Friday, August 26, 2011

Why I Homeschool

It's that time of year again...BACK TO SCHOOL!!!

Everywhere I turn I see the reminders:  adds on tv and in the newspaper for back-to-school deals, posts on Facebook about first-day-of-kindergarten-tears and quiet houses and extra free time for Mommy, and of course the big yellow school buses everywhere.

Another year has begun. 

It dawned on me recently that this would be the year of a quiet house for me.  My youngest is in first grade now, and therefore all three boys would be gone from my home 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  I would have so much free time, my house might actually get cleaned and STAY that way!!!  This is the year that at one point or another, most of us have dreamed about and looked forward to (and possibly even counted down the days until it came!).  I remember when I did...when the boys were infants and my days were so consuming and exhausting...

I looked forward to them leaving for a large portion of the time so that I could have "me time".  I day-dreamed about the time when I would take them to school and come home to a peaceful house where I got to choose what I wanted to do and when, where I could clean the mess and it would actually stay cleaned for longer than 10 minutes, where I could go to Costco without boys "exploring" in between boxes and running into other people, where I could spend hours at a time without raising my voice and my blood-pressure,  where I could read and write in peace, where I could explore interests that have been on the back-burner for years, where I could actually finish a cup of coffee before it got cold, where I could go back to work somewhere and feel useful again... I could go on and on and on....

All that changed a few years ago when various circumstances led us to pull our oldest son out of the public school.  That dream of future peace evaporated overnight.

Now here I sit, three and a half years later.  My house is "well loved" and rooms are never clean for more than a few minutes at a time, and never all at the same time.  My days are filled to the brim with doing things for others.  I juggle laundry and dishes while cooking three meals a day for five people; educating my 1st, 2nd and 5th graders; trips to the library at least once a week; grocery shopping with kids in-tow (which typically takes at least three times longer than I could get it done alone); managing the family finances; taking the boys to enrichment classes two or more times a week...just to name a few.  Add into that the typical parenting responsibilities such as frequent argument mediations, boo-boo bandaging, disciplining bad choices, rewarding good ones, etc.  I am always answering questions.  Everything I eat and drink is room temperature.  A shower is not necessarily a daily activity.  And anytime I steal a few minutes of "me time", I am inevitably interrupted.

Not quite what I was envisioning a few years back!

So why do I do it?

I am glad you asked!  There are many reasons why we chose to pull our son out of the public school back then.  And as the years have come and gone, the reasons to continue homeschooling are piling up.

I often hear the same questions (and I know the true sentiment behind them, as well):

Where do you get your curriculum and is it state accredited?  (Are you actually teaching them what they need to learn?  They are going to get a poor quality education.)

Do you have to have a degree to homeschool?  (What makes you qualified to teach?  There is no way you can provide as good of an education as a traditional school will.)

Do they participate in any activities outside your home?  (What about socialization? Are you keeping them in a bubble?  They are not going to be able to function in society.)

Then there are the loaded statements and blank stares I get from some.  Statements are as full as:

Well, you are an amazing woman for homeschooling...I could never do that!  (You are crazy!)

You are such an organized and patient person to do that.  (You must be a saint!)

And sometimes as simple as:

Oh.  (You are one of those...)

You quickly get used to the answering these same questions again and again.  So, I will do so yet again for all of you.

On the curriculum:

We do get to choose what curriculum to use.  There are currently hundreds of options...good options.  Some are geared towards different learning styles.  Some are heavy on classical teaching (Latin and logic).  Many are filled with hands-on activities.  Workbook-based.  Real-life-learning-based.  Memorization-based.  There are so many options, it can seem daunting in the beginning!  Some are quite expensive, some are free, and many are middle-of-the-road.  You can even use the public school curriculum at home, for no cost what-so-ever.  We have chosen a curriculum based on our kids' learning styles, on my teaching style, and on our beliefs.   

On qualifications:

There are no educational requirements for homeschool teachers in our state.  College degrees are not mandatory.  Research has shown that the level of education of the parent has little effect on the quality of education the student receives.  As a matter of fact, the income of the family and the amount spent on curriculum has little to no effect as well.  Homeschool students regularly score higher on standardized tests than their public school peers regardless of gender, income, and their parents' education level.  If you like graphs and charts, you can check out the numbers here from a study done in 1999, or here for an update study from 2009.  Both demonstrate the same fact:  homeschool students are well above their public school peers in academics.

Statistics aside, I may not have spent a good-many years and thousands of dollars getting certified to teach, but I know my own children better than anyone else on this planet.  I know what they are capable of; I know when they are truly struggling and when they are just slacking.  I have the freedom to go as fast or as slow as each child needs to go.  I can cater their individual education to their individual needs.  Difficulties, learning disabilities, hyperactivity and other such struggles are not as much of an issue in our school because we can adapt and change and find new ways that work better each day if necessary. 
I have at least one child who would quickly be labeled ADHD in a typical school setting.   I am quite certain that they would not thrive there.  When there are that many children in one classroom, with a prescribed amount of information that must be covered on a specified timeline, it is impossible to cater to the child who can't sit still.  At home, my boys are getting the individualized attention they need each day. 

On socialization:

We participate in numerous activities outside of our home.  My kids know how to play with other children and can carry on conversations with adults.  There are so many co-ops and enrichment classes and sports programs for homeschool children.  There are play groups for little ones, interning opportunities for older students, and community service projects for all. 
There are seemingly endless educational field trips and projects and arts programs to take advantage of.  Not to mention the daily free time they get to play with the other children in our neighborhood and at the park and/or pool. 

My kids are most certainly not lacking in the socialization department!

We are not keeping our children in a bubble, either.  As Christians, we believe the Bible is God's Word to us.  As such, we try to live our lives according to it's morals and principles.  As we have read about from numerous sources and seen for ourselves, what is being taught in the public schools goes against much of what we believe.  We choose not to put our children in that atmosphere.  I have heard the argument in favor of public school from many other Christians, saying that as Christians we are to be the salt and light to the world.  I fully agree with that statement, but not it's application to this issue.  When Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 5, He was speaking to full-grown adults, not small children.  The Bible also tells us in Ephesians 6:12 that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  As such, I do not think it wise to send a five, six or even ten year old to the front-lines of battle! 
The only battle they should fight at 5!
They are not even remotely prepared to stand against all that will come their way.  This is just one of the many reasons that I choose to spend my time and energy educating them so that they may be equipped to go out into the world and make a difference.  I get to introduce the harsh realities of life to them in a safe environment.  Our curriculum has a strong emphasis on learning about other cultures and peoples and reaching out to help those in need; we are trying to instill in our children the fact that life is not all about them and their own comfort.  We are teaching them how to reason and think through all information they are given.  We are teaching them to ask questions and seek answers. 

So, no, we are not keeping them in a bubble, away from all outside contact and influences.  We are training them up according to what we believe...preparing them for the future that lies in front of them.

On being a super-woman:

Let's just get this one out of the way:  I am NOT a super-woman, a saint, or even an unusually patient person.  I am not incredibly organized.  I'm not a morning person.  I am not always pleasant and am most certainly never perfect.  I have so many flaws and quirks, it's shocking! 

I am a typical woman, plain and simple. 

My kids frustrate me on a regular basis.  (I frustrate myself often, for that matter!)  But at the same time, my kids can fill my heart to overflowing.

I get tired and crabby sometimes.  But, I also get to play and have fun with my kids.  I get to see the light-bulb moments when they finally understand a concept they've been struggling with.  I get to explore with them.  I am the one who is shaping their character.  I am the first one to celebrate achievements with them.  I am the one who sees the best and the worst of them (often in the same day).

There are some moments when I wonder if I am doing it all the right way.  Am I making the right decisions for my children? 

Then I see them loving each other and loving learning...

I see the wonderful personalities and hearts that they are developing...

I see them being creative and learning how to entertain themselves...

I see them taking the initiative to help someone in need...

Is it exhausting?  Sometimes.  Is it overwhelming?  Occasionally.  Is it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY!

Because this entire homeschooling journey is not just about providing the best education for my children.  It is not just about providing them with a physically, emotionally and spiritually safe place to learn.  It is not just about building their minds.  It is not just about shaping their character.  It is not just about real-life experiences I can give them.    It is not just about teaching them how to help and serve others.  It is not just about learning how to navigate relationships.  It is not just about learning time-management skills.  It is not just about learning patience.  It is not just about my kids. 

It is all that and more.  I have said before that homeschooling is the sandpaper that God is using to smooth out my rough edges.  Some days, that process is more noticeable than others.  But, I wouldn't have it any other way.  Homeschooling has changed us all for the better, and continues to do so day by day.

We homeschool because we can see that it is absolutely the best choice for our family, with all the trials and triumphs included.


Ben Martinez said...

Good job. Well said.

Grandma said...

I am so proud of you!!!

Dianne said...

I like your reasons. I have to admit that as a public school teacher I've seen a lot of pretty bad reasons for homeschooling and I've had a few kids that moved from home-school to public school and had a really difficult time with it. I think it's important for every family to make the decision that's right for them and not the decision they feel is expected or that they won't be looked down on for. Sounds like you made the right decision for you!