Now that you know how it was that I first heard about the Homeschool buzz (see my A Life-Altering Moment post), I suppose it’s time to learn why we ended up choosing to go forward with it. Most people of the non-homeschool community usually aren’t armed with all the facts about the benefits of homeschooling. It’s a pretty safe bet that judgments are made pretty quickly once the term “homeschool” is uttered. Most people have an immediate visualization of homeschooling to be complete isolation from the outside world…with a sub-standard education provided by inept mothers. I’ve even had a doctor friend of mine who, along with her siblings, was homeschooled by her missionary parents…give me the most unexpected response to my decision to homeschool: “NOOOOOOOOO!!!”. Her homeschool experience was obviously not a pleasant one and didn’t care to perpetuate the experience onto her own children. But forced homeschooling (because her parents were missionaries they traveled to and lived in foreign countries) from 35 years ago is much different than today’s homeschooling options. Even as far as 20 years ago homeschooling was illegal in most US states. Today, it’s legal in every state. And the curriculum choices are so great now as opposed to 20, 15 even 5 years ago! One’s head can spin from all the different choices! There’s probably more curriculum choices available to homeschoolers than there are available to public and private schools! The beauty in all this, of course, is having the luxury of being able to research and select the best curriculum for your child based on his learning style, his gifts & challenges, and the style of homeschooling right for your family (Oh yes! There are about a dozen different styles of homeschooling from the traditional, out-of-the-box textbook style method to Charlotte Mason to Classical to Unschooling and lots more inbetween).
But that’s not the reason we chose to homeschool. Initially, it was my desire to have as much time as possible with my first born. The thought of having to put him on a bus and send him away for 7-8 hours a day was unbearable to me. I didn’t want to miss out on any part of his development. That was reason Numero Uno.
Reason Number Two was that I was vehemently opposed to putting my child in a social situation every day where he could potentially be subjected to ridicule, bullying, and be taught every imaginable curse word and inappropriate behavior (and response). No sir-ee….if he was going to learn those things he would learn them from me and his father!
But seriously, I was socially ostracized from my elementary school days throughout high school. I was physically and emotionally beaten up by black, white, rich and poor kids. It was an experience I would never want to repeat (had I known there was such an option as homeschooling I would have begged and pleaded with my parents to do it) and would certainly not want to expose my children to it. And it’s not gotten any better. My stepchildren have had extreme difficulties in public schools…especially my stepdaughter. It was an extremely painful time for her as early as 5th grade. Even last year, at the start of her 10th grade, she changed schools because of oppressive social situations. And although my stepson didn’t have the same social issues as his sister, he was not without scars: while in 6th grade this meek, mild & kind-hearted child was beat up on the bus by an oversized 8th grader…completely unprovoked. And the daily exposure to drug usage and sex in the bathrooms….this is not what I wanted for my own children. Not even close.
So at the start of my homeschool journey, these were initally the two driving forces behind the decision. However, as the year progressed I came to realize that there were more reasons, perhaps greater reasons, for desiring to homeschool: my DS’s kinesthetic learning style and ADHD brain was not something that would have been embraced in a public or private school setting. Also, as his parent I wanted to be the one to call the shots on what subject matter he would be taught and when (eg. teaching diversity, tolerance, sex education, etc. when I deemed he was mature enough to handle it). I also very much wanted to make sure that his education was biblically grounded…something he was sure not to get in public school. Bible studies are the first order of the day. If nothing else gets accomplished that day, I’m okay with it because I view my child’s spiritual welfare as of paramount importance.
Our decision to homeschool was met with passive resistance from our family members and friends. No one outwardly objected but no one outwardly encouraged us, either. I could feel people’s eyes focused on us…perhaps with curiosity, perhaps with skepticism and criticism. It’s not easy being under the microscope! Are people waiting to see if I fail my children? Or are they quietly cheering me on from the sidelines? One thing is certain: no one is more in fear of failing their children than a homeschooling parent. Regardless of whether, as parents, we decide to homeschool or send our kids to public or private schools none of our children will learn everything that they need to (and in many cases will learn things they don’t need to) nor will they grow up to be perfect citizens. We all just try to do what we think is best for our children and try not judge ourselves or others.
Some people think that in order to homeschool one must have material means to do so. This is incorrect thinking! While I happen to have the luxury of being able to stay home with my children, that is more the exception than the rule. Most homeschooling families are notoriously poor…on a single income by choice, not by design. They make do with one car, with humble dwellings, stretching every dollar to its maximum (homeschooling is not cheap) all in the name of keeping their kids home where (they think) they belong. It’s not a luxury. It’s a chosen lifestyle.
And it ain’t easy, either. It’s hard work. Darn hard work. Every now and again my mom or dad will make the comment “Wouldn’t it be easier to just send him to school?”. Well, yeah…it would be a heck of alot easier. But that’s not the point. I’m not looking for the easiest solution for myself. I’m looking for the best solution for my children. I believe that the education of my children is my responsibility…not the government’s. I remember years ago, when my youngest brother was still in high school, my mother was complaining about how he was not doing well and it was because he wasn’t completing his homework assignments. She was so angry at the school for not making sure he completed his homework! His HOME-work. I wasn’t married or had children at the time but even then I remember thinking “My goodness…it’s your job, PARENT, to make sure your kid does his homework!” And I also remember thinking that sending kids off to school has really given some parents a “free pass” in being academically responsible to their children and has, in some cases, fostered the feeling of entitlement and unreasonable expectations.
I don’t judge anyone for sending their kids to school. I believe the public school system does has value to a great majority of children. It just doesn’t happen to have the value I seek for my children.
Every homeschooler has their own reasons for doing it. They are not all the same. Some do it for spiritual reasons, others for academic reasons, and yet others for social reasons or political reasons. The reasons are all different. Regardless of the reasons, the one thing we all have in common is having the best interests of our children served. Homeschoolers are not superior to public/private schoolers and vice versa. It’s simply a choice dictated by the needs of the particular family.
I recently read an article in the November issue of Homeschooling Today entitled “So Why Do You Homeschool?” by Brenda Murphy. I wish I had been the one to write it and share with everyone I know and meet. It paints a perfect picture of why we homeschool.
There’s only been one person from our circle of family and friends who has expressed genuine interest in knowing more about homeschooling…asking for articles to read more about the subject. And this person doesn’t even have a spouse or kids! I am willing to talk to anyone who is curious about homeschooling so if you’ve got questions….I’ve got answers (or at least some of them)! There is also a TON of information available on the internet (just google “homeschool”) as well as hundreds and hundreds of books written about homeschooling.
So the next time you’re in the same room as a homeschooler…don’t be shy about asking questions! Homeschoolers LOVE to talk about their homeschooling experience…the joys as well as the challenges. Be forewarned, however….you may end up catch the homeschooling bug, too! You never know! 🙂