This week, Anna and I are going to share some of the reasons we’ve chosen to educate our children at home. I want to preface my post by saying that I know and respect many classroom educators, many of whom are close friends and family members. My decision to homeschool in no way is a protest against all classroom teachers (who have, I believe, a hard and often thankless job that requires creativity and toughness). With that said, here are a few of the reasons we homeschool:
I did public, private, and home schooling growing up, and I’ve volunteered or taught in all three settings as an adult, so I feel like I have a real perspective on all three options. Hands down, my favorite years were homeschooling. I retain the most and have the fondest memories from those years, and I’ve been looking forward to homeschooling my own kids since I was a pre-teen!
In high school, my AP European History teacher (a life-long public school teacher married to our public high school principal) commented on how today’s school system grew out of the factories of the industrial revolution—education is supposed to happen in 50 minute increments, with the days broken up by bells telling you to go to your next task. I’ll never forget my teacher asking what that had to do with learning.
People often ask me how I can focus on four different children of varying ages. Well, it’s much easier than trying to divide my attention between a classroom of 10-25 children of varying ability levels. When I taught 6th grade math and reading, my struggle was always to challenge my top students while teaching the lesson to the average ability kids and trying to keep the two lowest achievers from being totally lost. It’s a myth that a classroom full of kids approximately the same age can learn all subjects at the same pace—they’re all individuals with different strengths in different areas. Frankly, I think this aspect of my job is simpler than any classroom teacher’s!
I love spending time with my kids. It is exhausting but fills me with joy. I love having so much time to sit and read with them, color with them, and watch them play together. I get to have their best hours instead of sending them off during their most energetic part of the day and getting them back when they’re tired and crabby.
I believe that young children, particularly boys, learn by moving, touching, playing. Sitting at a desk in a classroom seven hours a day would severely limit my son’s education.
When I work one-on-one with my kids, I know exactly what they do or don’t understand. I get to see the thrill of comprehension each time they grasp a new concept, and I don’t need to sit them down to take a standardized test to know if they’re learning.
Homeschooling gives us the flexibility to go in depth into topics that particularly interest us. We use our curriculum as our foundation and follow rabbit trails whenever we want. For example, in preschool/kindergarten, I have my kids memorize the names of the Presidents of the US in order (a foundation for future US history). We live really close to the Reagan Library, and my kids know a ton about Ronald Reagan because we visit so often. After the Reagan Library had a special exhibit on George Washington, T read several books about him, not because he had to, but because he was genuinely interested! That’s the kind of learning that sticks with you.
Lastly, because every homeschooler gets asked a million times, here are a few of my responses to the question, “What about socialization?”
First, I believe that the ability to “socialize” only with 20 other individuals who are exactly your own age is a skill that you’ll never need in real life after you leave the elementary classroom. As an adult, you’re always going to have to interact with coworkers or neighbors of varying ages and maturity levels. Our family time and homeschool co-op activities teach our children to interact confidently with adults and children of all ages. This spring, we had a park day where kids from 4 weeks to 14 were playing together, watching out for each other, and having a ton of fun. I watched my three year old walking hand-in-hand with two preteens who willingly brought her along on their hike. I heard an older boy encouraging my son as he learned how to throw and catch a football. The social skills those kids are cultivating will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Secondly, the phrase I probably used the most as a classroom teacher was, “It’s time to learn, not to socialize.” I was constantly telling my middle schoolers to stop talking and pay attention to the lesson. And by 6th grade at our school, they didn’t have recess anymore. Looking back, I guess they were supposed to socialize during lunchtime (instead of eating?). So I actually think that a school setting is a terrible place to socialize with your friends. I have a friend who pulled her son out of public school precisely because he was constantly getting in trouble for being so social! Extracurricular activities like sports, drama club, and church were where I hung out with friends growing up, no matter what form of school I was doing at the time. We’ve already gotten the kids involved in soccer, tennis, swimming, and ballet, where they interact with other public, private, and home schooled kids of their own age as much as I think is necessary at their young ages.
Lastly, because we can get our work done more efficiently than a classroom full of kids, we actually have more time for play dates than kids in a school setting. We go to CBS once a week (where T does a homeschool Bible study with other 1-3 graders, and my girls are in a great children’s program), and every other week, we have park day afterward with all the other homeschooled families. We frequently plan field trips with fellow homeschoolers, and since we finish homework during the day, we have more flexibility in the evenings, as well.
In closing, my parents believed that they needed to evaluate every year what schooling situation would be best for each kid. My brothers and I all experienced home, private, and public school over the course of our pre-college career, and we were all very successful in college and are (I think!) well-adjusted adults. My husband was initially skeptical of the whole homeschooling thing (being a product of 13 years of Catholic schools), and we’ve agreed to take it a year at a time for our kids, as well. Stay tuned for further educational adventures down the road!