More and more frequently I get comments on this blog or on Facebook about how I should be homeschooling. Many are well meaning. They think homeschool rocks and they want me to experience this bliss myself. A handful are a tad condescending. I do understand that many parents concerned with self sufficiency, natural learning and living, homesteading, minimalism, etc do opt to homeschool. I do not.
Here are some of the reasons why:
1. I do not want to spend every waking moment with my kids. Yeah I said it and yes I will OWN it. I have always been an attached parent. I became a work at home mom and built my own business so that I could be the primary caregiver for my kids. I breastfed on demand, tandem nursed, co-slept with all my babes, washed their nappies by hand, wore them in slings and carriers, and generally devoted myself to their care in their younger years. They never experienced daycare (aside from my oldest), nannies, or babysitters. I almost never spent an evening away from them or a day even since I was pretty much single parenting for 6ish years while my hubby had an over-the-road job. This took a toll on me and my marriage and I am now taking a look at other parenting philosophies that don’t put so much stress on mom to be all for her children, all the time. I may still sleep with a six year old wrapped around me at night like a pretzel but I also make sure that my husband and I are having our needs met for child-free time. Having our kids in public school creates a window of time for the adults, especially since my husband works second shift. I enjoy the time. I need the time.
2. I want my kids to be exposed to lots of different ideas and concepts, not just those I personally teach and endorse. On one hand I may tell you that I will happily “brainwash” my kids when it comes to my ideas about equality, sustainability, and some aspects of politics. I want them to believe what I believe. I am not going to be all militant if they choose to believe something else but I have no problems with my opinion being the one they hear most on some matters. On the other hand I don’t want them to take my word for it. I want them to be exposed to many different ideas and opinions so they can make up their own mind. I am agnostic for instance but I rarely talk about that at home because I want them to make up their own minds. I even sent one of my kids to a Christian preschool so that they would have exposure to religion that I am not willing to provide. My youngest would likely have gone to the same school if he had not required early intervention.
Many, many parents who homeschool (especially deeply religious families) homeschool to insulate their kids and keep them from being exposed to thoughts and ideas that conflict with what they are teaching at home. I want no part of that. This is not to say that I will not try to dissuade them from opinions and behavior that I strongly disagree with but how can we truly discuss things if they have no frame of reference?
3. I want my kids to experience lots of diversity. Homeschool groups often tend to have many of the same kind of kids and families in them. If you are homeschooling solo then trips to the zoo or the science museum do not qualify as exposure to diversity. In our local public schools there are kids of many different races and religions. There are kids with two parent families, single parent families, and families with parents of the same sex. There are children with special needs and handicaps. My oldest son’s school even has classrooms with varied age groups all lumped together so that he might be sitting next to an 11th grader and an 8th grader. It is important for my kids to see that not everyone looks, acts, and thinks like they do and that this should be accepted and celebrated.
4. We tried homeschool and it was not for us. I actually DID homeschool for 1.5 years of my oldest son’s school career and it was in reaction to issues he was having at public school. I feel that overall it was a big mistake. He has Asperger’s and ODD and was unwilling to do any sort of school at home. Unschooling, which we also tried, was no help either. When I took him to a public school to be tested when he should have been entering 4th grade I was shocked by the results and by how far behind he was. I had to admit to myself that not only did I not enjoy homeschooling, I am just not cut out for it AND my son did not respond well to his mom also being his teacher. The stuff that any teacher could get away with requesting or requiring was cruel and unusual punishment coming from mom. Also, I am not a patient person. I have to admit that my personality limits my effectiveness as a home educator.
But to those that DO homeschool…I salute you and very often over the years I have wished that I could be you.
5. We require interventions (aka care provided to improve a situation). Hubby and I have two autistic boys and this puts them several steps behind their peers academically and socially. With special assistance I have seen my oldest son catch up to and even surpass his peers, depending upon the subject. Instead of being distracted by all the kids in a classroom full of 30 kids, he is now in a classroom with only 3 others. He gets one on one instruction in areas where he needs it.
My youngest child is now entering Kindergarten after three years of public preschool and is still nowhere near ready for it. He is going to seriously struggle with the academics and he is going to need lots of resources and help that I would have difficulty providing for him on my own. I am amazed every day by what public school can do for special needs children. Admittedly it can be like pulling teeth to get them to acknowledge that there ARE special needs but once you do establish what you need to, it is a gift that keeps on giving. Need a private car service to transport your kid to school because he cannot handle the stimulation of all the kids on a bus? No problem. Need a classroom with only 2-3 other kids in it? No problem. Need a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist (or perhaps all three)? No problem. We pay more taxes in our current district than anywhere else we have lived but how can I complain?
6. Public schooling won’t improve unless caring, motivated parents are there to encourage change. I have often accused public schooling of being cookie cutter education and I have my fair share of complaints (despite what I just said above). I get pretty mad when I think teachers are being inflexible and unreasonable. I get hoppin mad when one of my kids is afraid to voice their opinion to a teacher or administrator about something that concerns them because they feel they will be punished for dissent. I have concerns when too many of the songs in chorus are about Jesus since schools are supposed to honor a separation of church and state. I think they need to relax when it comes to homework and stop being so laid back about bullying. I have concerns. You have concerns. We can’t do anything about those concerns if we pull our kids out of that environment and school them at home. Who will fight for the kids and parents who don’t have that option?
When I pulled my oldest child out of public school I was essentially giving up. I felt they were doing wrong by him and I could not get them to change. Who benefited when I gave up? No one. My son slipped further behind because homeschooling was not a good fit for us and the school got to wipe their hands clean of him and his issues. I did them a favor. That all changed when I was introduced by chance to a lawyer and special education advocate. She heard my son’s experience and jumped at the chance to do right by him. If I had chosen to return him to his old school she would have helped to force them to acknowledge his special needs and then accommodate them as required by law. Instead I chose to put him in a school created especially for children with special needs.
Now I am starting this process all over again with my six year old. This time I am determined to be the advocate my child needs and the parent who works for change from the inside.
7. You can still have an active role in educating your child even if they ARE in public school. Public schooling does not mean lazy parenting. Well, it can mean that but it doesn’t have to. If your child is struggling to learn because their teacher is not willing or able to adapt lessons to their learning style then get creative and work on these issues at home. Help them with gaps. Have fun with “unschooling” nights and weekends by playing educational board games or taking them to museums. You can expose to them all sorts of wonderful opportunities and experiences. You are not limited just because they go to public school.
Have them complete their homework with you. Volunteer at their school and become informed of the issues and see what they are learning. Join the PTA. Get to know their teachers so well they are practically on speed dial. And I don’t mean come to them with bad stuff (ie complaints) all the time…build a positive relationship. Don’t feel as though you need to relinquish control of your child’s education…think of yourself as a partner in their education. Everyone wins.
8. Private schools are flippin expensive! They are not an option for us but even if they were I am not so sure we would utilize them. My limited experience with private schools left me feeling that they were just as likely to provide cookie cutter education. At the religious school where my daughter went there was entirely too much shaming going on as well. Not so much a fan of that. If we did private schooling it would likely be Montessori or similar.
So, time for you to weigh in. Agree or disagree. What have you chosen for your family?
Thursday, August 16th, 2012