I used to be very confused by the idea of homeschooling. It is something I never imagined myself doing. I never thought I'd have the brains or the patience. I never even wanted to be a mother growing up. I felt kids were a burden. When we had our first son I realized I couldn't love another person more, but I also realized I didn't really like babies. While other mothers look back and long for those early days I'm thanking God everyone in my house can finally get their own juice and wipe their own butts. I don't do classroom volunteering or arts and crafts projects. I don't bake or play Barbies with my daughter. I relish watching my children grow older, because the more independent they become I find the more I like them.
I say all this not to convince you of my terrible parental qualifications (I'm sorry, I realize I'm no inspiration right now) but to show you just how ill-equipped I felt to become a homeschool parent. I never wanted to give up my free time during school days. The whole idea of it was way over my head. And yet, here I am – just a few weeks into my first homeschool experience with my 12-year-old son. I'm actually doing it. Every day.
So in the interest of educating my fellow parents who are as confused about homeschooling as I used to be, let me address a few of the most common questions and concerns about schooling in the home.
No, socialization is not an issue.
This is the number one pet peeve question for homeschoolers. It assumes that the only appropriate type of socialization is “peer socialization”. At school kids interact primarily with their own age groups and largely unsupervised (individually speaking). These kids are learning all their own social cues from each other, which if you think about it isn't that great considering most kids are giant assholes. A “peer-led” environment is what fosters the “mean girls” syndrome of the school setting. Homeschool kids get to socialize across all age levels. My son learns a lot about maturity from interacting with me regularly, and we meet regularly for outings and classes with other homeschoolers who vary in age range. The children learn to communicate with and respect others who differ from them in all kinds of ways, outside of the pressure tank of conformity that school socialization can bring; and they do it without having to nag them to put down the smartphone every 5 minutes. Not to mention there's church youth group, football, Mandarin classes, swimming lessons, neighborhood friends...you get the drift. Also, there is social media to help keep connected to other friends. It's 2014, folks.
This isn't a classroom.
My first week I made the mistake of trying to structure our days like a regular school day. It was so stressful. I'm not a trained teacher. I don't have classroom management skills. I don't need to supervise the learning of 30 students at a time, yet that was the environment I was trying to replicate. A fellow homeschool mom stepped in and reminded me that we are not in school and thus don't need to teach that way. Everything about homeschooling is different. I had to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to learning. Once I started doing that, the load became a little stressful. We have some structure, but our days are more about experiencing what we're learning rather than just reading about it. That changes how we learn and what we learn in a very exciting way.
No, its not stressful having my kid around all day.
I actually like my kids. They're great people. Their father and I have worked hard to raise great people. Aided by our Lord, our stability as a couple and a healthy dose of discipline when necessary I think we have so far largely succeeded in raising likeable children (we've yet to hit the teen years, so I'm reserving judgment on what is to come). I told my husband after the first week, “I feel like I've gotten to know Scott better in the last 5 days than I have in the last 2 years.” Having a child in the home every single day, all year long is a foreign concept to our modern sensibilities. It used to be my chief concern as well. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I do enjoy having my son in the home all day. I've learned to appreciate him as an individual, outside of who I see him to be as my son. As a parent who covets her free time, I genuinely believe many of you skeptics out there might be surprised at just how much you would enjoy being with your kids for most of the day. It's actually not as bad I had feared!
If you can't teach it, YouTube it!
Many parents say they couldn't homeschool because they just don't have a good enough grasp of certain subjects. I completely sympathize with this fear. Math? Anything beyond 3-digit addition or subtraction and you might as well be asking me to calculate a trajectory to the moon. These days, there is so much help available it really isn't an issue. When I come to an area that confuses me (fractions!!!) we head straight to YouTube. There we can find videos from math enthusiasts and even traditionally trained teachers. Some are funny, some are serious, some are cartoons – the options are seemingly endless. Its not hard to find a good fit for how my son learns. There are also other homeschool parents with math skills who teach and tutor in their homes. My son goes to someone else once a week with other kids to supplement his learning.
Yes, I miss my free time.
Anyone who knows me understands that I'm rather selfish with my time. I'm not proud of that, but that is the truth about me. So yes, I am sacrificing some free time...and it is totally worth it. I am struck every day by the sense that in a few years I will look back at this time with profound gratefulness. I can have my free time back later. This time will never be returned to me and I plan to appreciate that.
No, I'm not anti-public school.
I'm pro-choice. This means I believe every parent should be able to decide which learning environment is best for their own child. I shouldn't be financially forced into a public school if I know my child can learn better at home, or in a Montessori school or wherever. In our family, we homeschool our son but our daughter still attends public school. We like our public school and she thrives there. Our children, our choice. I think every parent and every child deserves that choice, especially when it involves our tax dollars.
If I can do it, anyone can do it.
Seriously. Five years ago if you had told me I'd be doing this I would have laughed in your face. As it turns out, homeschooling is not only an incredible bonding experience it's also rather enjoyable and so far we're all still sane. Joke's on me, I guess.
I'll keep you posted as we continue our journey.