their own needs, but we love it. What about you? What has influenced your schooling choices?