Why do you home-school? It is a question my husband and I are often asked as we try to balance home, work, school, play, and more for our family of six. Back in the early days, when teaching my kids at home seemed like more of an intrusion than a blessing, this question scared me…mainly because I wasn’t sure I believed any answer I managed to utter while trying to hide my looming fears. Could they see it? Did they know I was scared out of my mind and trying desperately to justify home schooling in my own mind? It seemed like bloodthirsty wolves looking for the weak link (ME) to shame into submission to the school system! My perceptions of their savage motivations were just that – MINE – all in MY head. It took a few years to realize it though.
Our home education journey began in 2005, when I taught our first child kindergarten at home. We ended up moving into an area with a private school, so in 2006, she entered kindergarten – again – because of age and birth-date. Even though she could read very well, could write in cursive, and knew everything needed to move on to first grade, the “norm” forced her to repeat it all. Our son entered kindergarten the next year at the same school as his sister, but in all the ways she excelled – he did not. I tried to attribute it to “being a boy” but there was more to it than that. After a full year of learning nothing except how to end up in the Principal’s office, I asked the teacher if my son could repeat kindergarten the next year since he was obviously not ready for first grade. She said he would be fine in first grade – which I knew to be false – so the home schooling began. It was not something I WANTED to do – caring for an infant and toddler, dealing with my husband going back to college, and now teaching too? I knew it was crazy, but could not let our son move on without even knowing his alphabet or numbers. His would be a life-long sentence of feeling stupid, when he was actually quite brilliant! If there was a key to unlock his learning, I was determined to find it.
Long story short…all of my children were taught at home from that moment on. Our son took a year off and played – yes PLAYED – before reviewing kindergarten and speeding through first grade because he FINALLY was ready to learn. He and one of our daughters have since been diagnosed with ADHD and severe math learning disabilities. Home schooling permits me to spend the extra time needed on math, while allowing them to soar ahead in other subjects. Our other two daughters are speeding along at a faster pace than a teacher with 30 students could possibly tolerate. All of my children test at least one grade ahead of their age, and some have tested past high school since 2nd grade in certain subjects.
After 10 years of home education, I would not put my kids in a “normal” school if you paid me…well, maybe if it was a VERY high price! However, I do NOT believe teaching children at home is the best choice for EVERYONE. For some, it is simply impossible. Working several jobs to pay bills is important, and providing a home and meeting basic needs for your children should always take precedence over where they receive their education. For others, it is unnecessary because their children are doing just fine where they are. Just because this was the right choice for our family does not demean those who choose a different path. We respect all who seek the best for their children, and it looks different in every family.
The benefits we have gained from teaching our children at home are too many to count, but a few are:
Home Schooling Benefits
This applies to our special needs kids, as well as our quick learners. They know that Mom or Dad is going to take the time to address each unique need.
My students complete their work, take a test, and move on as soon as it is understood and mastered. They do not have to wait for others, nor have other waiting for them.
Home-education takes time. While some (and even I on some days) get frustrated by the amount of time it takes to truly teach a child how to learn, live, and thrive in every area of life; it is this time spent that is the key to teaching at home. I know my children. I know their hearts. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know their hearts quite so well, because they, like me, are imperfect works in progress. Having the time to answer their life-questions…to watch them grow past a rough phase of teenage angst…to watch them learn…it is priceless!
Shorter school day
We are usually finished with formal schooling by noon…unless we are all exhausted and I allow a 2-hour delay. On most days, the entire afternoon can be spent PLAYING, exploring, creating, cleaning, going to the library, and meeting other home-schoolers for play-dates. After all, they are finished early too!
Several months ago, our son said he wanted to be “normal”. Therefore, we investigated what “normal” is. After seeing the norms of our culture, he decided being different is okay. Our kids are “weird”, and that is GREAT because when my children are called “weird” it is usually for acting in a way that is more appropriate than “normal”. They have always been listened to and answered, so they are willing to both ask tough questions and answer them. Most “normal” 14 year olds will hardly answer when I ask, “How are you doing?” They say, “Fine”, and quickly look away as if I was a hairy green and purple monster with huge warts. Ask my child that question, and you had BETTER be ready for a real answer!
“How will you ever socialize your children if they are only with each other?” This question is generally asked by a person with no children, or a parent who has children who behave in ways mine had better never dare. My response is often: “How do YOU socialize YOUR children?” After telling me that they send their children to a place where their kids only socialize with humans their own age for 8 hours per day, where they are rarely allowed to really speak to each other except 3 minutes between classes or at recess (IF they get a recess), I give them my list.
- Our kids go to church every Sunday, where they are in small-group classes with children who go to public, private, or home-school; and then they interact with wonderful adults, whom they actually talk to as if they were on the same age level.
- We attend a Bible study group every Tuesday, at which the kids have their own home-school class with other children who are also taught at home.
- Two Tuesday evenings per month, my girls attend American Heritage Girls (like Girl Scouts, but more focused on character building than camping) where they mingle with other girls from all walks of life, and work together to reach goals as a team.
- Once or twice a year, the children may choose an activity (golf lessons was their last choice).
- We try to plan play-dates and outings with other families several times a month.
- Another socializing opportunity is the grocery store or department stores. There are many instances when I shop without my kids, and the cashier asks where they are…because my kiddos speak to them kindly, and it is noticed.
- And…we have FOUR children…they socialize constantly. There are actually times when I find myself begging for a chance to enter the never-ending banter between them.
Home Schooling Drawbacks
Not for slackers
Teaching at home takes a great deal of time and effort on the part of the parent teacher. Lesson plans for MULTIPLE grades to be taught AT ONE TIME to MULTIPLE children is no joke. It takes a certain measure of organization, patience, and discipline that not everyone can muster.
I must be intentional. Our children participate in events and extracurricular opportunities in many arenas. The difficulty is encouraging involvement WITHOUT overburdening THEM or ME. There is a delicate balance between laziness and over-obligation that changes with each year, so we will never quite achieve it – I am convinced of this!
The number of curriculum packages available to homeschoolers is amazing. Religious, secular, classical, hybrid, etc…..too many excellent curricula to choose from sounds like a wonderful thing, but for too many home-educators it can cause problems. The parent who changes curriculum annually will quickly confuse and frustrate her children. This is not to say that switching is a bad idea if your current choice is truly a bad fit, but constantly jumping to the next new thing is irresponsible, and unfair to your students. There are also a few curriculum choices that do not meet the standards required for a student with college aspirations. Be aware, and beware!
Pressure to be just like the Joneses
“What curriculum do you use?” “How do you order your school day?” “Do you have a classroom? Or just use the dining room table?” Too many home-educators are trying to recreate an experience that belongs to someone else, use a curriculum that works for someone else, or have children who learn just like someone else’s. One of my friends used to always have a new book, or a new process she was trying in hopes of getting the results of So-and-So who was such a success at home-schooling. When she finally found something that worked for her family and their specific needs, and stopped changing curriculum and expectations every few months, her kids excelled. They needed consistency and continuity – not the latest, greatest thing. Do what works for you and your kids, and it WILL be the best!
Financial cost is not always a problem, but if you must have the latest, greatest educational system, you WILL PAY. There are excellent resources for home-schoolers that are relatively inexpensive, yet well-rounded. We spend approximately $1500 per year TOTAL…for ALL FOUR kids combined in fees, books, supplies, etc… Some families spend that much PER CHILD for home-schooling. Make good choices, and this will not be a drawback for you.
Some valuable resources that may help any one interested in taking control of their children’s education
- KHAN Academy
- Home Education Resources
- Educational Worksheets (Prek-6th)
- Super Teacher Worksheets