(Pic from www.homeschool-life.com)
I started thinking about school soon after my first was born. Before kids, I dimly assumed I'd send my kids to private, religious school, although I toyed with the idea of homeschooling because I saw several of my friends trying and loving it with their kids.
They must, I told myself, have some talent that I didn't have, right? What training did I have to think I could do this? And would I be stuck indoors all day, everyday, needing to keep school hours in my home between 8 am and 3 pm? What if my kids missed out on things like having heaps of friends, going to prom, or having access to decent science equipment? Secretly, I was also nervous that my kids might turn out weird or they'd end up hating me. It was overwhelming sifting through these worrisome factors.
But the reality of our situation was this: public school was not an option for us. Decent private school was too expensive, which left us with homeschooling by default.
Public school simply wasn't an option because I refused to delegate my kids' moral training to the state. "State morality" is in my opinion, an oxymoron. I remember attending a reputable public school when I was 7 years old and being made to play "lifeboat," a utilitarian ethics lesson disguised as a game. Yeah, no thanks.
So, why didn't I just get a job and pay for their private education? Because I'd attended private schools for 7 years and can attest it's a whopping waste of money, for the most part. Teachers get hired for one expertise, and then have their schedules rounded out by classes in which they have no proficiency. In my high school, there were a few teachers so lazy they just gave study hall every day. Another rarely mentioned reality of private school is it's a dumping ground for public school expulsions. Seriously, private schools are crawling with Side-Show Bobs. The exception to the above is finding a private school that has a stellar reputation, but be prepared, it will have a tuition to match. It's the same cost as college, which for us wasn't feasible.
Therefore, we started homeschooling by default, and it turned out to be the best corner I'd ever been painted into. I talked to my homeschooling friends and got encouragement and inspiration that it wasn't as hard as I'd thought and I could change my mind at any time. Kindergarten was like 30 minutes a day, they said. I went to a homeschooling conference and gained conviction and confidence in the merits of our decision. The vendor hall was a place I spent hours putting my hands on various curricula, getting a feel for this new world containing endless options. It was overwhelming, but I was beginning to have a framework and a vision for what I was undertaking.
Earnestly embracing my new role as my kids' teacher, I dutifully embarked but felt heavily burdened by the responsibility. With each passing year, however, I relaxed more and more and found a real joy in it, even as subjects got more numerous and arduous. It took several years, for example, to let go of the idea that I should be trying to duplicate the classroom experience in my home. One of the biggest benefits to homeschooling is its flexibility and customizability, so if I wasn't taking advantage of that, then what was I doing?
So, I stopped worrying that my kids were getting the exact same grade level instruction as their public school peers, and I realized that if I drummed in the basics, and imparted a love of learning and focused on creating opportunities to learn, my kids would sufficiently thrive academically. That's the bottom line, right? In the end, you want your kids to love to learn so they develop a life long habit of doing it.
It's cliché for kids to hate school. And mine find some of it a drudgery. But we tackle the dread together, or find ways to make it more palatable and then move on to something they like. One year, because of her daily tears, I decided to change my middle daughter's schedule to alternating English one day, math the next. The result was it took most of the stress out of our school day, my daughter learned just as much as if she was having both subjects every day, and we were able to go back to having both subjects every day the following year. Customization is the bomb.
Without exception, every single one of my kids' public school friends has at one point asked their parents if they can be homeschooled. No joke. And I get a little chuckle every time a parent tells me their kid asked to be homeschooled because they heard my kids have NO HOMEWORK. That's right. This is one of the huge perks of homeschooling. We have family time every night and weekend. We can go on vacation (during the school year) and not have projects or make up work hanging over our heads. I believe my kids are less stressed than their peers, get more sleep, and that our family is closer because of it. We do take our vacations during the school year, when it's cold and we want to get away somewhere warm. Prices are cheaper, crowds are thinner, and we can go away as long as we want. We can even go overseas for months and take our school work with us. And when we return, we can sleep off jet lag, and take a personal day if we need it. It's a beautiful thing.
I'm not saying homeschooling is right for every family or that there are no downsides. You have to evaluate your priorities and the risk/reward of each option, and decide what's right for you. If you're on the fence, I would encourage you to try homeschooling first, because I think it's harder to switch from school to homeschool than the reverse, though I've witnessed many do that successfully too. Some people want to homeschool up to high school and then go mainstream from there. I often get asked, "What about high school?" and though I'm not there yet, it is my intention to go as far as we can or my kids will let me. Another resource high schooled homeschoolers have is their local junior colleges, which usually offer dual high school and college credit for classes. We are planning to make use of that option, and it saves me from turning our kitchen into a science lab. Consider how much ahead of the game this could put your kid if they plan on doing post graduate degrees.
I believe the future is tailored schooling. The modern school system is a broken and failing program that parents are rejecting more and more because it hasn't lived up to its promise or kept pace with the future. In this age of cryptocurrency, self driving cars, and decoded genomes, where is our individualized schooling that doesn't take up our kids' entire day, plus evening? The schooling dinosaur needs to go the same way as printed newspapers and corded phones. It's outdated!
It remains to be seen if my kids turn out weird, but so far, I love my weird kids. They are good weird. They are friendly with people of all ages, look adults in the eye when they speak to them, and are generally kind to others, which is a rare commodity from what I observe of regular schooled kids. I have met the painfully shy, odd kid who dresses like it's 1900, and has homeschool written all over them. That's not the norm anymore. Mainstream, hip people are homeschooling, and the kids of these people reflect that normalcy. Most people express awe or admiration or a little jealousy when they hear I homeschool. They quickly add that they could never do it themselves. I usually answer that I assume they already are homeschooling. It's called homework help. Real homeschooling does not require much more time than they are already putting in, it's just shifted to daytime hours, which is awesome.
If you are considering homeschooling and have questions, post them in the comments and I'll try to answer.
My last blog post: Funny true story when I accidentally bumped into the Queen of England!