On a local forum, a mom asked us to share the reasons we homeschool and she was particularly interested in hearing from parents of kids old enough to be in the public schools. My post was apparently too long for Facebook…
Since I have access to this handy-dandy blog, I’m going to post it here. This list is not exhaustive, but it was all I could brain dump in the time I had available. And I’m sure I will get a mountain of e-mails saying “My kids are in public school and X, Y and/or Z isn’t true for MY kids”. Great. These are generalizations. I know they are generalizations. I know that means that all of my reasons for preferring to homeschool will be disproven by a number of families, kids and/or schools around the country. If my opinions–based on MY experiences and realities–bother you, then I think you should really look more deeply into WHY my piddly little blog and my opinions or preferences bother you.
My kids are 6 and 11. We’ve been homeschooling for at least 6 years (I only count from when my oldest would’ve been in Kindy). Our reasons:
* My kids have food intolerances and the oldest has blood sugar dysregulation. School is a NIGHTmare. I have a hard enough time with soccer snacks.
* My kids get to sleep or rest as needed. THIS IS SO UNDERRATED for keeping them healthy and focused among other things.
* Their diet is way healthier being at home and in places were I pack or choose their food without external influences during their formative years; and my oldest has some significant food challenges that he’s better able to navigate on his own at 11 because he’s been actively trained.
* Although this is not what started us homeschooling, we cannot deny that we were back-handedly given a huge gift in terms of keeping our oldest out of the hospital. He has an immune deficiency and being in a school would be akin to being on an airplane for 6 hours every day. Oof
* You don’t avoid bullies in homeschooling, but the exposure to it is limited because it’s easier to pull a kid from something in homeschooling (around here–where there are a few homeschool groups) than in a school where you are potentially tormented by just the thought of interaction 6 hours/day. So beyond the bullying, you have the anxiety around “when will I see that bully again and what will happen?” For the people who bully ME and say “They have to learn to deal with these things!” I would point out that “these things” are often criminal offenses when performed by adults to other adults. So, no, they probably don’t need to learn to deal with it.
* The things my kids struggle with are things that I’m able to catch onto a lot quicker because I’m with them more often and in their social settings. Like any other parent, I can have long and/or multiple conversations with them about as needed but I have way more time available to do this than most schooling parents.
* Our home environment sets the tone for who my kids think they are as people. They are not immune to the “need flashing sneakers” syndrome, but it’s significantly reduced and the time my kids spend with other kids is often in the shadow of adults who are also socializing and modeling social skills for them. At 5, my kids were able to go to the deli counter and ask for their food to be wrapped to take home without asking me if they could do so and without my telling them they needed to. They spoke clearly to get what they wanted; and it was often remarked that they “weren’t like normal 5yos”. I’ll take that kind of “not normal” tyvm.
* At 6 and 11, my kids have a harder time with school kids that subscribe to a clear hierarchy based on age. Older kids are “cooler” and younger kids are pions. We’re getting this a lot lately. We have a neighbor kid that is 7 who will play with my 6yo, but in a way that my 6yo is subservient; and if my 11yo is around, the 7yo is downright nasty to my 6yo. The 7yo is not a bad kid, but clearly operates in a different worldview model. We’ve seen similar behaviors with other schooled kids. NOT ALL, obviously. My kids have no issue approaching new kids (that’s a lie–my 6yo is having a really hard time with this lately because of the backlash from schooled kids) but the new kids often have zero idea how to respond to my kids saying “Do you want to (insert whatever here)?” It’s a little nuts.
* My kids appear to have a much easier time accepting kids who are not like them than I see their schooled age-peers. Thankfully, we have a gang of schooled friends that my kids kind of grew up with and accept them but I’m not sure how long that will last. I know their parents strive for that to be a forever thing and I love them for it; but I feel like this can be a hard battle when the kids are in a system that is pushing for uniformity and a specific image of success that everyone appears to need to measure up to. Some of that is real and some of that is kid-devised perception. None-the-less, perception becomes their reality.
* All kids have asynchronous development. Homeschooling means that my kids can learn at their own pace delving further into the things they’re strong at in the moment/phase of their life and holding off on the things they’re not yet strong on.
* My kids get way more assistance on things before they develop bad habits because I see these problems before they become habits. That’s not just in academics, that’s also in social skills.
* My kids learn what’s relevant to us and don’t waste time on things that aren’t relevant to us (or aren’t relevant in the quantity and/or at the age they are covered in schools). I also get to choose how that content is delivered to address their specific learning styles. Case in point: history is seriously not a “thing” in my house for small people. We don’t enjoy history so we haven’t done a lot of it. History is not the same as “social studies”, but it can be part of “social studies”. We do TONS of social studies, just notsomuch history. And we won’t really be doing much in the way of memorizing dates unless or until one of my kids wants to be involved in something that requires it and they are therefore motivated to learn it. They will probably be better than average in understanding how our government officials get elected and how the representation process works.
* My oldest is in the autism spectrum and gets FAR more attention and guidance on social skills than he ever could in a classroom. I wrote a guest post for The Innovative Educator blog about this
several years ago in case you’re looking for more detail on this point. Add to it that the schools were shooting for a specific set of behaviors and I was shooting for a different set. I found that some of the things they deemed acceptable were absolutely not acceptable to me and vice-versa. I also had WAY more tools and options in my tool belt to help him as a parent than they did as a school. For instance: when my guy was still tantruming, I could lay down and snuggle him at age 7 to calm him where they could never do that. There’s a long list of things like that.
* My oldest cannot do math facts despite having a ridiculous memory. He hasn’t been held back in math because of this. We know at least 3 other homeschoolers who were not allowed to progress in math because they weren’t able to memorize their facts. I recently posted about this on Facebook and a friend responded with: “How? How do you teach math to a kid that hasn’t got their math facts? I need to know this.” I responded with “what would you be incapable of doing if your math facts were not memorized? If you know how to actually calculate, memorizing them is nothing more than a matter of speed. You don’t learn anything from memorizing them at all, so lack of memorizing isn’t evidence of a learning deficit–it’s a memory problem. It’s never a reason to NOT move ahead with higher level math concepts as if it were an indicator of inability. The only place it’s been a problem is timed testing.” And we are not beholden to timed testing in my house.
* While not exactly social, this video (almost 12 minutes long)
that sums up a lot of my issues with our education system. It’s a good summary of the challenges and there really aren’t easy answers. It’s also not WHY I homeschool my kids, but it makes me thankful that I do.
* The way grades are used, misused and misunderstood in the schools such that they are not a communication device for families to understand what their child knows vs. a tool that dictates a child’s perceived intelligence and ability is disturbing. We’ve already had long chats about this with my oldest.
* I don’t love the values promoted in the schools–most notably what constitutes a “worthwhile” life pursuit and the idea that white collar work and college educations are the holy grail. I taught high school and spent a full class day on this discussion with a group of kids that never imagined being a successful person if they were a C student in high school. They never considered the very narrow set of things they were being graded on. One of those kids went on to college and now leads a successful film-making competitive team at a nationally recognized school. But ya know, making videos and films isn’t exactly valued in the traditional education system. Nor are sports. You don’t have to be an Olympian or professional athlete to have success in sports–making that a worthwhile endeavor. But as a culture, we don’t make connections very well so the valuing of a child’s athletic gifts is deemed irrational, delusional or downright destructive to their future. Hey–someone’s kid becomes the pro player just like someone’s kid becomes the astronaut. And if they shoot for the moon and miss–they land among the stars (in other words–there are countless related, worthwhile things they could end up doing).
* Also don’t love the closed-minded, boxed-in thinking and definitions of all kinds of things in the schools. Plus, when I gave my high school students options on how to demonstrate their learning, they flipped out. How could that be fair if they weren’t doing the exact same things?? (there was a rubric, but they didn’t really trust this method). It reminded me of when my oldest didn’t have generalization skills and couldn’t tell that something was a tree unless it looked like the picture or image he had cemented as a tree. So if the leaves changed colors, that wasn’t a tree to him anymore. Or if a hamburger had lettuce on it–that wasn’t a burger anymore. Likewise, if these kids turned in a poster vs. a product to demonstrate learning, they couldn’t possibly demonstrate the same content knowledge. That was really a crazy thing for me.
* TRULY do not love the subtle “listen to the authorities” brainwashing done in the schools. My kids are not taught to be disruptive or disrespectful, but they ARE taught how to manage in a situation and then challenge the things they don’t agree with. They are also taught about the systems that exist in this country and how those systems work. Research proves that all but the highest socio-economic statuses are often NOT taught these things–which for me feels like a very pervasive way of ensuring those classes don’t use those systems for change. And that’s evident today.
* I didn’t love the “pay to play” mentality of a lot of my former high school students. The clear “what’s in it for me?” sentiment that came with everything. One of my students ACTUALLY asked me what he would get for doing an assignment so he could determine if it was worth his time to do (which I totally appreciated, but it was a clear lack of desire to learn new things that bothered me–partly because he had no say about being in my class even though it was an elective)
* I also don’t love the “safety in numbers”/pack mentality of kids in the upper grades. Some kids were really great, independent advocates for their ideas and beliefs but many were happier to be surrounded by their friends where they felt safer and often couldn’t even approach a teacher without the moral support of another kid (and I’m not necessarily talking about a notoriously grumpy teacher). The worst of these used that entourage to bolster their confidence to do mean things. The whole thing was just disturbing.
* My family gets to eat all of their meals together because my husband is a remote employee. It’s huge.
* We can certainly do more “stuff” because my kids are not in school all day. So when my 6yo is at soccer Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights plus games for rec on Saturday and travel on Sunday–who cares? She’s not really doing much else and I’ve spent all those school hours WITH her each day. Not just in the same place, but actually engaged with her. * My kids have WAY more social interaction than their age-peers at school. I know this because we have schooled peers, not because I’m assuming. What’s more important is that my oldest is now entering an age where a lot of the kids communicate electronically and his friendships and time with friends is more deep and meaningful because we run in a crowd that discourages that kind of involvement. We have a lot more control over that with homeschooling because we get more ability to control who our kids spend time with.
* My kids have way more opportunity to build self-sufficiency skills. Every time I send them to a counter or register or customer service desk, they are learning how to deal with various types of people for multiple types of things. CAN schooled families do this? They certainly could; but as homeschoolers, I think we are far more on the alert because we feel the responsibility of developing our children without the safety net of schools and/or teachers.
My kids might actually enter the schools someday. My oldest is in his first public school class ever as a 6th grader. He is there 40 minutes/day for 9 weeks in a class he wanted to take and is absolutely loving. My kids drive the boat for their education and as a result, there is no fighting and they learn quite a bit because it’s stuff they want to learn and none of it is pushed on them. We talk about what they want to learn and that’s what we learn. In the last year, that’s taken on WAY more of an academic vibe with my 11yo than I ever imagined possible. But it is what it is. The older homeschoolers tell you it will happen but it’s hard to hold out because they are SO OLD and still playing with Legos (mine actually STILL plays with Legos). But hey–Legos have value. ❤