Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Considering homeschooling

picture was copied from
I should have written this sometime in the spring or summer in order to be really helpful for people who want to make the homeschooling decision before school starts.  However, the truth is, you can decide to homeschool at any time during the school year.  Or you can decide to stop homeschooling at any time during the school year.  Sometimes, we THINK that we need to abide by the rules of when a school year should start so that our child/children get to enjoy the "full experience" and establish friendships at the beginning because, of course, once the school year starts, relationships are cemented and can never be altered (sarcasm is dripping here because as a public schooled kid, I experienced friends coming and going throughout a school year, depending on the circumstances).  So do not be slaves to someone else's timeline, but consider what is best for your family, even in the middle of the school year.  Deciding to homeschool should not be done on a whim.  There are sacrifices that will be made by both you and your spouse, there is opposition, sometimes openly belligerent, sometimes more subtle, second-guessing of your decision which will whisper in your brain every time you have a bad day or bad week or bad month. Or bad year--yes, that is the ugly side to homeschooling.

I was contacted several months ago by a writer in the United Kingdom who wrote about some practical, financial considerations for homeschooling.  You can find the article here.  Because this was written for UK parents, some of these considerations are not an issue for American parents.  For instance, most American schools provide transportation within their district.  Clothing costs are always an issue, however, because even if your child does not have to wear a uniform, there is a cost of being fashionable that can be extremely high for girls but is even present for boys.  But this is a very good summary of financial considerations.  And financial reasons are important though they can be issues that are overcome.

In addition, you need consider WHY you want to homeschool.  There are a variety of reasons people give for homeschooling their kid(s) and I have placed them in my standard categories.  The reasons you make will determine how successful you will be in this venture and will sustain you during the bad and ugly times in your homeschool adventure.

The Good Reasons:
*  If you do this right, your relationship with your children can be very close.  What I have learned from some pretty spectular failures is that the relationship is the most important part of your homeschool decision, not the education.  You will get to know your children VERY well and they will get to know you.
*  For those of you who believe in God the ability to include Bible study, prayer and worship in your school is a bonus.  We want our kids to be reliable, kind, honest adults.  Character development, however, is not necessarily dependent on religious convictions because we all want our kids to be hard workers, help others and be loving people.
*  You can help your child learn, adapting resources to suit their learning styles. (more on this later)
*  You can change curriculum that doesn't work at ANY point in time.  PLEASE take advantage of this benefit if you decide to homeschool.  Money wasted is better than a whole year wasted.
*  A guilty pleasure is that you can set your own schedule and go on vacation anywhere, including, let's say, Walt Disney World, at non-peak season and reap the savings.
*  If you are very good at this, which I am not, you can integrate your curriculum with life skills and teach your kids that learning never ends.
*  You want your kids to learn about grace and forgiveness both by giving it and by needing it from them.
*  You want them to be able to develop naturally, at their own speed and have time to develop interests.  NOTE:  This is not the same as letting them do "whatever" and "whenever".  It means that you don't stress out if your kid isn't reading by 6 because some kids don't or because your kid is behind in math or because your six year old boy can't sit still.  There is no daily peer pressure from kids and very little from outside adults to live up to what the current group of experts has determined to be "normal" development.
*  You want to limit their exposure to negative social influences like peer pressure, bullying, etc.  If your kids do stuff outside the home, whether in co-ops, sports, or other extra-curricular activities, your kids will get social interaction, including dealing with bullies without being exposed to bad influences 8 hours a day/5 days a week, 36 weeks a year.
*  Kids learn how to interact with people of all ages and generally don't develop age-based eletists attitudes, though I am finding it creeping into some of my kids.
*  The best reason is that this is what you feel God has called you to do because He knows what is best for you and your family.

The Bad Reasons:  These generally fall into the "Pride" category
* You can give your kids the best education possible.  The reason this is bad is that there is no perfect educational system and you are setting too high a bar for both you and the kids.  You will go crazy trying to find the perfect curriculum for your kids and  you might even go crazy when they don't like what you've chosen OR they are slower in some areas.
*  You want to protect them from peer pressure and school bullies.  Here is one problem:  there are adult bullies and your kid needs to be able to handle them.  The second problem is that if you have more than two kids, chances are, you will have a bully-wannabe in your school.  I know that I do.
*  You want to give them a high standard of conduct and limit peer pressure.  This is not bad as long as you can live up to the high expectations you set because the main example they are going to get for behavior will be you.  I know that I haven't.
*  You feel that it is your duty as a good mom.

The Ugly Reasons:  These generally fall into the "It really is more about you than the kids" category
*  You want your kid to be smarter than public school kids, possibly even graduating from college at 18.  This is a lot of pressure to put on you and your kid.  It will damage the relationship, which should be the most important.
*  You want to protect them from the big, bad world.  I have news for you, the big, bad world is inside your house as well as outside.  If you have more than one kid, chances are one of them might turn out to be a bully, or a drifter or a class clown.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
*  Your friends are all doing it and are subtly invoking adult peer pressure to get you to join their circle.

This advice is given to you by someone who decided to homeschool for good and bad reasons and initially dabbled in an ugly reason.  The bad and ugly reasons will haunt you as your children grow up.  Each year, after you have a break for a few weeks from the grind, it is a good idea for you and your spouse to review your decision, review your reasons, and review the curriculum that you are using.  The reason for this is to make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons.  Review the curriculum you are using to make sure that it is working for you and your family and that you are not becoming a slave to the curriculum.

If you homeschool and have any other reasons that I haven't included, please add them in the comments section.

Happy Homeschooling--or Not!

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