Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Homeschooling: What's the Big Deal?

There are a lot of mixed responses when I tell someone that we plan to home-school our kids. Since both of my kids stay home with Elliott, they are already home-schooled, in an unstructured fashion. We have not decided with 100% certainty that we will take this path, but I’d say we’re 99.99% sure. That being said, I’m not opposed to looking into other avenues, and I, personally, don’t care where you send or plan to send your kids to school. As long as your children feel happy and safe, do what feels right for you.

Both of my kids, while I am quite sure they will be talented in many areas, already seem to show more interest in the arts. We all know that most public schools are sorely lacking in these areas. I also know there are many charter, private, and magnet schools that focus on the arts, and I’m not opposed at all to looking into them, especially as our kids get older and might need more specialized attention in certain areas. But, what I am really curious about is why there is such a guttural reaction when you mention casually, “We are planning to home-school.”

I’ll admit, there was a time when I was not 100% on board, but after lots of talks with my husband, and some input from some good friends, I realized quickly that there are many ways to receive a great education, even if it’s not “traditional”. I went to private school all of my life, and I had mixed experiences. I had great friends, and I received a top-notch education. I would not trade it today. However, life at Catholic, all-girls school came with it’s downside-cattiness & cliques aside, school just didn’t hold a lot of interest for me, especially in areas that I didn’t like or appreciate. Sitting through any math and science class was equal to water-boarding in my 14 year-old mind. ”What’s the point? I’ll never use this!” was a conversation I had many times with my parents, particularly if I brought home an average grade.

I’ve always prided myself on being “unique”, which doesn’t always gel well with other school aged kids. In retrospect, I’m sure I was always considered a weirdo. I did have a great group of friends, but I always felt out of place & awkward, which led me down some self-destructive paths, so that I could feel more confident and self-assured…and I probably came off looking like an even bigger bozo. I know that kids will be kids, in any setting, but I don’t want my kids to ever feel that they have to hide their uniqueness to try and fit in with a group because someone, somewhere decided that kids that turn this age on this date belong with kids that have similar birthdays. I also want them to be able to explore and grow in the areas that they will excel in for the rest of their lives. I want them to have a real chance to succeed in those areas. I believe that through homeschooling and co-ops through homeschooling, this will be better accomplished than if they were in traditional school. As I said, this may be a temporary solution to our situation, and it may not. We would love to, as a family, travel & see the United States and North America. Homeschooling would allow us to do this whenever we choose.

Noel turns 5 in 1 1/2 years, so we have lots of time to research and decide what exactly it is we’re going to do, as far as school is concerned. There are a lot of options, even in the homeschooling world. Thankfully, there are so many resources, groups, books, friends, and parents out there that can help us discover the answers. Our friends at The ZRecs Network just began homeschooling their daughter, and it’s really excited me for our future. Jenni is a walking encyclopedia of information in many arenas, but homeschooling is certainly one of her specialties. Zella will be a great role model as we start our home-school journey.

A couple of years ago, Elliott asked Jenni how she became interested in homeschooling Z, and her answers really struck a cord with me. I’m sharing them with you, just to give you food for thought.

My desire [to home-school] has only grown greater since Zella has been born. She’s a very bright kid but she resists being “taught” things. She likes to discover things on her own and the moment she suspects that you want her to “perform” (she can do x thing but refuses to do so on cue) she shuts down. She can be very engaged in a particular activity and be reluctant to leave it for another one just because - homeschooling is better for that because there isn’t a requirement to get in math, science, social studies, etc, each day - so she can be as involved and go into as much depth as she wants to in any particular subject and will cycle to other things eventually. It just seems that with homeschooling you can follow more natural rhythms of learning that you can’t in school.

Other reasons:

  • none of us (including Zella) like to get up very early in the morning
  • no wasted time doing “busy-work”
  • no wasted time checking roll, finding seats, changing classes, with disruptive students
  • learning at her pace instead of faster or slower than other kids (allows for advanced learning in certain areas and/or slower learning in other areas - not an “all gifted classes” or “all normal classes” approach)
  • more time with her
  • can travel (day trips or longer trips) without having to get “approval” from the school
  • more time outdoors
  • more time for physical activity or rest as needs change
  • more time for art, music, crafts, gardening, and animals
  • no selling crap for the school district
  • no grades (we try to have learning and/or behavior be because of internal motivation rather than external rewards )see Alfie Kohn)
  • less peer pressure

As I already said, I have no qualms with how anyone chooses to educate their children. All I ask, is that the idea of homeschooling quit being met with such disdain and negativity. There are many reasons why some families choose to home-school. More than likely, their children will turn out just fine, just as educated, and just as well rounded as the rest of them…and possibly even more-so…

1 comment:

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I wish I could homeschool- I honestly think I might end up doing it someday.