Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I Think About--Homeschooling (Advice Appreciated)

As an educator, I'm passionate about teaching and learning.  I have definite ideas about what I want my kids to learn and how I think they should learn.  The problem is my teaching style and philosophies are WAY outside of the box when it comes to traditional public schooling (don't get me started on reward systems or homework).  Ergo, I've always assumed I would home school my children.

Whenever I mention this to people they give me "looks" and even a few judgmental comments:
  • Are you qualified? (Let's see, I have a BA in secondary education and middle school, a Master's in teaching history, I'm a year and a bit away from a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, I have teaching experience from k-college ... what do you think?)
  • Aren't you afraid your kids won't have social opportunities? (You mean outside of church groups, family, friends, soccer, dance, music, volunteering, 4-H, and play dates? Yeah, I think socialization starts before school, happens in places besides school, and continues post-school.)
  • Don't you know that home school graduates aren't taken seriously in the "real world"? (Really?  I wonder why every home schooled graduate I know has gotten into a good--I mean a REALLY good university?)
I clearly see many benefits to home schooling:
  • freedom of curriculum, 
  • freedom of time (no bus chasing), 
  • emotional freedom (no boredom waiting for other kids, less peer-pressure, less feeling bad if you don't keep up in math), 
  • one-on-one instruction,  
  • no busywork (or homework!)
  • field trips and volunteering possibilities ...

Not everything about homeschooling is positive, though.
  • Like time!  It is true that homeschooling my children will mean that I won't be running on a school district schedule but it takes time to plan, enact, and grade lessons.  
  • And you are around your kids 24/7 with no break! 
  • Homeschooling can be expensive too.  The curriculum costs a bundle.  There are virtual schools out there that offer curriculum but not necessarily the curriculum I'd like.  
  • Finally, it is hard to live outside of the perceived norm.
My oldest child isn't ready for kindergarten this year.  We are one year away.  But as soon as I see school supplies hit the floor in Target I start to falter on whether or not homeschooling is right for her.  She comes alive in her preschool and flourishes with her friends.  Will I rob her something if I home school her?  On the other hand, if I don't home school her, will she receive what I call a "mis-education"?  Will she be a small, shy voice lost in a sea of busy-bodies?  Will she be just another score on the PAWS test?  What is best for her?  For our family?

I just don't know.  And it's really tough on me because I've always been sure that I'd be sure about teaching her.  Am I wrong?

In sum, I don't know WHAT I THINK about homeschooling.  Thoughts are bum-tumbling in my head.  Do you or were you home schooled?  What do you think of it?  Pros/Cons?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and opinions!


  1. This is something I went through 2 years ago. I was a teacher before I had kids, and always thought I would send them to school. Then I had my kids. I know that the best thing for my kids right now is homeschooling. I love it, and the kids do too. We can learn so much in a day, we end up getting to dive in to their personal interests because we have the basics covered. About socialization, I have to make sure we don't do too much socialization. We belong to a co-op and go 1 day a week, plus play dates and field trips with other kids. As well as all of the things you mentioned. I also don't worry about college. Most ivy league colleges, as well as many in our state have a special pile for applications from homeschoolers. I read an article that talked about their(hs) motivation, broad interests and knowledge which colleges want to add to their student bodies. Homeschooling is not for everyone, and it is a lot of work without many breaks but I love it! You have to do what is best for your family.

  2. If it makes you feel better, Khale was home schooled and got into Harvard. :)

    I was also a home schooler. I honestly thought it was great and loved it. It made my siblings and I really close because we became each other's best friends. As long as you stay motivated and proactive about your child's education, which you are, I think home schooling is a great option if you want to do it.

    Socialization really won't be a big deal. Growing up, we were super active in our city's home school group. We were also involved in 4-H, church activities, sports, music classes, and dance classes. The only time we ever complained about being home schooled is when we were in "high school" because we lived 30 minutes from the nearest town so it wasn't easy to just randomly call up a friend and go hang out.

    Just continue to pray about it and go with whatever you and Matt feel is best for your family/ :)

  3. Former teacher here, too. I'm sending my kids to public school. I am qualified to teach them, but I do feel like they will do better in school. I don't think that I'd ever homeschool them all the way through school and I had experiences with teaching students who had been homeschooled before being in my class and didn't do well. Very smart, but weren't up to the work. Yes, some of it was probably "busy work," but as a teacher in a school, you have to provide lots of proof as to why a child is getting the grades they are, and that requires more papers. Not that you don't have to prove it with homeschool, but when you have a classroom full of 30 students, there isn't as much one-on-one.

    I'm rambling and going off on tangents. How I feel about it is that I think it can be a good thing for some, but it's not for me.

    Thanks for linking up! You still have a year to decide what you're going to do, at least!

  4. I feel just like you do. :)

    I have many friends that homeschool - some are awesome at it, others.. honestly.. their kids would be 100x's better off in school. (they have a baby every year or two, take 6 months off that year from puking from pregnancy, recovering from birth, etc) and their kids are BEHIND to say the least. They also aren't out in the world much at all. They can't afford to put 6 kids into sports or anything else - and it's too hard to load up and go to church, etc.

    Now, for YOU... just reading your blog it is more than evident that you put a very high standard to your mothering. I know that would apply to homeschooling for you, as well. If you're in an area with a lot of other homeschoolers, then you kind of have your own built-in playdates and social time.

    The only part of homeschooling that I wonder about is if you're very lax with it. The new "unschooling" movement. You get up whenver you want, you cator majorly to the kids' desires and interests, etc. I have no evidence to support my theory here lol but it seems to me that type of growing up environment is fun.. but teaches LITTLE in regards to how college, work, etc will be. Again - I don't think this would apply to you. ;)

    My kids go to public school but that isn't a decision I made lightly. I seriously take it year by year. We've had a GREAT experience with school with my two school-aged children. From Pre-K, up to my oldest that is going to 4th this year. My kids love school! My middle child would NOT be a good candidate for homeschooling.. I know b/c we homeschool during the summer. My oldest - I could homeschool her without thought!

    I'll be honest, some of my best memories are from my school days... and I want the same for my kids. Cheering at football games, playing on the school teams, having that sense of community that comes from being in classes with the same people from K-12... that type of thing. But, homeschooling is a great option for many, and not something I'd take lightly in deciding. I don't see one option as aboslutely better than the other - it is honestly a case by case basis. For us, school is best due to me working from home. I get my work done while they're away, and when they're home I'm done and all we do from 3 until bedtime is spend amazing quality time together. This summer, with them home 24/7.. it has been really hard! If I didn't work - it would be a much better situation for us all! Good luck in deciding! and, remember - you can always start with one decision, and CHANGE YOUR MIND. You're never stuck! :)

  5. I think that homeschooling is a great option. I actually went to public school all my life and my parent's were public school teachers. I loved school and did very well, however I think I would have done well in any school setting due to my personality. However, times are different ( I know that sounds old, but I’m not old, I am only 28) My mom will on occasion take a subbing job for a day in her old school district and always call me afterwards and beg me not to put our son in public school. Our decision will not be based on what my parents think, but it is interesting. I’m not going to go into the reasons because the list is too long. I think that public education is a fine choice, but I think that is what your end result is….just fine…not great. I think that each family has to do what is best for their family, and each individual child moreover. What works for one child may not work for every child. My sister-in-law home schools her children and as a family that do a great job. My niece and nephew are well balanced fun kids who love to learn. They know about pop culture and they can talk to a wide range of people including adults, which I think is a direct result of the variety of socialization that they are exposed to. After watching her, and seeing all the benefits it has confirmed to me that if done well homeschooling can be a great choice. I know she works very hard and does not get many breaks, but it is also a season. A choice she feels is worth the sacrifice of free-time for herself.

    Well, Reagan I know that you guys will make the best decision for your family. I think you would do a great job homeschooling your children. However, if you decide to send them to public schools then I know you would be involved and aware what was going on in their classroom. You can always change your mind. I know this is long, but I guess I have a lot to say about this subject.

  6. I was not homeschooled, but I don't think it's a black and white thing. Each kid and each parent is an individual and what is right for one may not be right for another.

    That having been said, I think there is success to be had in the public school system as well. I lived in a county that had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country during my high school years. Yet, I managed to hold to my standards (which to others seemed impossibly high) because my parents taught me. I never participated in the behavior of the majority of my classmates. Looking back, I think that being around all that made me stronger. It made me used to being different. By the time I left home I was totally comfortable with the fact that my standards were not the world's standards. Oddly enough, it was the bullies and the "undesirables" that helped me to reach this point. I needed them just as much as I needed my church group.

    Academically, my mother supplemented (not sure if this is a strong enough word) my education. She taught me how to read, she helped in the classroom. She formed an after school math class at my elementary school for the students who were more advanced than the classroom curriculum. In high school, she began a concurrent enrollment class, teaching the AP kids calculus II (by this time she was teaching at the community college).

    My point is that if you do choose public school, you can still be very involved in your children's education. It is possible to raise great human beings in a not so great world.

    In the end, the only way to know for sure which way to go is to ask God.

  7. I think because of your qualifications you definitely have the option. If you didn't I would strongly recommend a traditional school for your kids. Maybe send your oldest to kindergarten. If you are dissatisfied then you can keep her home.

  8. Reagan, I think you would be fantastic teacher for your kiddos. I think you would do a top-notch job and they would totally thrive and excel.

    Honestly, I have such mixed feelings about homeschooling. I have friends that do it & do it very very well! Their kids are doing great, ahead in many areas and very well balanced kiddos. I also have seen some circumstances where the parents are not at all qualified to teach their kids and are doing their kids NO favors by keeping them out of public school. Those kids I believe will be very ill-prepared for college & the real world.

    Again...I think you would do a fantastic job! I'm not talking about you in the above comment. Just some family situations I have seen over the years.

    I have no idea what the standards are for homeschooling but I think they need to be a tad more strict with more accountability (at least in Colorado). I believe in this country every child should have the opportunity for a solid education and I do believe some parents are taking that away from their kids by not being trained to teach their kids and aren't challenging & expecting enough.

    On the other hand...I have thought many times about homeschooling Eli (at least for a year or two). I haven't looked into homeschooling standards and such because he just turned 3, but it is in the back of my mind. We do a lot of purposeful "preschool" activities at home now & I love doing stuff like that with him. I think we would both really enjoy it. Homeschooling for kindergarten is appealing to me especially because there is no half-day Kindergarten option in Laramie.

    It is a hard thing. I'm not sure how to really advocate for kids that are in bad homeschooling situations. We could make more guidelines and requirements for the parents...but those could always be cheated and probably often are by parents that aren't passionate about educating their children and are doing it for the wrong reasons.

    Man...I'm not ready to think about this stuff. Go with what you feel is best in the end. And I think someone else said it can change your mind if whatever option you pick doesn't seem to be working for your family. :)

  9. WOW--ladies, thank you for your advice and support. It is so good to know that I'm not alone in this struggle (and the encouragement is much needed).

    @Kelly--Thanks for the links

    @Kristen--Do you use a specific curriculum or do you make up your own?

    @Sarah L--Thought you might have a good take on this :)

    @Shell--Yes, thank goodness for that year!

    @Mandy--I'm so glad to hear you've gone thru this too! And remembering I'm not "stuck" with my decision is huge. Thanks!

    @Nicole--I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for sharing.

    @Rachael--Appreciate you pointing out that I can still be involved in the public schools (think the schools here will want me with all my crazy social justice Utopian ideals???)

    @Anon--Good point. Try it, see if I like it ...

    @Shelly--I've seen almost ALL good. Standards are really for state public schools but even private schools try to meet them and pretty much every HS parent I know tries to exceed state standards. (of course I could go on a tangent here about how standards are fluffy and how do you "prove" a kid really "gets" something when we can all manipulate tests ... but I won't!). Thanks

  10. I struggle with this and it seems like you have a some great advice, so I'm going to have to come back and read all of your advice.

  11. Hey Reagan - I try to read your blog every night, and I rarely feel the need to comment. But today I feel compelled.

    I believe that God gives us life experiences that allow us to serve him in the unique way that He wants our service. Obviously there are millions of ways to serve him. I believe some people need to be home schooled to serve him in particular ways; others need to attend public schools and others private schools to serve him in particular ways. I am positive that I needed to attend public schools to serve God by representing abused and neglected children in Durham. My life experiences in Durham County Public schools have been crucial to my ability to relate to the children I represent and to my ability to advocate effectively for them.

    The value of public schools isn't the academic education - quality home schooling certainly surpasses it. And I don't believe it's the "socialization" that you mentioned. It's true that you can "socialize" your children through dance lessons, church, etc. I believe the true value of public schools is giving children an opportunity to interact on a daily basis with others of different socio-economic standing, different cultures, etc. Volunteering weekly at the homeless shelter doesn't give a child the same experience as being friends with a classmate who is homeless - and I doubt that a homeless child would be on the baseball team, in dance class or unfortunately in Sunday school class. In public schools, children are all on equal footing - even though in life they may not be. Children from racist families have learned to overcome racism because of their daily experiences and friendships in public schools.

    My years in public school were hard socially. But I wouldn't trade them. My faith was refined in many hot fires of public school. I became good friends with a kid on our basketball team in middle school, and a year later his mom went missing for several weeks. She was found dead from a drug overdose by the railroad tracks, and he learned of her death by someone who saw an article in the paper and told him at the bus stop. I went to her funeral - I was the only white person there. I remember watching that tough athlete crying his eyes out over his mama. He never forgot that I was there, and I never forgot that experience either. I understand the children that I represent SO much better because of those experiences. I would have never experienced that if I were in a private school or home schooled.

    With all that said, I would pay you to home school my children! I just felt compelled to share what I see as the true benefit of public school.

    Hope you and Matt are doing well!

    -Christy Malott

  12. I was homeschooled the last 3 years of high school. My brother was home schooled up until the 6th grade. I was accepted to Texas Tech University and he was accepted to the University of Texas at Arlington. My hubby and I talk about home schooling all the time. I have a multitude of reasons but I think that it, like everything else in life, is a personal choice. Socialization is just something that people who don't understand home schooling use as an excuse. I think that if you decide to home school then you've made the right decision, I think that if you decide to send her to public school you've made the right decision. I think a lot of school depends on the kid!!

  13. I'm a former educator, too. I will be sending my children to a public school for a number of reasons. One reason is because I truly believe there is a value of an education outside of the home. Something where they are *forced* to experience and encounter things that we don't as a family. I worry about sending them out of the home as a teen or young adult after years of being homeschooled and it being somewhat like when Dorothy landed in Oz. I want them to have social extracurricular activities if they choose, or the opportunity to get excited for seeing their friends. Friends, that if I homeschooled, they may not have had.

    Selfishly I want the "me" time. I need the me time. I believe that they will be good at school not because of the teachers they have, but because of the encouragement they have from home. I will be there to help with the homework (I look forward to it!) and guide them in the areas they struggle.

    I'm sure whatever decision you make will be right for you. Like it was said earlier, you still have a year!


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