As many of you may or may not know, my husband and I have decided to homeschool our kids.
I know what’s going through your mind. You’re thinking that my kids will not be socialized as well as public school kids, or that they won’t learn as much or as well, that homeschoolers are slackers or super uptight religious psychos, or that they will miss out on all of the great things and activities that go along with attending a public school, or that they will become too sheltered. You’re probably thinking at this very moment that I am an idiot. How do I know? Because I had these same thoughts just a few years ago.
Before I became a parent and even after my second child was a year old, I was completely 100% anti-homeschool. But, the truth was, it’s because I didn’t have a clue about homeschooling. I had had a brief encounter with it my 9th grade year when my mother and I decided to try it…..but it was an epic fail. I just assumed that homeschooling itself was the reason it was such a disaster. However, I later discovered that it was a failure because we went about it in all the wrong ways. After much researching and talking to successful homeschoolers and basically being less closed minded, I realized that most of those myths and assumptions that people think about homescooling, are not true.
The truth is, that if approached correctly, homeschooling can be an excellent option. I’m not saying that it’s for everyone. Sometimes public or private or charter schools are better options. Every family and every child is different. There are kids that thrive in a public school and some that are more successful in homeschool. But, I think that we, as parents, need to learn the facts about every different type of educational option and then proceed with what works best for our circumstances. Don’t assume that the mainstream “status quo” is the only way for children to receive a decent education.
I had always assumed that my kids would attend the local public school, but when it came time for my oldest child to begin his educational career, my parental instincts kicked in and I wanted to make sure that I was sending him off in the best direction possible. I checked in on all of the surrounding public schools and was left very disappointed. So then, I checked up on the private schools and realized that there was no way that I would be able to afford that direction. As far as I could tell, the only option left was the charter school. I then discovered that our town’s charter school was only for grades 6th-12th. I was horrified! I had began to realize that I wanted my children to have something more than your typical public school education full of it’s crammed pack classrooms, and it’s standardized testing that leaves the teachers with very little leeway when it comes to teaching, and it’s habit of leaving kids with learning curves behind. I was terrified that my children would have the same education experiences that I did!
Out of the blue one day, I started thinking about what one of the teachers at the charter school had told me. Over half of their students come from homeschooling families. I hadn’t realized that so many people were homeschooling their kids. I just assumed that the town must be full of idiots. My curiosity was sparked however, and I started some research about homeschool. I learned that an estimated 2 million children in the U.S. were being homeschooled and that every year there is a dramatic increase to that total! Apparently, there was something more to homeschooling than I had originally thought. So, I tried to learn as much about my homeschooling ‘concerns’ as possible.
College? – My first concern was that it would be difficult to get my kids into college if we chose to homeschool. I was dumbfounded at what I discovered. While it may have been true in the past that homeschooled kids didn’t get into college, it is most certainly not the case now. I learned that a homeschooled student has a great chance of getting accepted into an Ivy League university. In fact, several colleges (like Bob Jones University and Patrick Henry College) now actively recruit homeschooled students because they have better independent-thinking skills that better prepares them for the college experience. I found an interesting quote on a blog at http://www.crosswalk.com/ - ”One of the main benefits of homeschooling is that it tends to produce adults who retain an intellectual curiosity about the world around them—a trait that is often destroyed in mass-produced education models.” The more I researced, the more I realized that getting them into college would not be hindered if I chose to homeschool.
Socialization. Socialization. Socialization. – Just the fact that I was concerned about this, goes to show how little I really knew about homeschooling. This is usually the area where homeschoolers catch the most heat. It’s why they get such a bad rap. Because “they aren’t doing their children any favors by keeping them sheltered”, right? Now…here is something that is going to blow your mind….an average homeschooler gets more socialization than their counterparts. Don’t laugh! I’m serious! Just hear me out. The idea of socialization is to learn interpersonal and interactional skills that are in conformity with the values of one’s society. Such as being able to work successfully in a group setting, or knowing the appropriate behaviors for being in public, or establishing healthy business and personal relationships.
- Let’s discuss the socialization of a public school student. I will agree that public school children (for the most part) do learn how to work well in groups and how to deal in a setting where they are surrounding by 20 to 30 peers who are the same age as themselves. However, as the children advance into higher grades, socialization in the classroom is encouraged less and less. There’s minimal talking in class, in the hallways, even while sitting in the cafeteria sometimes. That leaves the playground. The same playground where the bully is king. Where kids learn that the meanest or the prettiest thrive. Where if you want to survive, you draw as little attention to yourself as possible and never try to venture out of your little group of friends. As for the values that children can pick up at recess, they’re probably not what you would call the more decent morals of our society. Most small children do not, in fact, respond well in large groups. My daughter is a perfect example of that. Kids like her, become nervous and overexcited by the noise and too many people. It usually ends with some sort of anxiety or behavioral problems. The public schools do, however,offer a vast variety of extra curricular activities. Children can chose an activity where they perform best and have the best experiences. The problem is, that after spending 5 days a week sitting in a school room, at 7-8 hours a day, AND THEN going home and spending another hour or two on homework, it doesn’t leave much time for extra curricular activities. I don’t know how many times my younger brother struggled with homework on the nights he had some sort of practice to be at. It was a constant struggle with him. He was always thinking, “Do I stay home and finish this homework so I can make good grades or do I skip the homework and go practice?” Lastly, peer pressure is unprecedented in our public school systems. Kids are so busy trying to be like the most popular person around them, that they may never know who they really are.
- Now, let’s take a look at socialization for a homeschooled student. First of all, I will say that I understand why people have negativity about it. The problem is, that is based off of homeschooling of the past. It’s very very different now. You will find very few homeschool parents who keep their children locked up in the house all day while sheltering them from the world around them. It’s really not like that. Let’s go back to what socialization means: ‘socialization is to learn interpersonal and interactional skills that are in conformity with the values of one’s society. Such as being able to work successfully in a group setting, or knowing the appropriate behaviors for being in public, or establishing healthy business and personal relationships.’ Homescool families that have more than one child, don’t have to worry so much about their kids not experiencing the social aspect of learning. Guess what? My kids deal with bullying and group learning and peer pressure too. It just takes place in a much safer and healthier environment. They don’t develop an irrational fear of the bully and it won’t effect their education process. They don’t have to tolerate the physical or emotional abuse. Also, homeschooled kids have almost the same amount of extra curricular activities available to them as public school students do. The difference is that they tend to have more time to do them and there is less stress on both the parent and the child. A homeschool student can put in 3 hours of work a day and it’s equivalent to a 7 hour day for a public school student. This leaves so much more time for extra activities and they can even do more activities than most kids. Thus, more socialization. There are many, many, many, homeschool groups and co-ops throughout the states. These groups do weekly and monthly classes, activities, and field trips. The group that we are with, has an average of 150 kids all ranging from PreK-12. That leaves my children with the opportunity to socialize with students of all ages and not just kids their age. Realistically, how many adults do you know that only work/socialize with people their own age? Let’s see….. other places my kids will have the opportunity to socialize….at church, family events, with our neighbors, sporting events, boy scouts or girl scouts, volunteering (because we will be doing this when they get older), at the library where we are often at, art classes, community theater, dance, gymnastics, music classes, martial art classes, 4-H, homeschool conferences, etc. I have even recently discovered that there are homeschool football/baseball/volleyball teams in our area for high school students and even proms and dances.
So, because of the range of people homeschool kids get to socialize with and the fact that they deal with more real world situations and they happen to have more time for extra activites, homeschool would actually be the more desirable choice if the point of subject is your child’s socialization.
There are so many more questions and concerns that I have faced with this. Not only from myself, but from my family and friends. It’s way too much to write in one blog post. I’m sure I’ll address more in the coming weeks, but if you have any questions/curiosities, please feel free to ask away!
Why I chose to homeschool is such a tough question. In reality, it was a great many factors of things that led me to that decision. I’m not anti-public school now either. I do realize that there are some fantastic schools and some amazing teachers out there. I personally know some very wonderful teachers. The problem is, I don’t want to send my kids out there in the hopes that they get some great teachers. I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure that they receive the best education possible. To do everything I can to prepare them for the future and not rely on others for that. I grew up in the DFW area and my first few years of school were a struggle. I didn’t learn to read or spell my name until I was in the second grade. I had a wonderful teacher who was patient with me and took time out of her day to make sure that I could read by the end of the year. I was so fortunate to have such a caring teacher. But, what would have happened if I had had a different teacher? Would I have been pushed along from grade to grade without ever learning to read properly? It’s not that uncommon. I used to get so frustrated when I was in high school and we would read novels aloud. A third of the class would stumble over pronouncing the words. What if I was one of them? What if that happens to my children? Call me paranoid or call me an idiot, but i’m not willing to put the chance of my children’s success in the hands of this world. I feel like God gave me this responsibility and it’s one I’ve come to accept. Truly, I am honored to have this opportunity. Even if it does mean that I’m an idiot.