Warning: this is long. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about, so I get a little….wordy.
I’ve wondered whether or not I needed to do a post on why we homeschool. Do I need to explain myself? Do I need to justify why we homeschool to anyone? The short answer is no. But I also consider the chance I have to do a little explaining. Homeschooling is a completely outside-the-box option that many, many people don’t even consider. My purpose is not only to explain the reasons why we homeschool, but to hopefully clarify- at least to the people who know me, but are not familiar with homeschooling- some misconceptions people have about homeschoolers.
Before I explain our reasons , it’s important to understand that it’s not a simple answer. (and I will probably say “my reasons” a lot too. Kyle and I have made this decision together, but I’m the one who has done the research, and I’m the one who is doing most of the teaching at this point, so saying “my” or “I believe” is just a reflection of the work I’ve put into this, but not an indication that Kyle has no say whatsoever)
So first, I need to explain the concept of homeschooling.
Not everyone homeschools the same way. At one end of the homeschooling spectrum are the school-at-home families. They run their homeschools like a school, but at home. Schedules, classes, grading systems, desks, etc. They just take what works in schools, but bring it home. The other end of the spectrum is the unschoolers, and their more-extreme neighbor, the “radical” unschoolers. They believe (and I’m generalizing here, so unschooling friends, please forgive me if I have over-simplified your philosophy, it’s for the sake of time, not to short-change your style) that life itself teaches us lessons, and parenting is about creating opportunities for children to learn in an unstructured, self-guided journey.
In between those two styles- the school-at-homers and the radical unschoolers, there are many, many approaches to homeschooling that fall in between. You’ll find those that follow Waldorf or Montessori philosophies, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unit Studies, and Eclectic. Some families buy all their curriculum from one place and follow it exactly. Other families enroll their children in online classes. There are co-ops and extracurriculars and field trips and activity days and play dates and park days and community college classes. Some families find that they are a mixture of several different philosophies, and sometimes what works for one child doesn’t work for the next and so they have to try something else. I have yet to meet two homeschooling families that school the exact same way. Most families that I know have a solid grasp on what their children need and just do what works for them- whether it’s one philosophy or a mixture of the above.
So, now that you know that there are different ways to homeschool, it’s also important to know that there are different reasons for homeschooling. Many, many different reasons. Many of them valid, a few of them a bit…uh…paranoid, but in general, most families I’ve met have taken the decision to homeschool very, very seriously.
So, I can’t testify as to why any given family chooses this path, I can only speak to the reason my family has made this choice.
Before I begin (can I get on with it, already!), my choice to homeschool my children has NOTHING to do with what any other family chooses to you. It’s not an editorial on the school system here or public education in general. It does not make me a better-than-you at anything. It does NOT mean I have more patience than you or more organized or that I am smarter than anyone. Why do I say this? Because it seems like whenever I mention homeschooling to someone who doesn’t homeschool, immediately I get barraged with reasons that person can’t homeschool. I never said you should. If you want to, that’s great, but it’s really your choice. If you don’t want to- that’s totally fine too! Me choosing to homeschool my children has nothing to do with your choice to send your child to school. I am assuming that you made your choice based on what’s best for your family- as you should- and I’ve done the same. Our families our different, why should we all make the same choices?
So. Next. How did I get to this point?
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know that I’ve been talking about homeschooling for what seems like forever. Well, since Elliot was young. But the idea was planted in my head long before I had children. Way back in 2005, when I was working at a library in NW Ohio, I met several homeschooling families that came in regularly. They were quite nice people, and my discussions with them were interesting, but I couldn’t help but to think, “Man, the schools here must suck.” I laugh at myself a little bit now, because that was my fresh-from-the-classroom mind talking, not my parenting mind. Flash forward a couple of years, and introduce children in my life, and my mind came back to the idea of homeschooling.
I did a little research online, and looked for books that were recommended from homeschooling message boards. I read many books on starting out homeschooling, homeschooling young children, etc. The more I read, the more I got excited about the idea. The more I read, the more I also realized how many misconceptions there are about homeschooling. My own ideas of homeschooling changed. I realized that I could, indeed do it. And it would be really, really fun.
But why? Why would we want to choose something that is so counter-cultural just about every non-homeschooler you meet either is dumbfounded by your choice or insists on telling you how much you’re going to screw up your children? Why deny them the experience that our society clings to as necessary for success?
There are many reasons. Some complex, some simple. Some are more significant reasons than others, but I can guarantee you that every single reason for and against homeschooling has been thought about, discussed, and carefully considered. Some of my reasons may challenge your way of thinking. They may go against what you believe to be true about education. They may piss you off. Make you defensive. Keep in mind that I have some rather strong opinions on this matter, but I’m trying to write this in a way to not be offensive to those that don’t homeschool. My hope isn’t to persuade more people to homeschool, but to help my friends and family understand why it works for us.
Reason #1 (and by far, the biggest reason): time. Simple as that. Time. I want time with my children. They are young for such a short time, and school takes up SO much of their time. Why should I give them (schools, teachers, etc) the best of my children- 60% of their waking hours, 5 days a week, 180 days of the year? And, as the years go on, school will take over much of their home time as well. Hours and hours and hours of homework. Is it selfish of me to want more time with my family? I don’t think so. I just want time to be able to enjoy my children.
Reason #2. FREEDOM (also a popular reason). Can you imagine a life where your life didn’t have to revolve around a school year? I can. Family vacations? We can take them any time. Picnic lunch at the beach, on a Wednesday in October because it’ll probably be the last day of 70 degrees and sunny of the year? We can do it. We can go to museums during the week (and the zoo, too), and Disney (or DC) in September, you know, when they’re not crowded. If my husband goes out-of-town for a few days for work, we can too! We can either go along, and visit museums/parks/attractions in that city, or we can take off and visit the grandparents for a few days. We don’t have to be accountable to the school and teachers, don’t have to coordinate make up schedules or do-ahead assignments, and my kids won’t have to worry about missing instruction (because we can take it along!).
Reason #3. It’s in my blood. Teaching. When I was a teacher, it was my life. My students meant so much to me. Encouraging them, guiding them, helping them to find their interests and strengths and turn their weaknesses into gifts. I spent a lot of time and effort getting my degree in English and Education, and then my master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, so to me it just makes sense to use what I know about children and learning with my own children. Teaching comes so naturally to me, it’s’ just what I do.
Reason #4. I know my kids. No one else will ever love my children or have their best interest at heart like I do. No teacher is ever going to be as motivated as I am to teach my kids. I also know that my kids, both of them, are a bit quirky. At this point in time, I’m certain school is not the safest, most supportive environment for him.
Reason #5 Love. I am going to homeschool because I love my children. I love being with them, watching them grow and learn, and being there for them. *I* want to be the one to teach them, to help them learn as much as they can, to give them opportunities. I think that if I send my kids to school, I’m going to miss out on too much of their childhood (which goes back to #1).
There. That’s basically it. I had a few others listed, but I took them off, because once I thought about them, they’re not my MAIN reasons for homeschooling, just added benefits.
I’d like to reiterate that our decision to homeschool in no way is a referendum on the schools here. I’m not anti-schools or anti-teacher. I’m not trying to isolate my children from the world we live in or brainwash them to thinking all outsiders are evil and cannot be trusted. Our decision to homeschool is not a judgement on your parenting or choice to send your child to school. I don’t think that everyone should homeschool, not at all.
At the end of the day, I’m just a mom who wants the best for her kids. And right now, this is what works for us.