Warning--Long... I've tried to leave out the superfluous stuff, but I do like to go on and on and on.
Our decision to homeschool was a very difficult decision to make. I know that some of you do not like the fact that we have decided this. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I would like to make some things clear about why we have made this decision. I hope that you take the time to read this with an open mind and heart.
First, let me make this clear. Our decision to homeschool was made because it was the best thing for our family. It is not a reflection on anyone else. We examined the pros and cons of homeschooling and decided that the pros far outweighed the cons. I must admit that, as you'll see, most of the cons were in regard to my life, not my children's lives. When I decided to accept the responsibility of having children, I also accepted the fact that while I am raising my children, their needs will be weighted at a higher level than my own needs. Understand this helped me to understand that in weighing the pros and cons of homeschooling that my children's needs in this were weightier than my own. In a perfect world, each child would get the education he needs through a mentor. That mentor would be different for each child based on that child's needs. That mentor might be the child's mother, tutor, teacher (meaning a professional educator), a craftsman, etc. This, however, is not a perfect world. I do not see it ever being a perfect world for the simple reason that people are not perfect. Since this world is run by people, it would be very difficult to make the world perfect. However, I will do whatever I can to make my children's world more perfect for them. Now, on to the pros and cons.
Since many of you are most concerned about the cons, I will address them first.
1. There is that difficulty of forming friendships and learning to integrate in society. For a lot of homeschoolers, this is not a problem. They spend a lot of time in the real world, more in fact than most traditional "schoolers". They go to church and play sports. This is actually a problem for our family. "Why?", you might ask. The reason it is a problem is that I am a bit of an introvert. I prefer to stay home and do things. Meeting people is outside my comfort zone. So, this is a con for me. You see, I am willing to step outside my comfort zone for the sake of my children. Indeed, because of this willingness, I am meeting a lot of other moms that I really like. I am spending time chatting with other adults on a more regular basis than I usually do. The kids are having a lot of fun meeting other kids with similar interests and we've gotten to do some really cool things that we otherwise wouldn't have done.
My children are learning to function in the real world in a way that spending 6-7 hours a day with a group of children their own age would not accomplish. They are learning to deal with children of all ages and indeed to speak to adults in a fashion that will help them later in life. They are seeing the world in all it's glory. It is quite amazing, actually.
2. I don't have time to do some of the things I want to do. Okay, I have to admit that before I decided to homeschool, I was considering getting a part time job to spend some time outside the house. The primary goal in this was to meet new people and make friends. After all, we had just moved here and like I mentioned before, I am a bit of an introvert and making new friends is hard for me. However, I decided that my children must take first priority in my life. I am finding that I have actually been happier this year than I have been in a long time. I am enjoying spending time with the boys in a way that I never did before.
3. The responsibility is all ours. When you send your child to school, you have the limited ability to choose which school to send them to if you can afford private schools. You also have the limited ability to live in the school district you want them to go to school in. However, once you choose, and you send them off, your part is "done". Of course you help with their homework. You make sure that they are behaving in school. You volunteer in the classroom. BUT, your choices have been made. The curriculum choices are the responsibility of the school. Whether or not to teach something is the responsibility of the school. When you homeschool, all that responsibility falls on you. It is an awesome responsibility. Sometimes, it can keep you up at night. Knowing that you are totally responsible for your child's education can be a bit disconcerting. There is a flip side to that that I will discuss in the pros section.
I'm sure there are more cons and I just can't think of them right now. So, I'll move on to the pros.
1. I get to decide what my children learn. (See? The flip side to con #3!) I decide when they are ready to move on. I decide whether they are ready to take sex ed. Gabriel would be taking sex ed in school this year, I'm sure. It seems that 5th grade is when schools like to introduce it. We'll hit on it this year since we are studying the human body, but it'll be in a purely biological way because he's not ready for the emotional side of reproduction, yet. See? I'm able to look at my child and decide what he learns. You see, a parent knows their children best. I am able to discern what they are ready for and move on to it, then.
2. I get to pick the curriculum. Now, I know that just reading that sentence is enough to make some people go over the top. But, after reading this explanation, perhaps you'll understand why I consider this a pro. I have the benefit of only teaching 3 children. I have an intimate knowledge of their progression and the ways they learn. If one curriculum's style is not working, I can change it or change my teaching style for that curriculum to make it work. I also know quite quickly if something is or isn't working. It makes it easier for me as their teacher to be able to have this flexibility. What many people don't understand is the long process that homeschool parents go through to decide on the curriculum for their children. For the most part, the curriculum that I use has been written specifically for homeschool. This means that it is easier for me to teach. Quite frankly, I believe that some of this material could be adapted quite well to the classroom. I also love the curriculum that I am currently using and would recommend it to anyone.
3. I have the flexibility to slow down or speed up with my child's learning. So, while this should be an obvious pro, it might not be to all people. I'll give you an example. Recently, I realized (through review) that, while Gabriel has a strong grasp on the concept and mechanics of long division, it takes him way too long to actually accomplish the work. So, I was able to halt his fractions and take him on an intensive review of long division. Because I was able to sit with him and do every single problem with him, he was able to go from taking 45 minutes to do one problem to taking at the most 5 minutes to do one problem in just 3 days. Then, we were able to pick back up with fractions where we had left off. If Gabriel had been in a regular school setting, I would not have realized this need. His teacher may or may not have realized it. If she had realized it, she may or may not have communicated this need to me. If she had communicated the need to me, I can guarantee you (from past experience) that Gabriel would not have allowed me to help him with it. When Gabriel goes to school, he refuses to believe that I know what I'm talking about. At one point, I even had to prove to him on the calculator that the answer I was getting was right before he would believe me. He's got a bit of the sceptic in him! At any rate, this is why this is such a pro for me. It gives me the ability to speed up his learning. As in the case of his reading, which I have written extensively about and do not feel the need to repeat.
3. My children become very close. Because of constant proximity, there will always be fighting. However, there is a closeness between my children that would not have been there were they separated for 6-7 hours a day. I treasure that closeness and hope that it endures throughout their lives.
4. Educational freedom. My children have the ability to change their course of study within the guidelines I have provided for them. For example, this year, we are studying biology. Throughout the year, we will study animals, the human body, and plant life. Within that framework, they are able to pick what they want to study. This is a major plus when it comes to motivation.
5. Physical Freedom. We have the ability to take our vacations when it is best for our family. We are able to visit the zoo and museums during the week. We can go on vacation when it is cheaper and less crowded. We can also plan our learning around those times. Also, and most importantly in our family, we can schedule school around Gary's work schedule. Gary has been gone a lot over the last 3 years. Since we moved here in May, he's been gone a total of 15 out of 30 weeks. The ability to schedule school breaks around his time off has been a real blessing.
6. Sleep. Okay, this may seem like an easy one to overcome to some people, but it was very difficult for Xavier to get enough sleep when he was going to school. Gabriel was no problem. But, we were sending Xavier to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 every night, and he just wasn't getting enough sleep. Now, he can sleep late and still get his work accomplished. It has really helped him.
7. Eating. Another easy one, right? Well, Xavier needs to eat on a regular schedule. While he was going to a private school, this was not a problem. The teacher called me on the 2nd day of school to find out what she could do to help Xavier acclimate to the classroom. It really was a simple matter of making sure he ate every 2 hours. Unfortunately, this could not happen at our local public school without an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Going through the process of getting an IEP is a bit much, in my opinion, just so that the kid can eat regularly. So, that is another pro for him.
8. No busywork. I don't think this needs elaboration.
9. I am getting to be really close to my children and enjoying it. Now, you would think that I already had this as a stay at home mom. I, however, am not one of those moms that derives enjoyment from just "hanging out" with her kids. I don't really enjoy playing little kid board games and reading the same book over and over again. I can't stand playing computer games with them and video games give me a headache--serious motion sickness there, people! Now, though, I'm learning with them. If you know me at all, you know that my biggest joy in life is learning new things. I'm also re-learning things I already learned and saying, "Oh, wow! I had forgotten that!" I figure that by the time I've taught it to 3 kids, I'll probably have it down, at least most of it. I can't wait for them to be old enough for me to go back to school. No, I have no intention of getting a job. I just love learning. Our local university, has a classical language program that, after beginning Latin with Gabriel, I am dying to go through.
10. Gabriel is happier now than he has been in years. Yes, I know that he'll still go through ups and downs. But the confidence that he is exhibiting is wonderful. It makes everything and every day worthwhile.
Finally, the main reason we homeschool is because we love our children and want what is best for them. After many sleepless nights, much research, and even more discussion (mainly with myself) we decided that homeschooling is what is best for our children.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Warning--Long... I've tried to leave out the superfluous stuff, but I do like to go on and on and on.