This is a guest post from Raegan (you know--the Chronic 45 Minute Naps and Chronic 45 Minute Naps: One Year Later author). Raegan and I have come to be good friends over the years. Her oldest is just a bit younger than Kaitlyn. Raegan will be homeschooling this year. I always find Raegan to be completely sensible in her decision making. She thinks things through well and takes a path of pondering and prayer. I knew she would be the right one to write on considerations for homeschooling.
For as long as I can remember, I always assumed my kids would start Kindergarten in a public school. I did, my husband did, and I taught Kindergarten and first grade in the public school system before becoming a stay-at-home mom. For us, the dilemma was always whether to send her to Kindergarten at age 5 or age 6 since she has a summer birthday. As time grew closer, I began weighing whether or not to send her at age 5. So I started researching, paying attention to close friends and neighbors (and their children), and asking questions.
My choices widened with options: public school at 5 or 6, private school (too expensive), a school with a blend of homeschool and private (still too expensive), and homeschooling. I knew the least about homeschooling, so I dove in! I read online, looked at statistics, and asked a million questions to those few I knew that homeschooled. As I researched, I felt increasingly pulled towards homeschooling, not only for academic reasons but personal, religious, and social reasons. There was this nagging feeling that I’m not finished sowing seeds in my children. Parents are never really finished, but I feel like the time to give another person/place thirty (or more) hours a week to sow into my children has not come yet.
There were a lot of benefits to homeschooling. I could see their weaknesses and move slower if needed. I could also play into strengths and add depth, speed, or more ‘weight to the bar.’ We could do our schooling in the morning and take a field trip the day lessons coincide. I can bring our lessons to the Botanical Gardens, zoo, Aquarium, beach, on vacation. I get to teach life skills like folding, laundry, clipping coupons, making grocery lists, managing money, caring for pets, interacting with adults in stores, patience during appointments, the importance of working together, and so much more. Yes, I’ve been trying to do that all along, but I’m excited to see that now the understanding of a school aged child will merge with accomplishing these things together daily. My five year old understands the importance of teamwork much more than my three year old, I and I have the privilege to continue to develop these areas.
I had questions, I had concerns, but after my prayer and weighing, my husband and I decided that homeschooling was the route for us, for now. So we decided…and then came the questions (and opinions, as it is with any choice).
*Isn’t it sheltering your child too much from the real world? You can’t protect them forever! True, we cannot protect them forever. But our job as parents is to discern when they are ready. You put a child on a bike without training wheels when they are ready (either ready for the push or ready by their own growth and initiative) not when they are a certain age. For us, we are taking homeschooling year by year.
*Won’t they miss out on parties, school buses, and the cafeteria fun? Again, we had to weigh it. This is part of the reason we enrolled our kids in a local homeschool co-op, to be around other kids one day a week, to have field trips with those kids, and to grow up with a familiar group. And like any group of kids, they will not be immune from conflict, the need for conflict resolution, decision making, and personal behavior management.
*What about socialization? I really believe that is a main concern for many people when they consider (or know someone considering) homeschooling. Like I mentioned above, we joined a co-op partly for socialization. My kids also have other siblings, plus other homeschooling families we get together with during the week, church, Sunday school, dance/tumbling/swim, family get togethers (large and small). I’ve heard it commented that in some ways it can be a benefit to socialization because only during the school years do people spend 30+ hours a week with only people their own age. I can see the benefits to socializing with groups that are diverse in age.
*How can I manage schooling for my older child and manage younger children at home too? There is LOTS of help out there regarding this issue. For me, I can utilize tools I already have been using: independent play, siblings playing together, educational DVDs, and joint learning. For instance, many of the activities I will be doing with my Kindergartener, my preschooler can listen and participate in, too. For my toddler, he can color, sit and look at books, or play with his cars and trucks. We’ve worked on his sitting skills for a long time now, so this shouldn’t be a huge issue. I also needed my friends to remind me that just like public school, I’m not teaching the entire time. I teach, we practice, and then they complete independent work with me close by for answering and helping. While she is working independently, I can help my younger children.
Before beginning a homeschool journey, I do think it’s important to consider a few points. For each person the answer (and the importance of the question) will vary, but these were key for me to answer honestly, putting all superhero “I can do it no matter what” ego issues aside.
*The time commitment- Though it isn’t huge at first, it is an adjustment if you aren’t used to setting a decent amount of time aside for learning.
*Commitment to learning- My goal is to teach my children to love to learn, to be lifelong learners. Learning and discovery can be fun, and it should be. It takes time for me to prepare. (Side note: I prepared the first week of Kindergarten starting next week. It took me 30 minutes to prep the entire week. And saying I have a passion for teaching is putting it mildly, so it isn’t a huge time commitment unless you intend to generate all the curricula yourself.)
*You don’t have to say you’ll homeschool through high school. In general I like to make decisions that are concrete, so having a start and end date works for me. Not in this case, however. I plan on tracking her academic, social, emotional maturity progression to make that evaluation year by year.
*For me, if I’m saying that I’m taking this responsibility that means I’m saying that I can do it just as well or better than public school. It doesn’t mean that you need to have a teaching degree to do it. I am the only homeschooling parent that I know that actually does have a degree in education. There is a lot (a ton) of premade curricula out there. It takes a little passion and some willingness.
I don’t see a lot of negatives when it comes to homeschooling as long as kids have a chance to be around other kids and learn some conflict mediation through natural trials in life. Academically overall homeschool children outperform public school children in testing (there are always exceptions).
To quote a family member of mine, “They aren’t going to be weird are they?” I guess if I’m weird, they will be too. J We have the saying ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ for a reason. The negatives I could find were less geared towards my children and more for me and other adults. Remember not to stereotype; every homeschool kid is no stranger than every private school kid is spoiled and every public school kid is wild. I won’t judge you for choosing public school and you won’t judge me for homeschooling; we are both choosing what we think is best for our children. And lastly, especially me, try not to feel the need to justify choosing homeschool every time I get that funny look.
I am so excited to get the opportunity to teach my children more than just academics as they learn from home this year. I look forward to seeing them succeed firsthand, to work on weaknesses and tap into their strengths. It’s an honor to live in a country that let us all choose what our family needs.