So. This is not exactly the first time I’ve posted about homeschooling.
But, it is just about the first time I’ve blogged about the topic on my own. Normally, I’m fielding concerned sorts of questions, like, “What will you do about college?”, “Will your children be able to relate to other people?”, “Are you worried they’re missing out?”, and “Aren’t you concerned that they won’t get a good education?”
I thought it might be fun for a change to talk about this in a positive way…instead of telling you that homeschooled graduates do too hold down jobs, get accepted into colleges, have families, hold intelligent conversations with people, and author successful blogs (hee), I want to tell you all the happy, sunshiny reasons I homeschool my kids.
Before I start, here are the things I usually say when I talk about homeschooling:
- I don’t think it’s right for everyone.
- It’s not the only way to be well-educated.
- I think it’s the right choice for our family.
(These are in no particular order. Except the order in which I thought of them. Which, I suppose, is an order of sorts. Also, this is not an exhaustive list.)
I homeschool because:
-I have a little love affair with making my own schedule.
Though I’m a born rule-follower, and I can be obedient with the best of them, I have a bit of an independent streak when it comes to scheduling my life. I really, really love being able to decide when we’ll take a day off, what hours we’ll do school, when our school year will start and stop, what days we’ll take off at Christmastime, and when we’ll go on field trips.
I would seriously chafe at following a school schedule set by someone else.
(I can follow someone else’s schedule…I did it in college, of course. It’s just not my first choice.)
-We can adjust our lives to accommodate Mr. FG’s work schedule.
In the 12+ years we’ve been parents, Mr. FG’s schedule has been all over the map. Homeschooling lets us adapt our lives to fit his schedule. For example, when he worked Saturdays and was off Mondays, we did school on Saturdays and not on Mondays. He now works second shift, so we do typical evening activities in the morning and tackle our schoolwork when he leaves for work.
This schooling flexibility gives us much more family time than we’d have otherwise (his current shift would block out all family time except for weekends if the kids were on a typical school schedule.)
-Things are not complicated.
As any teacher knows, the public school system is kind of a behemoth. Changing things isn’t very easy, and most things need to be planned in advance. It’s just the nature of things when you’re in a large organization.
Anyway, in that sense, things are simpler when you homeschool. I can move children between grades, take a day off when the weather is gorgeous and screams for a trip to the park,
take Spring Break whenever we want, decide to speed up or slow down a child in a particular subject, or take an impromptu field trip to a president’s home because my children are interested, all without having to submit forms, ask a committee, or have a meeting.
As long as we get our work done, the government leaves those decisions up to our school board, which consists of Mr. FG and me.
-I want my children to have free space/downtime in their lives.
I’ve written before about how homeschooling is very efficient, and that efficiency means that my children have a lot of free time to play. Since free time to play is actually very valuable for children, this is a huge benefit in my mind.
As they grow older, this time will give them opportunities to work and to pursue their interests (as a teenager, I spent a lot of my free time starting my piano teaching studio, practicing the piano, and cooking/baking.)
-My children like being homeschooled.
This isn’t a foundational reason, of course, since I make them do plenty of things they don’t like (eating vegetables, cleaning toilets, picking up after themselves), but it is something of a contributing factor. If they loathed homeschooling, I would take note and rethink things a bit.
As it stands, though, all four of them have absolutely no desire to go to regular school…they like being homeschooled particularly because of the efficiency/downtime factor I just mentioned.
-There’s a correlation between my children’s efficiency and their free time.
When you’re in a traditional school setting, you pretty much have to be there for 6 hours no matter what. But when you’re homeschooled, hard work can result in more free time.
Obviously, rushing doesn’t pay because then you have to spend a bunch of time redoing the wrong work, but good, steady, faithful work pays dividends in the form of free time.
When I was a kid, I sometimes worked ahead so that I could take a Friday off, or if I wanted to go do something midweek, I did extra work so I could take a day off. Lisey, who is such a mini-me, often works ahead for the same reason.
Conversely, this system also applies natural consequences to children who don’t manage their time well, and I think that’s a valuable lesson.
-I want my kids to learn to figure things out for themselves.
Something a lot of people don’t realize is that homeschooling moms don’t teach every subject to their children every day (if we did, homeschooling multiple children would be crazy-insane!).
Homeschooled children do a lot of figure-it-out-by-reading-the-book kind of learning (with mom available when they get stuck). Because I was so used to teaching myself by using the book, when I got to college, I was surprised at how much my peers depended on the professor.
(Incidentally, this is mostly how Abraham Lincoln was educated…by reading books! He only had about a year total of formal schooling in his life.)
I suppose there are some homeschooling parents who don’t run things this way, but I definitely focus on helping my children find answers for themselves. I offer assistance when they need it, of course, but only after they’ve helped themselves by reading the directions, looking things up in the index, or looking back at previous lessons. And when I do help them, I generally do so by asking them questions intended to make them think through the problem.
If you know how to figure things out for yourself, you can learn pretty much anything you want your whole life long. The sky is the limit!
-I want my children to be well-educated and prepared for college.
At the very least, studies show that homeschoolers do as well in college as their traditionally-schooled peers, and this study showed that on average, they have a higher ACT score, earn more college credits, and maintain a higher GPA than their peers.
Of course, homeschooling is not the only way to turn out a well-educated child, but it is clearly one way.
-I want my children to be around people of a variety of ages.
Due to the nature of traditional schooling, children end up spending the majority of their day around children their own age. This isn’t necessarily bad, but I appreciate that homeschooling keeps my children around people of varying ages. Not only do they spend significant amounts of time with their older and younger siblings, they also go out and about with me and interact with adults, and when we get together with other homeschooling families, the age range there tends to be pretty wide.
-I want to choose their curriculum.
Not all curriculum is created equal, and I love being able to pick the best out of the bunch or even make my own, like I did with our United States study. I also like that I can skip things like pointless busy work.
(Interestingly, Zoe seems to really like busy work, so I give her more of that than I’d give a kid who hated it.)
-I can let each child work at the perfect grade level.
Often, children don’t fit neatly into a single grade level, and when you homeschool, you can move a child through each subject at a rate that is appropriate for them. For example, Zoe was already reading when she started kindergarten this year, and kindergarten math would have been way too easy for her. This means I have her doing a lot of first-grade level work. However, her handwriting was definitely at kindergarten level, so that’s where I started her. This way I can keep things challenging and interesting but not overwhelming.
-I can have a lot of say about who influences my children.
This is far more important to me in the early grades than it will be when my children are older, but I like that I can choose which children spend time with my children. Young children especially are very open to influence
and I appreciate that I don’t have to deal with them picking up bad ideas/behaviors from children at school.
(for the record, I do think children need to learn to deal with bad influences, but I prefer that they learn this at an older age when they’re more equipped to filter and assess other people’s behavior.)
I also like that I can make sure that unkind behavior from other children doesn’t interfere with their ability to learn. Bullying is serious business, and sadly, sometimes schools don’t do a good job of dealing with it. At home, I can swiftly address anything of that sort (it helps to be the parent of all the children at school!)
-I can discipline/train my children all day.
This may not be a particularly fun aspect of homeschooling, but it is true that being home with my children all day gives me ample time to see faults/poor behavior patterns and also gives me time to address them. And because I’m the one addressing them, I can help them see what Jesus would want them to do, I can pray with and for them, and I can help them look to Jesus for the strength to do what they’re supposed to do.
I can also help them learn to resolve conflicts properly, because believe me, there are plenty of opportunities with four children in the same house all day!
-We can do things off-season or at off-times.
Admittedly, this would be pretty far down the list if I arranged these by priority, but it is awfully nice to be able to plan activities at times when everyone else is in school. Off-season beach vacations are a favorite of ours, and when I was a kid, my family always went skiing the week before Christmas because schools were still in session. Empty slopes? Oh, yes. My family went to Disney in the fall, and we visited the Statue of Liberty off season and skipped right through what seemed like miles of crowd corral.
We can visit museums and the zoo during the week, we can have park outings if a lovely day happens to fall in the middle of the week, and we can schedule dentist appointments and doctor appointments in the morning or early afternoon and avoid the busy after-school rush. It’s also simpler to schedule private lessons. For instance, music teachers often welcome the opportunity to teach students during school hours when most children are unavailable.
Ok! That’s my not-exhaustive, imperfect list. You might feel exhausted after reading it (it’s long!), but I hope it helps you to understand a bit more about why we’ve chosen this educational method for our family.
Before I sign off, I want to add that from what I’ve read, it seems like the most important ingredient in educational success is parental involvement.
So if you want to homeschool but can’t, or if you want to send your child to private school but can’t, or if you wish your local public school was more like the one in that other neighborhood, take heart! By being an involved parent, you can do a whole lot to help your children get the education you want for them.