Now here’s a subject I’ve been struggling with a lot. I’ve done a few posts on homeschooling, particularly for the Homeschool Mother’s Journal blog linkup, and as you can see I’m pretty conflicted in each one. On the one hand, I love teaching my son. I love planning lessons and watching him grow. On the other hand, he’s two and I feel silly talking about “homeschooling” a two year old. At this level, it isn’t really homeschooling so much as it is “parenting.”
But I’ve beaten that internal conflict to death already. Now I’m thinking about the future – one, two, three years down the road when other children are enrolling in preschool or kindergarten, what will we be doing?
My husband and I came from very different educational backgrounds: he went to a private school through middle school and was homeschooled beyond eighth grade. I went to a very good public school throughout. We both received different but quality educations. We are both very open to the idea of homeschooling and in our discussions we’ve talked about the positives of homeschooling.
Homeschooling would allow us to cater our son’s education to his abilities. I know some people think that the idea that a kid can be bored in school because he isn’t challenged by the curriculum is a cop-out for laziness. I disagree, because I was that bored kid for a long time. I came into kindergarten as an avid reader – I had been reading for two years at that point and absolutely devoured books. I could print and read and write in cursive. My classmates were listening to books on tape and learning their letters, one at a time. By the time I was in second grade, the school moved me into the third grade classroom for reading, but because second graders get two hours of reading a day and third graders get only one, I was left on my own for an hour each day, usually in the library or the computer room (yes, we had one back in the early 1980′s). It was certainly fun but it was too unstructured for my age. I played a lot of Oregon Trail in those days.
If we choose to homeschool Jack we can create lesson plans catered towards his abilities. If someday he is doing math at a fourth grade level while reading at a second grade level, we won’t have to try to hold him back or push him forward – we can meet his education needs at the level of his functioning. I don’t know that schools are equipped to recognize and address that sort of an issue as well as we would be. We can also cater to his aptitudes and interests. School subjects do not have to be separate and distinct things – in life, topics overlap, so why shouldn’t they overlap in study? A student who is fascinated by space and astronauts can learn about mathematics, science, history and even politics (and probably much more!) in the context of his interest. It isn’t that I don’t think school teachers are capable of teaching this way – they certainly do know more than I do on teaching – it is just that the traditional school structure as a whole is not set up in a way that facilitates this kind of learning, and to me, this kind of learning makes a lot of sense.
Homeschooling would give us the ability to teach Jack more than just math, science, social studies, and the traditional school subjects.
The picture is humorous but the sentiment is true: while we will certainly address traditional school subjects, we can open the door to other interests, too, like gardening, canning, trailblazing, volunteering, social good, and more. I realize that it isn’t like we would miss out on those opportunities if our son went to traditional school – we could learn these extras on the weekends and after school. But I just don’t think that’s the same. If they are crammed into whatever “leftover” time we have, doesn’t that say something about their importance? I don’t think that volunteer work is less important than understanding physics, and while I want him to do both I don’t want him to place a higher value on the one that, in the big scheme of things, is really the lesser of the two.
This article also underlines some of my fears about traditional academic schools. The example the author gave of a visit to a potential preschool is really compelling: “As I entered the classroom and discreetly sat on the floor behind about fifteen 3-4 year olds, a teacher stood at a chalkboard to present a lesson on ‘shapes’. She drew a square and asked, “What is this?” One of the preschoolers raised her hand and shouted “Square!” The teacher gave a brief nod of approval and continued drawing, this time a circle… A few hands shot up, and she pointed to a boy. “Circle!” the boy exclaimed. To my astonishment the teacher frowned, shook her head and corrected him. “No, round.” Huh? A trick question? Preschoolers need this?” I don’t think they do. That seems almost mean. Perhaps that one example is a total anomaly, but it doesn’t make my fear any less legitimate.
But what about socialization? This is the traditional argument against homeschooling, and it was initially one of the reasons i didn’t want to homeschool. Aren’t all homeschooled kids really smart but socially weird? In my own experience, I knew a girl who was homeschooled and weird – isn’t she representative of the entire population? I know now that’s obviously not the case. Most homeschooled kids do participate in social activities, in homeschool co-ops, or have their own social circles in their neighborhoods or churches. Why wouldn’t they? The “weird, unsocialized homeschooled kid” argument seems to be completely invalid.
What about prom? I’m a bad one to pose that question to: school dances and social events were a big source of anxiety and dread for me. I wasn’t exactly the cool kid, and I was often picked last in gym class. A world without forced team sports and homecoming sounds pretty blissful to me. But what if my son hated me for denying him these things? Even though he’s only two, I’m about 110% certain that he won’t be the wallflower that I was. I guess the only thing I can say to that is that homeschool is something that we can revisit each year. If it works in first and second grade but in third grade things change, we can revisit the traditional school options.
So where does that leave us? I still don’t know. We spoke to Jack’s pediatrician this week about homeschooling. I braced myself for a negative response, and he actually seemed excited that we brought the subject up. He had wonderful things to say about homeschooling in our situation, had great advice, and was completely supportive. That was really encouraging. Yet we’re still on the fence. We’re going to continue to do what we are doing – structured lessons peppering lots of age-appropriate free play time – and see what happens each year.
Homeschool parents: how did you know you were doing the right thing? Does the “right thing” for your family stay constant, or does it change over the years?
Parents who have considered homeschooling but ultimately chose traditional school: what made you take that path?