As a homeschooling mommy, I often encounter lots of questions about the particulars of homeschooling. With over 2.3 million children being homeschooled in the US this year, you might even know or meet a homeschooler. So today I’m going to give you all a little peek into the world of homeschooling. I firmly believe that when we can see the world through each other’s eyes, things become less “weird”, and we are better able to relate to our fellow human beings.
There are as many reasons to homeschool, as there are families that choose to homeschool. Some families do it for religious reasons, some do it for the educational benefits, some do it for the flexibility it offers their family, and many families do it for a combination of many reasons.
The most common question I get is: “How am I going to socialize my children?” If you want to drive a homeschool mom crazy, ask her about socialization! I know of no homeschool families that are trying to keep their kids from social interaction. But many of us see that not all social interaction is useful, necessary or realistic. How many times, since you have been an adult, have you been stuck in a room for 8 hours a day, with 35 people, whose birthdays all fall within the calendar year that you were born? As adults, we interact with people of all ages. I want my children to feel comfortable interacting with adults, older children, peers, and younger children.
There are many venues for useful and realistic interaction outside of the government school system. Homeschoolers participate in many activities. My children are part of a weekly co-op. The co-op has children from 18 months-11 years old. During co-op they have vocal lessons, art classes, field trips, and free time to just run and play. My children have participated in gymnastics, swimming lessons, and dance classes. They attend worship services weekly. They play at playgrounds, play areas, and with neighbor children, daily. In these interactions, they are able to practice leading, cooperation, conflict resolution, and helping others. In a comprehensive study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Home Education, results showed that adults, that had been homeschooled, were more socially engaged, their average income was higher, and a significantly higher percentage of them stated that they were very happy, compared to the statistics from their government-schooled peers.
I’ve had people ask me how I can remember enough to teach my children. Homeschoolers aren’t just teaching their children what they happen to remember. There are many different types of homeschool philosophies, but I use a curriculum that is, probably, similar to what government school teachers use. I follow the curriculum to set lesson plans and goals. My children do math, reading, writing, spelling, geography, science, and history. Sometimes we learn at the kitchen table. Sometimes we learn on the couch. Sometimes we all cuddle onto my bed and read about distant lands and faraway stories. When the weather is particularly nice, my daughter loves to learn outside. Sometimes school involves walks or nature hikes. We love the flexibility and freedom that homeschool facilitates.
Next, when a parent states that they homeschool, they aren’t judging you, and they would like the same consideration in return! Every family is doing what is best for their own family, whether than means cloth or disposable diapers, co-sleeping or cry it out, and homeschool or government schools. Usually, when I explain that I homeschool, people have one of two reactions. Either they begin to put themselves down in an effort to explain why they don’t homeschool, or they take it very personally and begin to talk about how much they love their children. Don’t put yourself down! I’m not a better parent than you are. Everyday, I wish I had more patience, compassion, etc. If you are doing the best that you can for your family, I think that is fantastic! But on the flip-side, my decision to homeschool is not a reflection on anyone else’s parenting. I don’t think you love your child less, because you have them attend government schools. I didn’t make this decision because of other families. I made it, because it was the best choice for my family. A statement like “I homeschool” is not me passing judgement on you. It is a statement of fact, much like saying you are a member of the PTA or a classroom mom. I just want to talk about what I’m involved in, just as much as you do.
Finally, please be patient with homeschool moms! Imagine if weekly or almost everyday you had to defend your choice to send your children to government schools. Imagine if people were aghast when you said that. Imagine family member scolding you or trying to talk you out of it. Imagine random strangers suddenly quizzing your children on math facts or reading skills. Imagine if you said your children attended government schools, and people gave you funny looks or joked about calling CPS. This happens to homeschool families all the time. I am always tense when my child announces that she is homeschooled. I’ve had everything I’ve previously listed happen, after people find out we homeschool. I’ve been scolded, she’s been quizzed, people roll their eyes and make rude statements. After a while I just began to always keep my guard up. So if you ask about homeschooling and the parents act a little tense, please understand that it is hard to always have your guard up. It is hard to always have to defend your decisions about your children’s education. I’ll bet the next homeschool mom you meet would love to talk about your PTA meeting or crafts your children are doing. She would love to tell you about her unit studies and crafts and field trips. She wants to have friends, just like anyone else! We aren’t crazy or weird or bizarre….well not too crazy or weird or bizarre. We probably have much more in common than we know. Let’s have our kids play together and share this crazy adventure of motherhood, without the judgement or suspicion!
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