Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on January 2, 2013.
It troubles me to see a surge of interest in homeschooling after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. I love homeschooling my family, and I have to admit that after the tragedy, I was glad my children weren’t attending school that following Monday. But is this a reason to homeschool? Not if it’s the only reason you have for homeschooling.
While only 4% of U.S. children are homeschooled, this is a fast-growing movement. Of course, I am an advocate of homeschooling. I love to talk to people who are thinking about it for their own family. At the same time, I don’t think everybody has to do it. It should depend on your child’s needs and also the needs and desires of the parents.
People should understand that homeschooling isn’t just “school at home.” Homeschooling is a lifestyle. Your whole family is in it together, and you are going to be together all the time. If you have extended family or extra resources to help, that’s great, but it’s still a lot of togetherness. Even for the most patient parents, it can be tough.
Friends and family have commented that I have a lot of patience, and I often chuckle and think to myself that they don’t really know me. I suppose I am more patient than some, but I’m also introverted, and I like a lot of time to myself. I try to balance my love of my children and this lifestyle with my needs, but that’s not always possible. I accept that.
I like to tell people that yes, you can homeschool, if you want to, but there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to. The only thing that is wrong is not being heavily involved in your child’s education. Someone once told me that she was going to supplement homeschool with public school. I wish more parents took that attitude.
Statistics are proving that homeschoolers tend to outscore traditionally schooled children on standardized tests, and most agree that the concern about socialization is unfounded. But as I read about how more families are choosing homeschooling, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more problems arise with it. It seems inevitable that as any population grows more challenges will arise within it. I hope I’m wrong.
I read about a family whose mother pulled her children out of school and told a homeschooling friend she didn’t need any advice…she knew exactly what she was going to do. Well, the children were back in school before the year was out. Apparently she was determined that her kids would learn A, B and C by a certain time, much like they were supposed to learn it in school.
Guess what? Kids all learn differently, and they each have their own time frame. Most homeschoolers recognize this, and this is why they are homeschooling in the first place. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is being able to tailor your child’s education to fit his needs and interests. I don’t understand homeschoolers who don’t take advantage of this. This is why I call homeschooling a lifestyle too.
While I do have what I call “school time” with my boys in the mornings, I don’t stress lessons, and I rarely use worksheets. Instead, I have tried to cultivate an atmosphere where all questions are valued and learning is just part of our lives. My son asks to watch nature documentaries, and we watch together as a family. We have conversations, go on field trips, take community classes and make time for playing, creating and exploring.
When I’m trying to teach something specific, I have learned that I might have to try various resources before I find one that works for my son. I have done much research on various homeschooling methods, and my work has only just started.
I don’t blame parents who want to homeschool after the recent tragic events, but I hope they will consider all the variables when they pull their children out of school. Tragic events happen everywhere – not just in schools – but, yes, you do have more control and flexibility while homeschooling. You get to spend quality time with your children, and you get to make sure they have the kind of childhood you want them to.
Homeschooling can be the best thing that ever happened to you, but if you go into it with a fixed idea on what it should look like for your family, you may be in for a rude awakening. Think about it. Maybe try it. Above all, be flexible.
What do you think about all the interest in homeschooling after the recent tragedy? Do you think it’s a good idea for parents to consider homeschooling for this reason? Or maybe for other reasons?