February 14, 2010

Why We Homeschool

Most of our friends and family know we homeschool, but while on a trip to recently we got asked several times... why? Truthfully, my answer depends on who asks. Sometimes a stranger asks (usually if we happen to be out during school hours). My answer to a complete stranger when we have approximately 15 seconds, while standing in the checkout line, is different than the answer I give a friend or family member who seems genuinely interested. Sometimes people ask only to argue and defend their choice to send their kids to school. I try to avoid these conversations because no amount of polite discussion is going to change minds on either side.

No matter who asks, though, it is always hard to answer. It is similar to the working mom/stay-at-home mom debate. There are emotions tied up in the discussion. I know what is right for my family and hope others are doing what is right for their family. Just because we homeschool doesn't mean we think you should. It isn't right for every family and that's okay. Now, do I think more families could do it and do it successfully? Absolutely.

I found this article awhile ago that listed ten good reasons to homeschool. As I read, I nodded in agreement the whole time. First, the author has different answers to "why" depending on who asks, just like I do. He also tries to avoid discussing it with some people:

I have found that it is often necessary to change the subject quickly, otherwise I’m stuck listening to total strangers defend their decision to place their kids in school, defend their need for two incomes, and then ask me if I’m worried about issues associated with my own children’s socialization experiences. It still amazes me that people I barely know will readily draw me into such intimate and personal discussions. And worse yet, the defensive nature of the conversation inevitably yields to the expression of guilt on behalf of the person who has children in school. Guilt, defense, and the probability that I’m messing up my children – all from somebody I may have just met.

So why do we homeschool? Our favorite short answer is that we don't want peers to be the biggest influence in our children's lives, but our long answer is much more than that. The author (from the above article) summed it all up much better than I ever could. You should really go read the whole article, but just in case you don't, here are a few highlights that hit the nail on the head:
Reason #3: Time. If I had to pick one phrase that summarily communicates why we homeschool, it would simply be "school is a waste of time." This isn’t to say that people don’t learn important things in school, or that school is a total and complete waste of time...

I would rephrase that to: a lot of time is wasted at school. Even parents who send their kids to school admit this. In school, classmates move as one through each grade. Are each of those children really at the exact same level? Are some kids being pushed along? Are some being held back? How much of each day is "busy work" only to have homework with the parents later anyway?
Reasons #4 & #5: Identity and Control... we want our children to develop clear pictures of their own individual intellectual identities, and we want them to know how to take full advantage of the fact that they are always in control of their own learning.
Somewhere along the line, I learned how to LEARN. More than anything I want that for my children. You might not know everything, but you know a way to find out. My most successful, and most enjoyable, educational experiences are the times I have taught myself. Would you rather spend years learning something or hours?

For example, in the last couple years I've learned a little bit (emphasis on little) about HTML codes. The only reason: this blog. If I had been forced to take a class on computer code in high school I know I would have hated it. It probably would have been a semester of pure torture. I was a good student, so I would have passed. I would have learned what I needed to and then I would have promptly forgotten everything. Then when I found out blogs use HTML code I might have said, "No thanks! I hate that stuff!". Thankfully, that didn't happen. I started a blog and then learned just what I needed to, when I was motivated, in a short amount of time.

Everyone is different. That is a good thing. Different children have different abilities. All students are NOT equal. One of our teacher friends mentioned recently how sad it was that students don't have a sense of "rivalry" (between school sports teams) anymore. I can think of several reasons things have shifted in this area, one is partly due to the fact that students are told everyone is the same. You can't say you're better than someone else, even if it's true. People are different though, that is just a fact. Some people are not as bright as others. Some will be sanitation workers while others will be doctors. And you know what? That's okay! We need both!

I often think about people's God-given, innate talents. How many people missed their calling because they had to toe the "school" line and never had the chance to branch out and find their own path. Being taught to be the "same" as everyone else is not what I want for my children. If you're hoping for a classless society where all members are perfectly equal then you're hoping for communism.
Reason #6: Socialization... But it may surprise most people to learn that concerns about socialization are one of the most important reasons why we choose tohomeschool.

I don't want my children to be "socialized" in the way most people mean when they ask about this. Dictionary.com says this about socialization: " a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills...". Socialization is a process that starts at birth and never ends. That process doesn't magically start when a child enters school and it definitely doesn't stop if they stay home!
Reason #7: Shelter. One of the criticisms I get occasionally during discussions about homeschooling is whether or not I’m concerned about the fact that our children are sheltered too much from reality...
Our kids are "sheltered", but isn't that what parents are for? All parents "shelter" their children in some ways whether they go to school or not. Our kids don't see some of the differences that kids in school might see. They don't think that hanging out with your baby brother is lame. They played with a neighbor kid for months before it dawned on them that her skin was a different color. They don't care one bit about what clothes they wear and they don't ever ask for something "because all the kids have one".

Reason #9: Family. Perhaps the most profound reason why we homeschool is our desire to truly appreciate the daily sanctity of family. Time is a precious commodity, and it is much more worthy of family than many of the non-family experiences...
I think it's unfortunate that the mandatory age for schooling just keeps getting younger and pulls kids away from their families earlier. I'm only half kidding when I say that before too long we'll just discharge them from the birthing suite to a learning institution of some sort.

I have absolute confidence that we can properly educate our children within the walls of our own home. Why? Because one on one "tutoring" works. Because we know our children, their strengths and weaknesses, and we love them more than any teacher ever could! No one cares more than we do about whether or not they are successful.
Reason #10: Religion...We homeschool because it is part and parcel of our faith experience. Serving others, praying together, and living lives that are not defined exclusively by the values of our society...
We are not religious nuts. In fact, we aren't part of any "religion". We do, however, have a relationship with Jesus Christ and what we believe, as Christians, has become taboo in the public school system while other religions and lifestyles are freely discussed as part of a "global worldview".

Bonus Reason #11: It's Not All About Fun
My last point wasn't mentioned in the above article but I thought I'd mention it here anyway. I have to chuckle when people say my kids are missing out on all the "fun". Well, since we are talking about school here, I thought the goal was an education!

But don't worry, homeschoolers have plenty of fun. We just took a two week vacation in the middle of the school year! We go on field trips, play sports, and hang out with friends just the same as schooled children. Ourhomeschool group even has their own prom.

Homeschoolers, who feel so led, can do everything their school-attending counterparts do. We definitely aren't missing any fun! We're just having fun (and learning) together as a family. And when it comes down to it... I can't think of anything more important than that. I might regret a lot of things later in my life, but I don't think spending time investing in my children will be one of them.


Nicole said...

I love this post! Homeschooling is a topic that I don't like to discuss with people, at least people who don't like homeschoolers:)

I get so tired of the questions about socialization and how I will know if they are on track where they should be. Then, there is that flip side where people defend their decision not to homeschool. Which is fine, but really, I didn't ask!

I am honestly thinking of printing out a little brochure or something similar to give people who question me. Maybe it will give them a better understanding.

We joined a local homeschool group that has 150 members. I don't think some people realize that there are things out there such as homeschool groups for the kids. We recently went to a Valentine exchange. The kids had a blast!

There is so much more I want to say but it would end up being a whole blog post so I better just stop here!

Just know that I really enjoyed this post!

justyns35@hotmail.com said...

I am currently blogging on education with the emphasis on research to decide what will be best for my family. May I use this a a guest post on my blog?

NLC said...

Sure, you may use this as a guest post. I hope that you find what works best for your family!

justyns35@hotmail.com said...

Thanks I'll post it up today on my blog. I really like the fact that you have uplifting reasons for choosing the path of education for your kids. It's so easy to go negative towards other choices.

Your blog helps me take a look further into homeschooling.

Pam said...

Loved this post!