Saturday, September 08, 2007
Every homeschooler has their own personal reasons for homeschooling. Some are dissatisfied with the government schools in their area, others do so for religious reasons, while others like the freedom enjoyed in scheduling your own day and learning what you want to learn when you want to learn it, etc. Homeschoolers come from all economic strata, all religious backgrounds, all educational levels, and cannot be pigeonholed as a certain "type".
What originally attracted me was the opportunity to adapt schooling to the ability of each child, particularly in the early grades when learning to read is so important. Not all children are ready to read in kindergarten, 1st grade, or even 2nd or 3rd. Trapping an unready child in a classroom where other children are successful sets up the unready child for failure in school and emotional turmoil. My first child finally learned to read at 7, the second at 5, the third at 6 . . . I have close friends whose children were not reading until age 10.
We also enjoy the freedom to take vacations during off-peak times, or visiting grandparents whenever they are available (my parents were snowbirds, spending the winter months in Arizona), tweaking the school schedule by doing school three or four weeks, then taking a week off, schooling through the summer - whatever fit our family at the time. This was especially nice when my children were young and I was adding another child every three years. :) We had freedom to use a wide variety of curriculum materials, trying out different styles of learning.
Soon after beginning to homeschool, I found it to be a wonderful opportunity to give our children a Christian education. Early on I learned that catechism is an excellent tool for teaching our faith in God, often as a jumping off point for other questions and discussions long after class. Anything that fosters discussion with kids is a good thing! Before homeschooling, I thought that only Roman Catholics used catechism, my own religious education being quite limited. So when I found a Protestant one in a curriculum we were using, I decided to try it out and quickly became an advocate.
Overall I liken homeschooling to a gardener who builds a cold frame to start seedlings in, nurturing them until they are ready to be planted out into the garden. At home I can tailor the curriculum to my child, away from excessive peer pressure, preparing them to further their studies in the public arena at the appropriate time.
O.k. it all sounds really good. How does it play out in real life?
For me, every year is different; family dynamics change as children are added or subtracted from the equation, or circumstances change - like having twins! We have used a lot of different methods of schooling, and have come back to a more traditional approach with textbooks and workbooks. The last few years we have actually installed a satellite dish and record classes that have been produced specifically for homeschoolers by the publisher of the curriculum. The day-to-day teaching is done for me, and I am administrator and collector of papers to be graded.
There are those who "unschool" and the kids are free to learn and explore wherever their interests and strengths take them. Unschooling takes many forms and is a very interesting concept to explore. Personally, I'm too lazy and my kids would probably play computer games all day. Unit studies are very popular, integrating several subjects in the curriculum into one topical study. Co-operatives have sprung up everywhere. Parents come together to teach different skills, subjects, activities sometimes once a week, or several times a week. Do a google search on homeschool and you will quickly become overwhelmed and confused with all the information available.
While I am a proponent of homeschooling, I will be the first to say that not everyone should do it, sometimes not even me. :) If you want to see just how bad a mother you can be - homeschool. Spending almost 24/7 with your kids and being everything to them can send the sanest mother into a padded room - and the kids in another one. Putting a positive spin on the same situation, homeschooling gives you the opportunity to become a better person, mother, and student. Housekeeping may, no, will suffer. It's very difficult to keep an organized home and the clutter contained with all the books, papers, projects, plus the normal clutter that every household with children gathers.
I've been in the adventure of homeschooling for over 20 years now and to be honest, I'm really ready to retire. In trying to teach my kids, I've learned that teaching is not my gift, mothering is, and I'd really like to be just Mom. I want to stitch and sew and garden without the nagging guilt that I should be correcting papers or a hundred other things I should be doing. But I've put my hand to the plow and am determined to see it through. Next year my twins will be 9th graders and they're wanting to go to public h.s. with Brendan - then I'll be down to one child to homeschool. WOW! What a concept! I think I can hang on, God helping me. God's grace has seen all of us through to this point and I know He won't let me down now. :)