Why I Want to Homeschool, and Why I Don’t Want to Homeschool

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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?

 

 

 

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20 Comments

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20 Responses to Why I Want to Homeschool, and Why I Don’t Want to Homeschool

  1. Tat

    I have concerns about traditional schools for all the same reasons… but I’d be the worst teacher ever and teaching my kids full time would leave totally trained. So homeschooling doesn’t seem like a viable option for us.
    Tat recently posted..4 ingredients apple cake

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  3. Nev

    Hiya :)

    We are actually considering unschooling for our daughter. I loved going to school when I was young so did my husband but it wasn’t the lessons *yawn* or the ‘structure’ (yeaaah, there wasn’t much) it was just seeing our friends.

    Unschooling is actually just another word for living. We all learn while we live so why put a label on it and send them to sit in a badly designed room on a badly designed chair all day every day? I, for one, barely remember any of the things I was taught. Everything I know I picked up from Tv, books, interaction, experience.

    Anywho.. here are some fab links, maybe they help. :)

    http://www.magicalraconteur.com/misconceptions-about-homeschooling.html

    http://lifeonthefrancofarm.blogspot.com/2011/10/socialized-or-sociable.html

    http://demandeuphoria.blogspot.com/2011/03/things-everyone-needs-to-know.html

    There are sooo many more and I’m sure you’ve got a lot bookmarked already. :)

    Nev
    Nev recently posted..What it is: Friday Afternoon Walk

  4. Camble

    I don’t think it has to be an either/or. In this country, public schools are treated like crap and they are not funded the way they should be. Politics keep them from being everything they could be. Regardless, there are some awesome people who work in the public education world and I plan on utilizing our public schools for all I can. And, where they fall short (such as where music education has been cut, etc.), I will resume that schooling at home or privately.

  5. Terri

    Hi Jenn, I understand you deliberations. We have chosen to homeschool and for the most part I’m totally committed to this path for many of the reasons you have mentioned above. My only main concern is that Dominica is a small country – everyone knows everyone (well almost!) and many decisions are made on ‘who you know’ and what connections you have and of course many of these connections were made at school. However his isn’t enough of a reason to stop homeschooling and I plan to travel as much as I can with the kiddos to give them a greater appreciation of the rest of the world. Jack is one lucky boy and I hope we meet you all one day on an International homeschool get together!
    Terri recently posted..Less Word Wednesday – A walk in the heart of nature

  6. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    I loved reading this because you sound a lot like how I feel. (Does that make sense?) We are currently in our first year of homeschooling. My oldest is 5, so Kindergarten/1st grade-ish homeschooling, while keeping a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old occupied and Momma sane. We are kind of unschool-y at this point, but I waffle between wanting more routine and being totally chill with the status quo. (Right now, I’m pretty cool with our relaxed methods, as indicated in today’s post about learning at home.) Come September, I may have a mini-panic attack.
    Valerie @ Momma in Progress recently posted..My Practice of . . . Learning at Home

    • Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction

      I really like the idea of unschooling, but I don’t know if I have the guts for it. I second guess myself too much, and I love to have a plan. I like to think that I have the “just go with it” attitude, but I know that I’d spend all of my time wondering if I was “doing it right.”

  7. michelle

    I am right there with you on the debate. Wed are homeschooling for now. Our plan is to continue. BUT things change. and we are ready too change to. Our plan came more from a lot of really bad things reported about the schools on our area (bullying etc.) Last year there was a boy in my cousins highschool that was tricked by his ex girlfriend into going over too her house. At which point he was beaten killed burned and stuffed into paint cans. Yeah…bad. I know that was an isolated incident and I know I can’t protect her forever…but I will be damned if I will put her into a situation that I know can cause her harm ya know. It all boils down to whats best for your family is not necissarily whats best for mine…neither parent is right or wrong though :)

    p.s.Im stealing that picture!

    • 'Becca

      While I am very sad to hear about your cousin’s classmate, I see no reason to think that this happened to him because he went to school. My childhood friend who was homeschooled in later grades (due to learning disabilities) was very eager to meet boys but did not have many “legitimate” ways to do so because she didn’t go to school and all her activities were gender-segregated…so she would get girls she knew to introduce her to boys who’d talk with her on the phone, and then she’d sneak out of the house to meet them. Nothing awful ever happened to her, but it certainly could have. A homeschooled kid who gets to meet other kids through music lessons or whatever has the possibility of meeting bad kids, too. Horrifying things CAN happen, but as parents we can teach our children to trust their “creep sense” and communicate with us about where they’re going with whom–regardless of what type of schooling we choose.
      ‘Becca recently posted..Lots of Science Projects for Kids!

  8. jamie

    Unschooling rocks!! You should really look into it.

  9. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ

    Those links shared above are excellent. I think you’d benefit from some “deschooling” for yourself. There’s a huge shift in perspective that comes the more you get into it and realize how much comes from your child-seriously, it’s 99.99% from them. The hardest part for me is keeping quiet and supporting with compassion.

    Every time, without exception, that I have “taught” my kids, it has gone poorly. Every time, without exception, that I have closed my mouth and listened, they have learned more than I could have imagined and with a passion and voraciousness that leaves me in awe.

    And I laugh at the socialization, prom, and other concerns that always come up. My kids have more interactions with people of all different ages and backgrounds than a school could provide-and without the artificially divided by age a social darwinism from schools.

    And I’m not dissing formal schooling either. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. It’s up to parents to decide what works best for their family (and like vaccinations, it saddens me that the establishment is entrenched in it’s own self-interest that it spreads misinformation for those questioning the norm)

    In addition to your interpretation, that graphic also references the ubiquitous practice of homeschoolers during park play dates to have well-established group-wide weapons play.

    And, I’ll stop writing your ear off now. I could go on forever. Whatever you decide, keep talking with btdt homeschooling families and formal schooling families who are happy with their decisions and can support you :)
    Zoie @ TouchstoneZ recently posted..Letter to Littles: January 2012

  10. MissMOE

    I homeschooled my oldest all the way through high school. He now a well-adjusted freshman at college with a full scholarship. Two of my other kids are attending a college prep high school after homeschooling through the eighth grade. My two youngest are in 7th-grade at the school of Mom. We do what is best for each child after looking at their individual needs. I felt that time at home with family was the best for all my kids when they were young. We explored, played, and learned together. As they get older and individual interests and strengths developed, we meet their needs through different venues.

    And I just need to say–these days prom opportunities abound! Home school proms, church dances, service program events, ect—I think all the choices can be overwhelming.
    MissMOE recently posted..Books Should Be Free—And They Are!

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  12. The Many Thoughts of a Reader

    I understand your concerns about tradional school but I just want to say, a good teacher does recognize abilities, does teach to those students and does incorporate everything all together.
    The Many Thoughts of a Reader recently posted..Rebecca – Discussion 1

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  14. Becca

    The right thing has been different for our 3 kids. My now 16YO spent most of his school career in traditional public school. He needed it and the elementary school staff worked with us with his ADHD and Asperger’s. He has also spent 3 years in a online web academy and is considered a public school student even though he is at home for this schooling. Works great for him.

    My girls we pulled out of the great elementary school in grades 3 and 1 respectively because it wasn’t great for them. I am homeschooling them because the web academy wouldn’t be a good fit for them The very structure that is good for the boy would be too much for the girls.

    How did we know we were doing the right thing? Because each child flourished and continues to flourish in the learning environment they are in currently. My youngest child’s whole personality changed when she came home for homeschool. She got enough sleep and her introverted heart was soothed by the time away from people. My boy would just wither and die if we did with him what we do with the youngest because he’s such an extrovert. For us the key has been to watch each child closely because each child’s needs have been different.
    Becca recently posted..No separate schoolroom for us!

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  17. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

    Here is why we chose public school. Our son is in second grade, his third year there. He previously attended three years of full-day preschool. This is partly because I work outside the home and his father works (although he now works at home, so they are able to spend afternoons together)–but if we thought that our need to have our child occupied during the day while we work was harming him educationally or emotionally, we would make changes so that one of us could be with him all day. We truly believe he does not need that and is thriving in school. He is academically gifted, and the school is challenging him pretty well.

    I was a Girl Scout leader for 6 years and in that time worked with 5 home-schooled girls from 3 unrelated families. Overall, they were not much different from the girls who went to school–but they didn’t seem to be better off in any way, and 4 of the 5 had noticeable deficits in academic and/or social skills. Being home-schooled by a parent who is uneducated about child development and expects too little of her children, a parent who is angry at Society and models suspicious hostility of outsiders, or a parent who is overwhelmed and lashes out at her children, may be every bit as crippling as things that can happen in school.

    So, I hope that if you choose to home-school, you will be thoroughly informed about how to do it well, and you will continue only as long as you feel positive and capable about it. Based on this article (I came here from Hobo Mama’s link–I haven’t read anything else on your site) it looks like you will. I wish you good luck in whatever you choose!
    Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook recently posted..Lots of Science Projects for Kids!

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