Two years down – what seems like a million to go! OK, so I am being a bit dramatic – only a little over a decade to go is more like it. You see, last Friday my son and I finished up the “first grade” together. I say “together” because we have chosen to homeschool our children. This second year of homeschooling has been great fun and very rewarding but also quite challenging.
It hasn’t been challenging because our son’s work has been difficult or because he’s resisted schooling. On the contrary, our son is a natural learner who quickly absorbs and assimilates all he is taught and all that he reads; and he reads prolifically.
For fun he likes to do extra math on a great online resource, khanacadamy.org. He loves science (the more experiments the better – especially if is blows up, fizzes or bubbles), spelling, reading classical literature, poetry, history, etc. He loves to learn, period. In fact, this morning my son asked if he could look at his “second grade” work that he knew I’d just purchased. “Uh??? No! Momma needs a break” was my immediate response.
So this year has not been challenging for any of the normal six year old boy reasons; it has been challenging because we packed our family up in the middle of the “school year” and moved to a different state. On an up note, we didn’t have to pull him out of one school and put him in another mid-year. On the other hand, moving forward with his education in the midst of piles of boxes was not my favorite part of the year.
Since we’ve unpacked and settled into our new state, I’ve met dozens of homeschool families. Some families just recently pulled their children out of public school, and others have heard the stories of these same families thus they never ventured down the public school road to begin with. All of these families tell a different story as to what made them choose homeschooling. Despite the many differences, I’ve noticed a pattern, an overarching theme for why people are choosing more and more to pull their children out of the public school system or never send them at all. That reason? FEAR! Fear seems to be the number one reason people are choosing the challenging, all-consuming task of educating their children.
Some parents fear that their children simply are not learning in the one size fits all, industrial revolution, conveyer belt system. Their child doesn’t fit the public school mold so they aren’t really learning. Not everyone is a fit for public school. Other parents fear what they are learning. Their religious or even political convictions give them a natural distaste for the socialism, revisionist history, and evolution that has been taught in our public school factories. Health classes no longer focus on the sciences of anatomy and physiology, but instead they promote ideological concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation all in the name of tolerance and inclusivity.
While some fear what their child is or isn’t learning, others fear for their child’s social and physical well-being. Children are bullied by peers, teachers, and administrators while parents are forced to watch helplessly from the sidelines as their child’s self-esteem plummets. Children, teachers, and administrators have become targets for mad gunman. Boys who identify themselves as girls may choose to use either the girls’ or the boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms. Students, as a form of discipline, are confined to “focus” rooms where they are made to sit in a small circle on the floor all day in less than adequate conditions.
Still others fear the ever increasing standardized testing world. This, of course, cycles back to the idea that parents fear that children simply aren’t learning given that they spend so much time either taking a test or preparing for that one all-important, life altering test so that the school district can get the funding that is attached to these tests. Our children’s futures live or die based off these tests; and given the pressure placed upon them from teachers and administrators, their self-esteem and perceived intelligence revolves around these week long testing marathons.
And don’t even get me started on Common Core and its cradle to grave tracking system all in the name of education standards and bench marks. You think that the schools crank out the standardized test now, just wait until Common Core is in full swing. In states where Common Core testing has already been implemented, parents are choosing to keep their children home on testing days to protest these unconstitutional national standards that have stripped school districts of state and local control while tying the hands of parents by eliminating any kind of accountability for this system (too many articles to reference just one, so a “google” search will verify this).
On the flip side of the anxiety that parents experience sending their children to public school is the freedom and joy I hear these same homeschool families express concerning their journey. All homeschool families will readily admit that it is not easy. All homeschool families will readily admit that they have good days and bad days. All homeschool families will readily admit that they have days where they aren’t sure what they are doing. (Any other school structure will tell you the same about what they do, if they are honest.) So what is it that these homeschooling parents love so much about educating their children that they would sacrifice their time and money for such an arduous task?
I’ll list just a few of the comments I hear most often from both parents and children:
— We love the freedom we have. We can school all year; we can take breaks when we want; we can start early or late; we can work whereever is best for us; we can take family vacations while everyone else is in school; etc.
— We love that we can focus on what our children are best at and really develop those skills for their future benefit. In addition, we can give them extra attention in those areas where they struggle.
— We love that our children interact with other adults and with other children of varying ages on a daily basis. The last thing I want to do with my six year old silly boy is to put him in a room full of other equally intelligent six year olds and hope that he learns. I prefer that he learn to interact with adults, older children, younger children, boys and girls. This gives him a better picture of real life not to mention it is constantly challenging his intellect. If he relates with children who are older, he is pulled up to their level. If he interacts with children who are younger, he moves into a leadership role. It’s a win-win situation.
— We love the hands on learning that we can provide. Most homeschoolers are not stuck in a “classroom” all day. For homeschool moms, everything is a field trip and a learning opportunity. We get to do a field trip or two a week, not a semester like public schools. Even the weekly trip to the grocery store becomes a lesson in economics, agriculture and health.
— We love that we can choose an educational model and/or curriculum that fits our child’s learning style. We love that we can tailor our children’s education to fit them so that they learn what is most needed to help them succeed in life.
— We love being with our children, and they love being with us.
–Too many other reasons to list in this short article…
So for those of you struggling with your public school experience, consider homeschooling. It’s not as hard as it looks, and you’ll find an abundance of support from those with experience. For those of you who already homeschool, keep up the good work. Help mentor someone else who is just getting started or is seriously considering it. And for those of you who choose to send your children to public school, or private school for that matter, just make sure you actively participate in your child’s education and that you regularly visit the school so that you are fully aware of all that is going on because the reality is that each parent is responsible for their child’s education. You may choose to delegate that responsibility to someone else, but at the end of the day it is your responsibility so choose wisely and invest heavily.