I've had several people ask me recently if I'm ever going to send Zeke to school. Some don't understand why we're choosing to homeschool or they think that it's just a temporary thing I'm toying with. Others just don't understand it at all. Most people are just curious, others have been hurtful and downright rude. So I thought I'd try to set the record straight and list the reasons why we're choosing to homeschool and tell a little bit about how it all works. (Addition: I have since added to this post in the years that we've been homeschooling with more thoughts and ideas - just FYI.)
1. First off, we're homeschooling because that's what we feel is best for our family. This should be the reason that sets everyone straight and that they accept, but of course people always need more explanation than just that. So...
2. We're homeschooling because of the flexibility that homeschooling provides. If my kids get interested in a particular subject and want to spend more time on it, we can. They are free to explore and learn about anything and everything their heart desires in their own time frame without having to worry about going on to something else. The same is true for things they're struggling with - we can devote more time to that without them having to worry about being "left behind." I can also weave things into teaching that my kids might not get in public school like how important family is, having values and morals, studies of our faith, life skills and housekeeping.
3. We're homeschooling because of our flawed educational system. The schools in our area are failing basic math and reading tests, the classes are getting larger each year and the children's days are filled with tons of "busy work." They bring home hours of homework each night (even the youngest ones) and they're learning less and less. I know this because I have babysat kids who go to area schools - I've helped them with their homework and it's ridiculous. The schools push, push, push to get kids into school as early as possible (3!) and start pumping them full of information, facts, and things they HAVE to know - if your kids aren't quite ready (like most aren't) then your child is labeled "a slow learner" or "challenged." I also know several teaches (currently teaching around here) who are incredibly frustrated with the school system and how they have to just "teach to the test."
(Please note that not I'm not saying all schools are flawed. I know that some schools are operating excellently. I'm not against public schools and teachers - I went to public school myself and had a lot of really good teachers. I think I turned out okay. But I also had good parents to help guide me. My Grandma taught for many years as a public school teacher and she was excellent at her job. So I'm definitely NOT against public school.)
4. I don't homeschool because I think I'm better than anyone else or because I think homeschooling is the best thing and everyone should do it. While I do think it's great, it is NOT for everyone. Sometimes people seem to automatically get offended when they find out we homeschool, like it's a personal attack against them. That is not my intention at all but people still seem to feel the need to justify why homeschooling is right for me, but not them. Case in point - I end up hearing that they couldn't stand to be around their kids all day, they don't have enough patience, they're not smart enough, it's too expensive, they don't have a teaching degree, they have to work, etc. Let me tell you, I am not a saint and I have no degrees. Some days when things are rough I really wish I was I waving goodbye to my kids as they got on the bus...but for our family personally, all the positives outweigh the negatives. Nothing is more important to me than my kiddos and their futures and if that means I end up spending more time with them and teaching them myself, I'm fine with that. I want to make sure that they're educated in the best way possible - and for us, that is homeschooling. If you've decided that public school or private school is best for your kids - that's fine! I'm totally okay with it! I have friends who homeschool their kids and friends who don't - as long as you've looked into your options & figured out what works for you, it's all good in my book!
5. So I just have to reiterate: we're not rich, I don't have endless amounts of patience, and our house is not always a peaceful haven of serenity & joy - hence, the name of this blog, y'all! We do this because we are making the choice to. Some days it's hard and some days it's extremely challenging...but it's always worth it.
6. I don't say I'm homeschooling and then do nothing all day. Believe me, it doesn't work that way! We may learn a little differently than traditional public school but we're still learning. (See more about that on number eight.) In Indiana you're not "required" to send your children to school until they are seven but we started homeschooling right after I pulled Zeke out of preschool and have been since then. Indiana's guidelines for homeschooling are very easy compared to other states. Our only real requirement is to document (and keep an actual record) of how many days the kids attend school, just like the public school would if he was going there - 180 days if you're curious. You may also (optionally) send a letter of intent saying that you are homeschooling to the school your child would attend if they went.
7. A lot of people are confused about how our days goes and why it's not like a traditional public school day. (Probably because it's not a traditional public school!) Our day generally goes like this: The kids get up anytime between 7:30 - 9:30 AM and have breakfast. After that we have school for between three to five hours, with short breaks. Afternoons are mostly free playtime or spent on projects and household tasks. We read books through out the day and right before bedtime. I plan things for each day in advance but I don't always rigidly stick to it. Some days our school time is broken up throughout the day and on busy days we sometimes don't get to do much at all - it sometimes depends on sickness, doctor appointments, errands that need to be run, etc. Some days are better than others and some days we get nothing done. One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that we can always make up work the next day and that we can school around our schedule.
8. Leaning doesn't always take place just by sitting behind a desk. Some of the best lessons in life are learned through experience or by interesting situations. In our homeschool, we learn in a variety of ways including but not limited to:
- Using flashcards or sensory bins/boxes
- Building with blocks, doing puzzles, card games, and board games
- Doing workbooks, worksheets, unit studies, printables or other types of curriculum we've purchased or been given
- Reading and studying textbooks, library books and our own books
- Learning to read games/phonics work, sentence/word strips on a wall chart
- Computer games and learning websites like Starfall
- Painting, coloring, drawing, using play-dough or Do-A-Dots, finger-painting, and other crafts
- Using our piano, keyboard or guitar, listening to CDs, listening to music online
- Certain DVDs or TV shows - such as Leapfrog Letter Factory for letters/phonics or historical programs on the History Channel
- Science experiments using household objects
- Math using manipulatives and objects we can count/add/subtract
- Writing, drawing, collecting things and taking nature walks for nature journals and lapbooks
- Studying and charting the weather, finding the date on the calendar
- Imaginative/pretend play
- Life skills through every day situations like cooking, going to the store or feeding the chickens
- Doing schoolwork wherever we want - in the car, outdoors, on the couch, wherever!
10. Here's another shocker and one of the things people are most worried about...SOCIALIZATION. That's been the number one complaint or query from people - "What about socialization?" "I knew a homeschool kid that was so backwards and weird and shy." "If you keep them at home with you, they'll never learn how to be around people."
Sending kids to school for eight hours a day doesn't always mean that they magically turn into socialized, gracious angels. (It's sometimes the opposite...) My kids have no lack of socialization - with children AND adults. I think it's important for kids to learn how to interact with different age groups and they don't necessarily get that in school. We attend church weekly where the kids get to participate in the children's Bible lessons, programs, and service projects. We are part of a homeschool group that meets once a week for social time, activities, and classes for kids of all ages - we also go on field trips and play dates with them. I have several friends with younger and/or non-homeschooled kids who I try to meet up with several times a month. As the kids get older we're getting more involved in other activities like 4H, summer camps, and sports. We visit with our extended family often. My kids may have their moments when they're shy, cranky, nervous, crabby or scared - but what kid doesn't? It's not because they're homeschooled...it's because they're kids!
So there's my thoughts, for what they're worth. I hope I didn't come off as mean-spirited or angry because that's not how I meant it at all. I just wanted to share my thoughts & feelings and try to explain why (and how) we do what we do. I truly believe homeschooling is right for us but not right for every family. If you're a homeschooling parent, or any type of parent, really - I'd love to hear your thoughts and why you do what you do! :)