Is Homeschooling Right for You? (And Why It Wasn’t for Us)
Whether it’s for social, academic, family, or religious reasons, roughly two million children are currently being homeschooled, and the numbers continue to grow at a rate of 7-15% per year. Children who are educated at home do well on standardized tests, and have very few problems getting into accredited colleges and universities. But making the choice to take our children out of a public school and homeschool them is a daunting decision, and needs to be mindfully thought out and planned.
On a couple of different occasions, I attempted to homeschool each of my daughters and failed dismally. It’s definitely not for everyone. It takes discipline on the parent’s part to motivate children to do their school work, and self-regulation on the child’s part to actually do it. Trying to get my daughters to motivate themselves was not an easy feat, because they seemed to need the stimulation that a classroom setting possessed.
I spent the better part of 12 years going to the first “free” or “alternative” schools in this country, which was rooted in the theory that learning should be left up to the child to decide. When I was a kid, I preferred to run wild in the streets of Haight Ashbury the entire day than to learn how to do multiplication or grammar. So, suffice it to say, I was not the best role model for my kids when it came to cracking the whip as a homeschooling head mistress.
To homeschool or not to homeschool?
We have a lot of friends who, like in my own case, elected to take their children out of the public school system due to personal reasons. More and more parents seem to be disenchanted with the traditional mode of education that the public school system offers.
If you are seriously contemplating home education for your little one, here are some of the factors that might be helpful in your final decision:
Be realistic about your child’s learning style
Some of our kids seem naturally wired to be self-regulated, while others need to be constantly pushed and motivated. If you know that your children are not likely going to take it upon themselves to do their school work without an act of God, it could end up being a lot of work to educate them at home. If it’s a high priority for you to homeschool, then try to find a group of parents who are collectively educating at home, and get your little ones into a more traditional classroom-type setting that resonates better with their individual learning needs.
I discovered that having “incentives” (okay, bribes) like taking them to the beach for a couple of hours if they finish their work by noon, was a good way to motivate them to do their school work. Sometimes, it’s simply a respect issue. In my own case, my kids only wanted me in the “mom” role. When I was their “teacher,” everyone ended up frustrated at the end of the day.
The social factor
This by far is probably the biggest issue and misconception about homeschooling. I found that trying to homeschool my kids in a rural area where very few people were doing it proved problematic. Even though my daughters were able to socialize after school or during the weekends with friends who went to public schools, they felt disconnected and out of the loop when it came to the social drama that goes on at school. If I had educated my children at home in a more urban area, perhaps it would have offered a greater opportunity for them to connect with other homeschooled kids and help create more of a balance. These days, more areas have co-ops and organizations which can be found online, providing a myriad of core classes and social networking for home schooled kids.
Know what you are getting yourself into
I confess this was probably where I failed the most. For different reasons, I needed and wanted each of my daughters out of public school, and I made an emotional decision …Not backed up by enough research to see what I was getting into. I quickly discovered that it wasn’t like back in the day, when I was simply allowed to run free in the streets of San Francisco, while other kids were sitting in traditional classrooms scattered across the city learning how to spell.
Each state has created laws and strict guidelines when it comes to homeschooling, and unfortunately, the state we lived in had the most archaic and outdated ones, (right up there with horse stealing being a crime worthy of hanging). If I opted to take my kids out of the public school setting, the state required me to find an accredited homeschooling organization to piggyback off of, and it wasn’t cheap. What initially felt like a great relief quickly began to feel like a whole lot of work.
In my own case, I learned that home-based education required too much commitment and discipline in order for me to make it a successful experience for both myself and my children. But for those who have the ability to bring it all together, it can be such a rewarding experience.
The positives far outweigh the negatives. No strict schedules, no early morning runs to school, and rushing to pick them up after. Instead, there’s a fun curriculum that’s focused more on our child’s interests, the freedom to go on fun day trips, and an opportunity to spend quality time with our kids.
To ensure that we make the right choice of educating our kids at home, it should never be motivated by emotions, but through careful preparation and realistic expectations.
Will you be homeschooling your kids? Share your plan of action with us in the comments below!
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