Saturday, June 2, 2007

Why Do We Homeschool?

I am ripping off this idea for a post from Dancing Boys Mom. (Hope that's ok, S)

I get some variation of these questions a lot. I think I need a flyer or something that I can just hand out to people when I meet them.

1. Did you always know you would home-school? Sorta, kinda. Several years before we had children, I read The Well-Trained Mind (me and about 10,000 other moms). All I could think was, "Wow! I wish I had been taught that way!" After that, I had the thought in the back of my mind for several years that I would like to homeschool, but my mind wasn't firm on the matter. We were still open to other ideas like Christian school or even the right public school situation. The most important thing for both of us from the very beginning has been to make the decision that was in the best interest of our children, whatever form that took.

2. What led you to the decision to home-school? BW and I both experienced challenging school situations when we were growing up. I'm not going to go into why. But one of the main things that bothered me personally was nearly constant boredom. I could generally understand a concept after having it explained to me one or two times. I was very frustrated (especially in high school) by other students who were apathetic, didn't do their homework, and forced teachers to constantly repeat themselves. So, my own personal bias was one factor in our decision to homeschool. I simply don't want the girls to be held back by a collective that can't "get with the program."

A second factor has become finances. We actually EE enrolled in Kindergarten at a local Christian school several years ago. We went all the way through the interview process with the board. But about three weeks before school was supposed to start, we sat down and added up how much it was going to cost for us to send both girls from K through 12th grade. It was going to be well over $100,000. That was a bucket of hard, cold reality in our faces.

The third major factor is where we live. Although we live in a nice city, the section where we live isn't all that great. (It seems like anytime you live in the "southside" of a city with numbers for street names it's probably a tip-off that it's not a good area.) If we did send the girls to the public school in our neighborhood, they would likely be in a classroom with 30 students, most of which english would not be their first language.

3. What age were your children when you decided to take the home-school plunge? When EE started Kindergarten. In our state, Kindergarten isn't mandatory. So I figured that if I completely screwed up, it wouldn't be a big deal. I could just do something different (although I wasn't sure what) for first grade.

People also frequently ask me if we plan to homeschool the girls all the way through high school. My answer to that question is the same as it's always been: as long as it is in the girls' best interest, we will continue to homeschool them. If that takes us through high school, then that's what we will do. What that will look like, however, I have no clue. But I guess we'll figure something out.

For now, EE lives in dread of the day I STOP homeschooling her. She loves it. Plus, I have her so brainwashed about all of the advantages that she would do almost anything NOT to go to public school.

All of that being said, I am not of the opinion that all "good" Christian parents should homeschool. I think this is a matter of Christian conscience that needs to be decided by the parents before God.

4. Did you have any fears? For the first three weeks of Kindergarten, all I could think of was, "What the heck have I gotten myself into?" But slowly we settled into a routine and things got better. If I had it to do over again, I would put way less pressure on myself. I was trying to do too much too fast. But I didn't know any better.

What were they? Sometimes I struggle with fears that I will miss something that the girls need to learn. But now everytime I feel that way, I go on the state of CA web site and look at the textbooks public school kids are using and it reassures me that I am on the right track.

Probably my greatest fear is of a personal nature in that I am afraid that someday we won't be able to continue homeschooling because of my disability. In my "ideal" life, I wouldn't have to work. But because my husband works for a non-profit company and receives less than market-rate pay, it is a necessity that I work too. But the stress of balancing work with homeschool and my other home responsibilities causes me to contantly live on the edge of being on disability. Thankfully, my mother teaches EE grammar and writing two mornings a week. She is a 40-year public school teacher veteran who is an absolutely invaluable resource. And BW heads up the science and math efforts. Given my personal limitations, however, I know that homeschooling the girls would simply not be realistic without this group effort.

Were they realized? So far, none of my fears have been realized. Our homeschool experience has been relatively positive. But EE is very bright and, again, we have a good team effort. And, as long as my mom, BW and I all continue to work together, I think we will succeed.

5. Do you know a lot of other home-schoolers in your real-life community? This sounds like a variation on the "socialization" question, so I'll address that. My first response to this question is to point out that there isn't one shred of credible research data to show that homeschoolers are somehow socially marred for life.

Now, for my not-so-nice response: What kind of socialization do people think EE is missing out on? Bullies? Age-inappropriate conversations with peers about sex? Aren't the answers to these questions self-evident?

6. If you could name one thing that inspired you most to home-school, what was it? In the beginning, I think I was inspired by a bunch of educational ideals that I read in The Well-Trained Mind. Now I think I'm inspired by the fact that my kids don't spend all day at school and then come home tired so I can hassle them about doing homework. We're done with school by noon. Then, we can do whatever other extra-curricular activities we want. We can even take a nap if we want to.

Personally, I also think my children have more innocence and imagination than other children, which I attribute to being homeschooled. But I could be completely biased about that.

The third thing that inspires me is that we can customize EE's education to the subjects that interest her. For example, she loves paleontology. Well, we can incorporate that into all kinds of subjects - science, writing, reading, art (paleontologists need to know how to draw), and even photography (another unusual skill that paleontologists need).

7. How do you choose your curriculum? I flip a coin. Just kidding. I use a combination of criteria. I use the state-approved math and language curriculum because that is what EE is accountable for on state tests. But we skip around a bit and can speed up or slow down as we see fit.

For science, geography, Greek, and history I pretty much follow The Well-Trained Mind recommendations and principles.

I write my own Bible curriculum. (Hey, I'm a seminary grad and ex-theology prof. What else can I say?)

8. Do you feel anyone is capable of home-schooling? Like Dancing Boys' Mom, I’d love to say “yes” here, but I don’t think so. Even with all of my education, I don't think I could do an adequate job of the language and writing instruction without my mother's expertise. Oh sure, I could give EE some level of instruction, but it wouldn't have the years and years of tried and true experience of what "works" behind it that my mother has. I mean, come on, I can't beat 4 decades of experience. Believe me, she has seen EVERYTHING. Neither could I give EE the high level of science education that my husband gives her. I never took chemistry, physics or astronomy. But my husband did. I know I couldn't give her the level of history, Greek and Bible instruction that I do without my seminary training and teaching experience.

In my opinion, this is the reason why so many homeschool parents are constantly in search of the perfect "cookie-cutter" homeschool curricula. It's the one that doesn't require the parent to think or exert very little effort. If a parent doesn't have the knowledge or educational background to improvise or think critically on a particular, they can become easily flustered and constantly searching for the "just right" fit for their child.

9. Do you feel every child is capable of home-schooling? What would be an exception? Boy, I don't know. I think a lot of it depends on the parents' ability, as well as the needs of the child. But I don't personally have enough experience to answer that question.


Summer said...

I love reading other's answers on the whole "Why homeschool" question. :) I keep meaning to read Well Trained Mind but haven't gotten to it yet, but you've inspired me to move it to the next book on my list.

Dancing Boys Mom said...

It's always good to have help. I think, no matter what the situation, all homeschoolers should have some kind of help. I'm not sure why folks think it should all be on the mom. Whether the help be from the dad or other relatives or paid courses online, any help a mom can get is going to keep her homeschooling longer.

Also, am I the only classical homeschooler who DIDN'T like TWTM? lol.