By Guest Blogger Ellen Dockham
When people find out I homeschool my two kids, ages 9 and 12, I get a variety of reactions, many of which can be summed up in the comment, “I could NEVER do that.” Occasionally, though, someone will say they admire homeschooling and would like to know how I reached that decision.
It’s hard to answer that question quickly, so I’m thrilled to share my thoughts. In my first seven years of parenting, I went from never having heard of homeschooling to thinking it was a terrible idea to embracing it as a lifestyle choice full of blessings. For us, the idea popped up after our happy-go-lucky, school-loving daughter suddenly started having daily stomachaches and crying fits in the second grade. We discovered a number of negative things going on in her classroom, both socially and academically. We began searching for a solution, and God began relentlessly putting the idea of homeschooling before us.
After months of prayer and research, we went from merely reacting to a negative set of circumstances to proactively planning our children’s education at home. From that first hesitant, stumbling decision to try it for a year has come a sincere conviction that homeschooling is a wonderful educational option that we are committed to continuing through high school graduation. Why? Because we love the individualized academics, the family togetherness, the flexibility, the evenings and weekends free from homework, the meaningful friendships, and the curious, independent learners we are developing.
My Top 5 Fears and How They Turned Out to be False:
*My children will be weird! Socialization, I think, is the No. 1 objection to homeschooling. After five years, I’ve decided socialization is one of the main reasons TO homeschool. Being socialized means being able to get along well in society, and I’m confident I know more about that than a pack of kids their age. Nowhere else in society are people confined to an age-segregated group. My children constantly interact with all ages, and they experience real-life situations with me daily. Plus, if children can learn to get along with their siblings, they can get along with anyone!
Homeschooling actually offers more time for meaningful friendships. When you work one-on-one with your students – and don’t have to schedule time for things like passing out papers and lining up for the bathroom – it’s possible to finish elementary academic work by lunchtime. That leaves early afternoons for extracurricular activities – many places offer reduced-price classes and sports practices for homeschoolers who are available before public school gets out – and for visiting with friends.
Speaking of friends, there are so many homeschoolers in North Carolina that they would make up the third largest school district in the state if put all together! Here is a great website to connect with others.
There are more homeschool classes, co-ops, field trips, play dates, enrichment activities, sports teams, book clubs, etc. in the Triad than you could ever do in one school year. So there are plenty of chances to make friends, have group discussions, come under the authority and tutelage of other teachers, and just plain have fun. And, of course, homeschoolers participate in the same activities as other kids, from neighborhood play to youth groups to Scouts to sports.
*I’ll be weird! Well maybe this one is debatable, but seriously, at first I was afraid to tell my friends that I was going to homeschool. I also feared that I would be isolating myself at home. I have found, to my delight, a wonderful group of diverse yet like-minded mothers who have become the best friends I’ve ever had. There’s something uniquely bonding about sharing the homeschooling journey, and my social life is richer now than ever. I especially love the whole-family friendships we’ve formed.
*I’ll kill them before it’s over! I used to count the days until school started again each summer. There are still days, I admit, when I fantasize about putting them on that big yellow bus. But I’ve come to love sharing moments with them that I never had when the best hours of their day were given to the school and all I got was the grumpy leftovers! I will never forget the moment when reading clicked for my son after months of laborious sounding out of every single word. My daughter and I have had discussions of favorite classics that I wouldn’t trade for any of those pre-homeschooling days that I had to myself.
Many people comment that their kids would never listen to them enough to actually learn anything. Oh yes, I know about that! I can promise you I’m not any more patient than the next mom. I know my kids act with me in ways they never would in public. But I also believe that true obedience means obeying mom and dad, not just looking good for a teacher. If we have to spend time working on that, it’s time just as well-spent as working math problems. It’s hard — really hard — but it’s worth it.
*They won’t learn the right stuff. They’ll never get into college! This one still haunts me occasionally, but I think it’s because there is no one answer to what the “right” stuff is! Do you have gaps in your education? Yes, and so do I! What I want for my kids educationally is to give them the tools to learn anything they need or want to for the rest of their lives. I was a straight-A student all the way, and I am appalled at how little I remember. My kids are learning using the classical model, which gives them memory pegs while their young brains are wired to soak up facts and then teaches them to use those facts to ask intelligent questions as young teens and finally to speak and write effectively as high-schoolers. We use very few textbooks outside of math but instead flesh out our topics with “living” books. It’s a wonderfully rich way to learn; my husband has commented that he wishes he could come to our school!
A major benefit is the ability to move at the individual child’s pace. If something’s not clicking, you don’t move on; if it’s easy, you fly ahead. You can also customize topics to capitalize on your child’s interests.
As for higher education, most universities have years of experience with homeschool applications, and many even seek out homeschoolers who are known to be independent learners. Studies have shown that many homeschoolers outperform their public school counterparts on standardized tests.*
*I’m not smart enough to teach my kids, especially when they reach high school! I’ve learned more working with my kids than I did in college. Math, once my nemesis, now is not only doable but also fun! I’m learning with my kids, which means I’ll be ready when they get to the hard stuff. And if I need help, the Triad offers a wealth of tutors, co-ops and community college classes for high-schoolers. Forsyth Country Day School even offers classes for homeschoolers in tough subjects like Algebra and Chemistry.
I truly believe homeschooling is a fabulous educational option than can work for many families in many sets of circumstances. If you want to find out more, here are some resources:
So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel
A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick
The Heart of Homeschooling by Christopher Klicka
A Different Kind of Teacher by John Taylor Gatto
Do you homeschool? If so or if not, share your experiences and thoughts with us!