As I mentioned in a previous post, we are very heavily leaning toward home schooling our kids. We’ve grown increasingly discontented with both public and private school systems in the United States, and think that it would be better for our kids and for our family to take their education into our own hands.
We’d previously considered home schooling a few times, but had ruled it out because of two main concerns:
Number one, our kids would miss out on great social opportunities, learning to interact with other children, how to deal with diversity, teasing, structure, teamwork, authority, and more.
Number two, we don’t know if we could handle it! It seems overwhelming to prepare and teach so much material to your kids. And could we stand to be together that long? It would be so much easier to send them off for 5-7 hours a day and have a needed break ourselves!
However, after looking at some of the incredible advantages of home schooling, we’ve found our two concerns greatly diminishing. Now, I know that home schooling isn’t for everybody. But I share this list for those interested in how we came to our conclusion.
Advantages of homeschooling
(from our perspective, and in no particular order):
- Allows a lot of flexibility with when and how much the children are taught. This gives us freedom to travel and live anywhere, without making kids’ education suffer (instead, it improves it). They also don’t have to sit through long hours of constant school, but can take more regular and refreshing breaks as needed, increasing retention and reducing emotional stress.
- We can teach more in-depth about subjects that our children are interested in, or that we want to teach them, rather than having little or no control over what is taught.
- We as their parents get to see them learn and grow and progress more, rather than missing out on those moments because they’re in school.
- Teaching will be one on one, exactly at their level and at their pace. We like this much better than teaching a classful of students at different levels with different learning styles.
- We’ll probably learn a lot of interesting things we forgot or never learned as we teach our children.
- We can incorporate our personal values into their education.
- We’re fulfilling our duty as parents to teach our children. Really, it’s the parents’ responsibility to teach their kids, not the government’s or anyone else’s, although others can and do help.
- We’ll get to spend more time with our kids, and hopefully strengthen our relationships and love for one another. We believe there’s no more important way we can be spending our time than with our children.
- Home schooled children statistically outperform other children academically by large margins. (See http://www.homelifeacademy.com/homeschool_stats.php)
Things we don’t like about regular school, that we will be avoiding by doing homeschool:
- Homework – it’s gotten crazy recently, with kids coming home with so much work, it just becomes busywork for the parents. Much of it doesn’t even teach anything useful. With home school, all the learning will be done “in class”.
- Grades – Cramming for tests to get a grade, rather than actually learning the material. Measuring performance against someone else, or a standard that the school board set, rather than the student’s own improvement. I also don’t like the idea of testing on an individual basis – it’s not realistic to life. I think generally it’s more important that students know where to find an answer quickly, than that they have a fact memorized, as helpful as that can be. Obviously it’s good to know a lot, but you can’t know everything, nor is it practical to try.
- Overload – learning 4-7 subjects at once, and having to balance them all at the same time – it’s just too much information to process and retain well. We will be able to control how much of what is taught when, as our kids receive it.
- Bad influences – Swearing, inappropriate or crude books you’re required to read or movies you’re forced to watch, cruel treatment from others, and ideas that conflict with our values. We want our kids to be educated about these influences, but be able to see them with a healthy perspective, and not as if they are of no consequence, which is the way they are often presented by peers or other influences. We can’t control this completely, as they will experience these influences anyway, but do they really need to be subjected to it all the time, especially while they’re so young and easily influenced?
- Politics that can reduce education quality and take focus away from the students’ learning.
So, what about the concerns I mentioned earlier? How do we plan to overcome those? See below.
Solution to Concern #1: Social aspects
Kids need interaction with other children. My oldest daughter, Emily, is an especially social little girl. She loves making friends and has no fear when it comes to saying ‘hi’. We want to give her every opportunity to grow in this respect.
Fortunately, there are a lot of places other than school where kids get a chance to practice social skills. Besides playing with kids in the neighborhood and at church, we plan on giving our children opportunities to participate in musical theater, sports, dance, choirs, and other classes, where they’ll get to work with other kids not only their age, but of different ages. They also learn a lot of these skills playing with each other.
Solution to Concern #2: Handling it
It is a big responsibility to take on the job of educating your child. Fortunately, we both love to teach. Jen wanted to be an elementary school teacher at one time, but decided against it because she didn’t like the idea of teaching an entire classroom of kids. One on one is more her style. I have teaching in my blood, as both my dad and grandpa are/were teachers, and I taught piano lessons for several years. Teaching is something I’ve always enjoyed, as long as it’s a subject I know enough about.
But we also love to learn, and hope to be able to not only instill in our children this love of learning, but also to teach them how to learn on their own – how to find answers to their questions, and be proactive in their own education. If our kids can teach themselves, this will reduce our burden. We also plan on utilizing lots of outside resources, books, computer programs, and ideas from others. On occasion, we may even bring in experts on a particular subject, or take the kids to them, so they can learn something different, or experience a different teaching style. Emily is really showing an aptitude for art, so we may find her an art instructor, for example.
Jen and I will also continue taking regular dates and time away from the kids. We have really enjoyed the 3-hour dates we’ve had twice a week while the girls have been in preschool, and we’d like to keep up something similar. We’ve thought about getting a nanny to watch the girls for a few hours a week while we get some time away during the day.
Will it work?
Now, since we haven’t yet actually tried homeschooling, we really don’t know all that we’re up against. Fortunately, both our kids are excited to have Mommy and Daddy as their teacher. Emily is excited to become a better reader, and they both have such inquisitive minds right now, that it doesn’t seem like it will be too much of a challenge at this stage. One of the biggest challenges to begin with, I think, will be their short attention spans. But we can take breaks as needed, and their attention should grow with time. It may also take a while to get into a routine of school that we’re all comfortable with, but this will pass.
We’d like to have a room of our house specially designated as the “Learning Room”, where most of this schooling will take place. Obviously this room will include desks, books, arts and crafts, computers, musical equipment, toys, and more. We’d also like some playground equipment and a place for them to run around and play to get their energy out as well.
The more we think about homeschooling, and move in that direction, the better we feel about it. Maybe we’ll end up hating it, and change our minds down the road. But right now, it seems like the best thing for our family.
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