Stepping into homeschooling
As the current school year comes to an end, a lot of parents begin wondering if homeschooling might be the right option for next year. My family is finishing our seventh year of homeschooling, and there’s never been a doubt in my mind that it was the right choice.
I believe that homeschooling is the best option for many, but not all, kids. When I was a classroom teacher, it was impossible for me to know in depth the strengths and weaknesses of every student. There was only one of me and 25-30 of them. A lot of my time and attention was spent on classroom duties and maintaining order. As I taught, I envisioned myself at a bowling alley. I rolled the ball, or lesson, down the center of the lane, hoping to “hit” as many pins, or students, as possible with the concepts and skills I was teaching. Kids at the lower end of the spectrum usually received special instruction by remedial experts, and the kids at the upper end were, well, just there. In my school district, gifted kids were pulled out for three hours of in-depth instruction once every seven days.
There are definite benefits to homeschooling
Now that my attention is focused on just two children, and the two that I know and care about more than any others, I can discuss in detail which subjects and skills are their strengths and where they
need more practice. I can observe them work a math problem and know whether or not they understand the concept. If one curriculum doesn’t suit us for some reason, I know that we can switch to another. Customized curriculum and individualized instruction are major strengths of homeschooling and reason enough to give it serious consideration.
A huge benefit of homeschooling is that it gives the gift of time. The kids can be finished with their lessons and learning activities in 2-4 hours, depending on their age and grade level. That has freed up time for them to take horseback riding lessons, music lessons, skating, drama, sports and P.E. and so much more. My daughter spends time working on a quilting project, and we’re able to travel during off-peak times, avoiding crowds wherever we go. Compared with friends whose homes are frantic in the morning with everyone trying to get ready and out the door for school and then filled with homework at the end of the day, our days are much more relaxed.
When I’ve been asked why we homeschool, my reasons have changed over the years. At first it was just because I thought it would be fun to explore and learn as a family. Now, I’d say it has more to do with the cohesiveness of our family and the ability to develop two human beings that love to learn, have a positive outlook on life, and have a complete education.
It’s not all a bowl of cherries
Over the years I’ve appreciated the freedom it gives our family and watching my children enjoy learning, but there are definite drawbacks.
In most families, it’s the mother who is responsible for most or all of the schooling. Sometimes this has made my life complicated and frustrating. Even though diaper bags are ancient history around our house, I still have to stop and think what we need to pack in order for my kids to stay out of trouble when I have a hair or a dentist’s appointment. When I’ve had a doctor’s appointment, my kids go along and sit out in the hallway. Pretty much every errand takes longer. I’m blessed that I have family within ten miles or so of our house, but dropping the kids off every time I have to go somewhere isn’t usually practical.
Another drawback is that it can take time to find your family’s unique combination of curriculum, activities, and schedule. Many new homeschooling parents want to duplicate school at home, along with stacks of textbooks, workbooks, and a strict schedule. This almost never works and they become frustrated. I’ll share ideas for working through the process of finding what works for you later in this series, but don’t be tempted to give up too soon just because nothing is flowing the right way and the visions you had of laughing together over a science experiment or sharing the excitement of discovering the nuances in Alice in Wonderland just aren’t happening.
It can be tough to be a homeschooling mom
As a mom, I have to admit there’s a third serious drawback, and that is maintaining my own healthy self-esteem. I have always known that I would be the weakest link in our homeschool journey. I tend to rebel against schedules and am way, way too spontaneous. When we get off track from school for a few days, I beat myself up. Over the years I’ve heard so many other homeschool moms do the same thing.
“We’d be further ahead if I could just…”
“My kids are behind in math, but it’s all my fault.”
“I just can’t seem to find the right curriculum…”
Because homeschooling falls mostly on our shoulders, it’s very easy to set a standard so high that, really, no mom could ever reach it. Every day you do the best you can do. You’ll see results, I promise.
Still want to jump in?
My advice for families considering homeschooling is to consider:
1. Why do you want to homeschool?
2. Why do you think it’s the best choice for your kids and your family?
3. Who will be responsible for the instruction?
4. Will the family be able to live on one income (assuming the mother will stay home and teach)?
5. Are there any special circumstances to consider?
If you have spent time thinking about the why of homeschooling, it will be easier to stay committed on days when nothing goes right.
Homeschooling is a radical path. It changes the way you look at education. It changes the way your family interacts with each other. It’s more than just having your kids learn academic subjects at home instead of at a school. It’s a lifestyle change.
Knowing what know now and having lived through some incredible school days and others that tested the limits of my sanity, I can say that this is the only lifestyle for us. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Coming next: My top tips for beginning homeschoolers.
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