Just the other day, one of my 'FB friends' posted the following:
"Homeschool..... yes, or no??"
As I began to scroll through some of the comments, I immediately felt compelled to defend my decision to homeschool my three children — never mind just my choice to homeschool, but homeschooling in general!
"I would worry about socialization," one parent grumbled.
The next one chimed in, "I'm not a teacher, how could I possibly teach my kids the basics?"
And the one that sent me catapulting right over the edge was, "Why would you homeschool unless, for some reason, your kid couldn't go to school?"
What? Really? WOW! Well, as you can imagine I most certainly left my two cents in the comments below! But aside from that, the post gave me some fodder for today's blog as I began reflecting on the countless times I ran into naysayers over my sixteen-year stint homeschooling my children. Sometimes they were in the form of sneers from total strangers in the grocery store line on a 'non-school-vacation' weekday. Or constant questions from family members, usually starting with, "Are you sure they're getting enough...?" Or friends, whose children were in public school, goading us, "…why don’t you just let your kids try it?"
I like to say a few things right up front whenever speaking on the topic of homeschooling, so as not to offend anyone:
• Homeschooling offers many benefits for children and parents; however, I do not think that it’s the right fit for every parent or every child.
• Homeschooling is a way to ensure a high-quality education; however, I do not think it’s the only way to do so.
• Homeschooling is not only a choice, it’s a privilege; it was the perfect choice for my children, our family, and me and I feel blessed that we were afforded the privilege!
The fact is that the face of homeschooling has changed drastically over the past twenty-four years, since becoming legal in all 50 states. Becoming much more mainstream has helped to dispel many of the myths and stereotypes surrounding homeschoolers. Some of them being that: we’re anti-social, anti-government, uber-religious, or just plain weird. According to the last report issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NECS), in 2013, almost 1.75 million children were being homeschooled in the United States — that was 3.4% of the school-age population at the time. NCES said that those figures broke down to 68 percent being white, 15 percent Hispanic, 8 percent black, and 4 percent Asian or Pacific Island.
Historically, going back to the 70's and 80's, those who homeschooled were either rebellious hippie parents bucking the government establishment in protest or the complete dichotomy in groups of people, conservative rural Christian parents protesting against secular education. Although at their philosophical core these groups couldn’t be further apart, they were effectually both opposing the same system, albeit for divergent rational, by taking the matter of educating the family into their own hands. As a matter of fact, the number one reason parents still give for homeschooling is the desire to provide religious or moral instruction; following a close second, is a concern about the school environment. But homeschoolers now choose to educate in the home for a myriad of other reasons too. The greatest of which for me was the fact that I love my children with all my heart and I simply wasn't ready for them to be in school full-time at five years old. Also, selfishly, I wanted to be the person that heard them read their first words, saw them compose their first sentences, witnessed their joy when polynomial equations finally clicked! And the fact that I was — I consider one of the biggest blessings in my life!
I assume that if you're reading this blog, you’re either contemplating homeschooling your children or perhaps you already do, and you're just looking to commiserate with another homeschool parent. Whatever your reason for reading on, I'd like to address the comments on my friend's Facebook post now. If you do happen to find yourself considering the notion of becoming a homeschool family, some of these very same comments might be things you’ve heard, or they might even be similar to questions you have running through your mind. And if you’re already a homeschool parent, you’ve probably had encounters with negativity and heard these very comments too! If so, we’d love to hear how you responded to them — please feel free to comment below.
• "I would worry about socialization."
It's the first one, and it's a biggie! If I've heard, "Aren't you worried about socialization?" once, I've heard it a thousand times. I remember one incident in particular.
My daughter, Meggie, had a friend in our neighborhood, a sweet little girl named Charlotte — who attended public school. Meggie and Charlotte were good friends from the time they were five years old, after meeting at a horseback riding camp. They rode horses together for years and one winter when the girls were middle school aged, they signed up for ice skating lessons together. The rink was in the next town over, so Charlotte's mom and I carpooled a few times a week. One day, while we were waiting for the girls to finish their lesson, Jane confided that Charlotte was having a tough time adjusting to middle school and that she was crying herself to sleep at night. I asked Jane what was going on? She said that she wasn't quite sure, Charlotte was not talking about it; going on to say that according to Charlotte's therapist, "that's pretty 'normal' in these situations." I thought to myself, “An 11-year-old crying herself to sleep and needing a therapist? Nothing about this sounds normal to me!” Jane went on to explain (justify) that little girls can be mean at this age and she suspected that there was a gaggle of girls teasing Charlotte about her tiny stature and shy demeanor. Okay, so that's not even the capper to the story! The next thing out of Jane's mouth (literally, the very next thing) was the question, "Don't you worry about Meggie missing out on socialization — I mean, being homeschooled and all?" I was completely stunned by this question in the midst of the conversation we were having, but somehow regained my composure enough to say, "Do you hear yourself, Jane? And Meggie is missing out on what? Is she missing out on girls being cruel to her — to the point that she cries herself to sleep every night? If that's socialization — we'll skip it!" Needless to say, Jane never brought up socialization again!
And what is socialization for children anyway? If you ask me: 'socialization’ is a 21st-century catch phrase designed by those programmed to believe that an institution can provide better social opportunities for children than parents and who don't understand that institutional socialization (in some situations) can be downright unhealthy for a child.
• "I'm not a teacher."
I disagree, and this comment drives me almost as batty as the previous. ‘If You're a Parent — You're a Teacher' — period. What parents fail to realize is that they do teach their children every single day.
From the day your baby is born, you perform four parental duties consistently: you love your child, you protect your child, you nurture your child, AND you TEACH your child. As a matter of fact, in the crucial developmental years (birth to five) you actually teach your children almost everything they learn. You teach them how to walk and talk, how to interact and behave socially, how to eat with a fork and cut with a knife, how to color between the lines, how to catch a ball, how to tie shoes, how to recite the alphabet, how to count to 100, how to spell their name — and the list goes on and on and on. So think about that — parents are already teachers, simply by the fact that they are parents. Then why is it that parents experience such difficulty recognizing their innate ability to teach their children?
On top of that, quite frankly, in so many cases (admittedly, not all) there is no one better suited to teach a child than that child’s parent. The very same way there is no one better suited to love, nurture, and protect a child than that child’s parent. I understand the apprehension about teaching something like advanced calculus — for sure. What I don't understand is why we assume that once a child turns five-years-old, it's time to drop them off on the doorstep of the local school. You, as a parent, up to that point were perfectly capable of teaching your children what you knew how to do; walk and talk, interact and behave socially, eat with a fork and cut with a knife, color between the lines, catch a ball, tie shoes, recite the alphabet, count to 100, spell their name etc. What, you don't know how to read? You don't know how to write? You don’t know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers? These are 'the basics' that you absolutely can help your children learn. Beyond that, what you don't know is available at your fingertips — literally — with the Internet! Homeschooling has never been more user-friendly!
When we first started our homeschool journey, I knew I didn't know everything — especially advanced calculus; however, I was confident that — not to be cliché, but — "where there was my will, there would be a way!" I believed and wanted my children to believe that, as long as we were all on board, we could successfully explore, discover, and learn together. I wanted them to know that learning is natural, that human beings have an innate super power for learning, and that you do not need a 'teacher' or to be ‘taught’ to learn. I wanted them to understand that when you’re enthusiastic about learning, and put your mind to it, it’s possible to teach yourself anything. And perhaps most importantly, I wanted my children to be inspired to love learning. I wanted them to thoroughly enjoy the process of learning — to crave knowledge — to seek it with passion and zeal. I wanted to raise life-long learners. And I knew that unfortunately, a traditional education couldn’t necessarily guarantee that experience for all of my three children — but I was fairly confident that I could.
So the bottom line here — if you want to homeschool (and remember I admit it's not for everyone), but if you sincerely have the desire to homeschool your children, don't let the fact that you're not a 'certified teacher' stop you because you are a teacher. And making the decision to homeschool is not a life sentence. I’ll be honest, we never committed to more than one year of homeschooling at a time and every summer we re-evaluated before re-grouping to plan the subsequent school year. It just so happens that it worked for us — year after year — until the day each of my three children packed their bags and left for college.
• "Why would you want to homeschool, unless you had to?"
And finally, the last comment is perhaps the one I understand the least. I can see where misinformation propagates the other two comments. Parents have been conditioned to think that school is the only place where children can successfully be socialized and that children only learn when a person with a certificate is teaching them. But, personally, I can't understand why any parent wouldn't want to homeschool their children!
Before anyone gets too hot under the collar, this is just my personal opinion and what felt right for our family. I'll reiterate — homeschooling is not for everyone. I get that, and I'm not implying you're a bad parent if you don't want to homeschool. Here are just a few of the reasons that I chose to start homeschooling and continued to do so for 16 years.
• I wanted to eke out as much of my children's childhood from life as I possibly could! And I certainly couldn't have eked out a moment more, yet 'It All Went by in the Blink of an Eye!'
• I love being on my schedule — not someone else's or something else's — it’s just that simple!
• Carpe Diem — homeschooling gave us the power to seize each day! Let's face it; life can't always be planned out months in advance. Stuff happens, and opportunities arise — the beauty about homeschool is that you can be spontaneous and adjust 'your schedule' accordingly!
• Homeschooling allowed my children to learn many valuable lessons and skills that traditional schools often neglect. For instance: self-efficacy, the value of education, efficiency, time management, self-instruction, community service, cooking, laundry, money management, etc. This list could go on and on and on!
• I wanted my children to be well educated and prepared for college. At the very least, this study shows that homeschoolers do as well in college as their traditionally schooled peers, and this study showed that on average, they have a higher ACT score, earn more college credits, and maintain a higher GPA than those peers.
• Traditional school schedules would not have left as much time for our community service. It's important for children to be around people from all walks of life and ages to learn tolerance, which is why we volunteered with special needs individuals and the elderly in our community for over 11 years through the United Way.
• Beyond the basics, my children could have input into what we studied, which added to their level of excitement to learn. Also, I could tailor what we learned and how we learned based on each child's preferred learning style.
• I was able to have lots of say, at all times, in who and what was influencing my children. And I could feel confident that I was the one providing discipline, training, moral guidelines and values — not a perfect stranger.
• All three of my children were able to pursue their interests, their passions, and their dreams. Fortunately, they all had the same interest and passion in competitive cycling. Homeschooling gave us the flexibility for our family to travel to their racing events. My youngest son, Mikee, actually spent two winters touring the European race circuit with Team USA / USA Cycling. This amazing experience would not have been possible for Mikee had he been enrolled in a traditional school.
• We could go to Disney anytime we wanted (off-season) and never have to stand in a line at any ride — not even 'Anna and Elsa Meet-and-Greet' at Royal Sommerhus! Homeschooling is not just a perk when planning a Disney vacation either — we could visit museums, parks, playgrounds, zoos during the week when most children were in school. We also never had any problem getting into the orthodontist — we could do before 3:00 in the afternoon. And scheduling musical instrument lessons was a breeze too — music teachers often welcome the opportunity to teach students during school hours when most other children are unavailable.
So, if reading some of my reasons for homeschooling, made you more interested than ever in homeschooling your littles, the first thing I recommend is visiting the (HSLDA) Home School Legal Defense Association's website. They have a great resource for checking into local laws, state by state — because although homeschooling is legal in every state, each has their own set of rules and guidelines that parents must follow.
As a bona fide home education and general parenting guru, I've consulted with hundreds of families in my local communities, some of whom were referred to me by the Vermont Department of Education. If you have any questions about homeschooling and resources that I have found throughout the years, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I'd be happy to answer any general questions (not specific to state laws) that you might have.
Lastly, remember that you don't have to homeschool to enjoy educational successes for your children; however, it's a proven fact that the most important ingredient for that success is parental involvement. So if you don't want to homeschool or do but can’t, or if you want to send your child to private school but can’t, or if you wish your local public school was more like the one in that other neighborhood, take heart! By being an involved parent, you can do a whole lot to help your children get the education you want for them.
And don't forget that Homespun and Hands-On® is always here to help! Our 'simply perfect' Hands-On Kits 'n' Kaboodles™ make it 'perfectly simple' for any parent to create fun together time and inspire a love of learning for any child.
Tell us why you’d like to homeschool, or why you wouldn’t, or why you do — comment below!
Oh! And by the way, we'd be ever so grateful if you'd...