Why we're homeschooling.
Though it's still very early in the game (our daughter will be merely kindergarten age), I feel it's important to document our rationale early, both for our benefit and the potential benefit of others, and so we don't have to answer the same questions multiple times. Also, since this is "different", many people will want some sort of justification, and while I don't feel one is absolutely required, we're not completely blind to social norms… so: this article.
Please note: We've made this decision largely for personal reasons, many of which may not apply to you, your situation, or your children. In addition, your opinions on a wide variety of things are probably different from ours, and opinions relating to schooling are probably no different. So, if you begin to feel yourself taking anything here personally, please see the "You think you're better than us!" item near the end of this article.
We're choosing home education for many reasons.
- First and foremost, we feel we can give our daughter a better, more complete, more enjoyable, and more diverse education than she'd receive in a public or private school.
Our local public schools are pretty good, but they still have to try to be all things to all children, teaching all kids in the same way at the same pace, regardless of ability, proclivities, and temperament. We'll only have one child (or, at most, one or two more) to worry about, and can tailor the education specifically to our needs and desires. In addition, much of school is focused on testing. I am not against testing: it is, of course, one of the few ways to measure if an education is effective. However, there are many ideas and many possible lessons out there, and many depths to plumb which are not taught because they are not part of the standardized tests or state-determined curriculum.
- We want to remain the primary care-givers and moral influencers of our daughter.
It's not that we want to keep her isolated from other ways and views (quite the opposite), but we feel that, especially while she's still young, it is our place to provide, on a day-to-day basis, most of the moral, emotional, and intellectual guidance rather than a set of teachers we barely know and 20-40 other children (many of whom have been raised on a steady diet of Hostess mini cakes, Mountain Dew, and reality television shows).
- The fixed pace of the school environment does not appeal to us.
We'd like to be able to vary the pace of each lesson according to what works best for us and our daughter, rather than what works best for her classmates and for testing. Though many schools have "gifted" and "remedial" programs, they're still extremely rigid and all-or-nothing, and each comes with its own set of social stigmas.
- The format of the school environment does not appeal to us.
Though sometimes useful and sometimes effective, there are many more ways to learn than "Introduce-Study-Test-(Forget), Introduce-Study-Test-(Forget), Introduce-Study-Test-(Forget)…". Allowing a little more organic flow to the lessons and tying diverse subjects together might have merit.
- The structure of the school environment does not appeal to us.
"Learning to sit quietly for hours" is not one of our primary educational goals. And we feel that "For the next 60 minutes we are practicing subtraction" is not necessarily the best way for every child in the classroom at every time. Though patience is a virtue, and of course she'll need to learn "task persistence" and self-entertainment, there are many ways to achieve those lessons outside of a standard classroom structure (where "sitting quietly" seems to be overemphasized, in my opinion).
- We are not bound by any one teaching ideology or methodology.
Having the freedom to vary and experiment in every aspect appeals to us. If something is not working, we can change it. If something is working, we can keep doing it or tweak it further. This isn't possible in a school with dozens of children per class, and would be out of our control in any case.
- We'd like to emphasize learning and figuring out, rather than facts.
Much of education is, by necessity, the mere pushing facts into heads (one way or another). "This is how 'bear' is spelled." "3+5=8" "The Magna Carta is an important English document." etc. But there are other things, such as: "How do I figure out why that thing happens the way it does?" "How does this work?" "What happens if I do this?" "How do I know that's true?" "Does this have to be like this?"
So while we plan to teach plenty of facts, we also want to teach her to be a questioner, and more importantly: a discoverer, researcher, and experimenter.
- We can follow our own schedule.
Imagine going to a zoo, museum, playground, pool, or park on a Tuesday morning. No crowds! No lines! AmIright!? Now imagine being able to go every Tuesday morning. Or Thursday. Or 5 days a week if we want. Or not, as we see fit.
- Much more of the education should be dedicated to hands-on activity.
- Much more of the day should be dedicated to play and fun physical activity.
- There seem to be a few other reasons floating around in my brain, but I'm unable to fully articulate them at the moment. Updates will follow.
- "She'll be lacking in socialization!"
My impression is this is usually the biggest objection homeschooling parents hear. There are so many ways and places to "achieve socialization"; the school environment is certainly not the only place possible. Besides, socially, the school environment is highly artificial and needlessly structured. We feel "school socialization" is not really necessary, and would probably teach our daughter social lessons we'd prefer remained untaught. As mentioned, we are not planning on keeping her isolated, and do plan to actively seek out constructive social situations, and new life and new civilizations. We're already involved with many families and a homeschool group which seems promising. There are also neighborhoods, parks, playgrounds, field trips, sports, activity clubs, etc.
- "Don't people homeschool for (sometimes kooky) religious reasons?"
Frankly, yes, some do: some homeschool so they can inject Bible verses into every subject, or to avoid taboo subjects such as evolution, global warming or the existence of gays/blacks/Mexicans/asians/working-females/birth-control/etc. However, not all religious homeschoolers homeschool because of religion, and many that do aren't necessarily "kooky" about it. All that aside, we aren't religious, and religion has zero to do with our decision to homeschool. We plan on teaching proper science, proper "social studies" and proper history, as well as teaching everything she needs to know about world religions.
- "How can you possibly teach every subject?"
First, our daughter will only be kindergarten age, so I doubt we'll have any difficulty with any subject matter until well into highschool age. Second, there are many books and teaching resources available to us, both free and for sale. Third, both of us have extensive educations, and, together, have probably taken every conceivable subject. Fourth, there are many homeschool groups in which, say, a musically-gifted parent will guest-teach a music lesson (ie outsourcing a few specific things). And finally, if a particularly complicated issue arises when she's older, we could conceivably hire someone or even enroll her in a private course for that subject.
- "Why don't you just send her to a Montessori/Waldorf/alternative school?"
There seem to be things to admire about the alternative educations: the free-ish structure and self-direction, for example. Many people love the Montessori education, and many children do well in it. It could be that our daughter would be one of those. But, it is still a "educational system" with an ideology, and therefore, like a more traditional school system, lacks flexibility and personalization. More importantly, it doesn't address many of the points of why we want to home-educate, and is certainly not cheap. Finally, we are free to pick, choose, and steal from the Montessori and Waldorf notebooks whenever and whereever we see fit.
- "I knew/heard of this one homeschooling family which blah blah terrible thing blah blah blah."
Kids are kids, and vary greatly. For every "bad homeschool story" you have heard, I'm sure there are thousands of "bad public or private school stories". There are 300 million people in the United States, most of whom went through public school, so all those terrible people you heard about on the news or know personally are most likely public schooled. That annoying child in your neighborhood? Public schooled. That pregnant teenager? Public schooled. That kid who's way too shy, aggressive, stinky, uncivilized, etc? Public schooled.
I am not saying the public school caused those problems. I am saying that if you don't assume public school "caused" those problems, please grant at least the same leeway to the homeschooled kid. And oh, how I hate it when amateur child psychologists try to pinpoint "a cause"…
- "Some homeschooling parents seem a bit zealous and/or paranoid."
I have read much about homeschooling, much of it written by homeschooling parents, and I agree that many times some homeschool proponents either oversell the virtues of homeschooling, or demonize public schools to the point of conspiracy. Just remember, no one else speaks for us, and we do not necessarily agree with whichever alleged conspiracy nut you spoke to or wrote the article you read. There are, of course, faults with public schools, but I believe those faults are almost always instances of standard human and bureaucratic incompetence, and simple limitations, rather than active malintent. And, there are many homeschoolers with a very even keel (we've met them).
- "You think you're better than us!"
Just like you want to do what you feel is best for your child(ren), we want to do what we feel is best for ours. Our decision to homeschool does not imply a judgment of those who don't. The bare fact of our decision does not indicate that we think you've made the "wrong choice" in your educational decisions.
I mention this because most people want their parenting decisions validated, and when someone else chooses something different, many people feel it as an implied attack on the choices they have made. I've received "you think you're better than me!?" flak from people after I mention we don't have a TV, so I can imagine avoiding traditional education might annoy a few people. Honestly, sometimes there is an implied (and sometimes explicit) air of condescension coming from or directed at those who have chosen differently. However, we are not those people. We all, generally, do what we feel is best in each situation.
In short: We have not chosen to homeschool simply to annoy you.
We are just beginning on this path, and still have much research to do and many decisions (and mistakes) to make. Please excuse the dust and noise while child education occurs, and thank you for your understanding.