On Homeschooling

There’s plenty of blog posts that defend or try to explain homeschooling. Here’s mine.

My wife and I homeschool our three children.  Actually, probably much more accurately – my wife homeschools our three children.  My daughter doesn’t own a jean skirt that goes to her ankles.  We don’t have a curriculum based on negating the “lies” of “evil-lution and global warming,”  we haven’t skipped school to attend a Tea Party rally where we make our kids hold signs about the demise of the public school system, and our school room doesn’t have a 1980’s felt board of all the Bible characters – and last time I checked, my 8-year old daughter’s read about half the “banned from a Children’s Library” books in print that were originally meant for her age. Sandy Hook, while devastating, didn’t cause us to dance in the streets gloating about the dangers of taking your kids to public school. That could happen anywhere, and probably will happen again somewhere.  That’s the nature of the world we live in.

So Homeschooling has a negative connotation. For example when a conversation inevitably occurs between my daughter (she’s the one most active in Homeschool at 8 – my boys are still Pre-K) and she mentions “My Mommy is my teacher” or a well-meaning coworker or acquaintance asked about “what school my kids attend” the answer of “We Homeschool” is almost always met with either queer looks, uncomfortable shock or a crazy amount of questions (often referring back to the extreme examples in my first paragraph).  I cringe every time I have to explain it. Thoughts immediately pop into people’s heads (almost so much you can watch it happening in a cartoon thought bubble above them) with ideas that my children are unsocial, permanently Sunday-school-afied zombies.

The truth is, like most things – what you see on television, what you read about on the Internet, or what you hear from political pundits on both sides, rarely – if ever translates to reality.  Are there homeschooling parents who ban books and shove religious ideas down their children’s throats? Sure. Are there public school teachers who push their own agendas and manipulate curriculum? Yep, that too.

The truth is, homeschooling is unique, misunderstood, and grossly misrepresented. Those three things make for a bad reputation – and an often unavoidable stigma about my family.  But here’s the truth – most homeschoolers don’t homeschool based on some divine and righteous religious principle.  Even more so, most homeschoolers I know and associate with are part of many social organizations, do well in groups, and have everlasting bonds with their families.  If I had to choose between my daughter getting bullied, and the ability to choose the social groups she hangs out with by strategically placing her in those groups – I chose the latter.  If that makes me a bad parent – guilty as charged. The media be damned – they’ll spend forever tearing apart something unique and unknown – in an attempt to vilify what my family and others are really trying to accomplish.

In fact, I have nothing specific against public school that causes me to homeschool, I wouldn’t necessarily be devastated if my children had to attend for some reason (although it isn’t my personal preference), and I don’t look down on people who do or don’t homeschool. There’s pros and cons to everything, Homeschooling not an exception. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and those that take it on aren’t necessarily the “elite” or the better parent. Besides, it’s time consuming, emotionally and mentally draining – and requires such a heightened level of organization to pull off.  Any homeschooling family who tells you they haven’t had their rough spots or hasn’t felt like giving up at least twice is lying.

Bottom line – It isn’t easy.

But it’s oh-so-rewarding:

1)      Being able to pick your own curriculum and design your own ala-carte learning system (don’t get my wife and I started about “unschooling” – unschooling isn’t homeschooling, and shouldn’t be grouped as homeschooling.)

2)      Your technology limitations aren’t based on the classroom budget.  Neither is your art program, your music program, or any other program you want to engage upon.

3)      It’s time-flexible and allows for unique learning experiences throughout the year.  There’s little administrative overhead as learning and instruction are the majority of your homeschooling time.

4)      Whatever effort you put into it, you’ll be rewarded two-fold.  My 8 year old daughter reads at a Middle-School level (no, I’m not exaggerating).  Ask her anything you want about the Curiosity Rover, current events in the Middle East, or animals.  She’ll answer. My four year old performs multiplication tables and can navigate flawlessly around 3 different operating systems and write sentences.  I don’t tell you this to gloat – there are plenty excellent programs for gifted children in public schools – but the truth is that homeschooling parents can, and often do, create the same atmosphere.

5)      It’s a blast. Some people say you can do it in your pajamas – but the truth is in our house you get ready, get dressed, and show up for school.  But you COULD do it in your pajamas. You could also spend the day going “off the deep end of learning” and focus on something unique because it just seems interesting.  The world’s your oyster, and if you really wanted to – you could spend the day learning about oysters, creating math about oyster populations, writing a paper on oysters, and finishing it up with cooking an oyster. Why not?

I’m not about to say it’s for everyone.  It isn’t. Some days, it doesn’t feel like it’s for anyone.  But to be honest, my wife and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s become so much a part of our identity that I’m growing weary about not talking about it out of fear of judgment on my children or my family.

We homeschool.

And we love it.

Did you know oyster’s migrate?

–          Grant

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