As the school season gets rolling here I’ve answered a lot of questions about homeschooling. Yes, I school our boys at home, the oldest 4 anyway…Zeb doesn’t know his ABCs yet at 4 months but we’re working on it. (Oh how I wish there was a sarcasm font!)
It seems like lots of people are intrigued by the idea and maybe even toy with it for a time but it often seems as though the conversation ends with the other parent saying one of two things…either she says “I don’t think I could do it, I’m not smart enough!” or “There’s no way I could homeschool…I couldn’t stand my kids for that long!” So here’s what my response is (at least in my head anyway)…
First: We homeschool not to keep the bad influences out or to make our kids academically superior or because we’re afraid of the “real world”. We homeschool because we view it as less about education (although very important) and more about discipleship. We are called to disciple our children at all times and quite frankly when we send them to public school we are allowing someone else to do it. They are often taught values and beliefs that are contrary to our beliefs and the values we believe are important for them to understand before setting off in the “real world” (even in a small school).
Second: I love it. It’s hard absolutely. There are days when I seriously think they might be better off on the big yellow bus going to school because we get frustrated. But the truth is, I know they wouldn’t be. We might have rough days, but the freedom homeschool offers is that we can modify our day, our lesson plans and our teaching methods to meet the needs of each child. Not only that but if all else fails I’ll outsource to dad or someone else who might have a different perspective. Unfortunately, in many public classrooms they just move on because our teachers have a classroom full of children and can’t individualize the education being delivered. (Not because they don’t want to, but because when teaching 35 other children it’s difficult to stop and make it work for one or two).
So back to my response:
Some day I’m going to flippantly say “Well I can tell that you obviously had someone else teach her to walk/talk/think/eat because look at that execution! I mean there is no way a plain old parent could teach their child to walk with such grace!” Okay not really, but seriously…you’ve taught your child so MANY things in the first few years of life why would you ever think you couldn’t teach him? I mean who better to teach your little one than you? You know how this kid thinks better than anyone. You know that he has a particular affinity for the color blue and that he really likes dinosaurs and has memorized most of their names. So why not use those dinosaurs to teach counting, math, science, spelling or English? When my second son was learning his addition facts we were having a miserable time, and I mean miserable! I would write 3+5 = ? Over and over again, and no matter how many times we “built” it with legos, used fingers, toes or whatever he would struggle to grasp the concept of any addition problem. Finally exasperated I sent him to run outside. He has always been very active and we both needed a break, so I asked him to go run a couple laps around our backyard and off he went singing the whole way around the yard. As he was wrapping it up, I asked him to pick up 3 rocks as quick as he could and put them in a circle I drew on the porch. He dropped three rocks in the circle and I asked him to pick up 5 more and put them in a second circle I drew. As he put them down I said “Now quick! How many rocks do you have?” Without missing a beat he said “8″. So I wrote the numbers above the circles. It was a huge breakthrough for us! I could tailor learning to fit what he needed at that moment. For the record, he no longer has to run laps to add but we used a similar concept to subtraction and multiplication.
I have a confession to make…I am miserable at English, Grammar to be specific. I kind of hated it in school. A lot. We didn’t diagram sentences until Junior High and I hated every single minute and once you get past the adjective/adverb territory and in to prepositions…I feel totally lost and my guts wrench. This last year we did a program called Shurley English with the boys, it involved diagramming sentences and parts of speech past adjectives. I.Was.Terrified. to teach it to them. I mean, what if I seriously messed up? And I can’t remember squat from when I was in school. So you know what? I learned it all over again with them. I stayed a day ahead with lessons so I was prepared but we did it together. The beauty of the program itself is that it has the little jingles to help remember parts of speech, it has question and answer flows to learn how to diagram sentences and it makes total sense! Where was this stuff when I was 12?
Some parents think they have to have a Master’s degree in everything to be able to teach their children. First grade teachers are super smart, without a doubt, but few of them have a master’s degree in calculus, literature, history and science. It’s called knowing where to look up the answers and being willing to learn together. So no, I’m not the smartest person around but am I qualified to teach my children? Absolutely! And so are you! And really, when they get old enough for the subjects I know nothing about like say calculus…technology is awesome and they can learn it through a correspondence or online course.
My children do benefit from being accountable to others who may teach them throughout the year, they learn that someone else has expectations too and not just mom. For example, we have a wonderful gal from our church who teaches them art during the week. They have learned that she expects them to sit still and listen too. She gives them instruction and they’re expected to follow those instructions and complete the task. They learn accountability to others. When we lived in Colorado we had a group of homeschool families who got together once or twice a month. The kids might prepare a project to present to the group, write a paper or report to share with someone else. One year I taught a science unit on the human body. I went once a week and taught about a different body system, we did experiments and dissected stuff…it was awesome! I was able to use my in depth knowledge as a nurse and experience to teach the whole group. Another mom put together a music program, while another provided math tutoring. We worked together to give our children the best learning experiences possible. We are still a bit of an oddity here so there aren’t as many homeschooling families, but there are still those experiences out there.
My response to the second statement “I couldn’t stand my kids all day!” is one that gets under my skin more than others. First, they’re your kids! If you can’t stand them then it’s probably a parenting issue. And secondly, if you can’t stand them how do you expect a complete stranger to? I mean really, if your child is so irritating that even you…the one who is supposed to love them unconditionally and all, doesn’t want to be around them…there is more than schooling at issue there and perhaps you should spend some more time around them…training them perhaps and learning to love them.
I do think it’s possible for most parents to homeschool their children. I realize that not every parent feels that conviction (and I don’t expect them to). But don’t NOT homeschool because you don’t think you can, it is possible and YOU CAN DO IT! (Is that grammatically correct? We haven’t made it to that lesson yet…)