Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Some thoughts on homeschooling

This collection of thoughts is in response to a blog post by "HomeandHearth" who expressed interest in homeschooling her kids one day. Her boyfriend had multiple objections, and she was looking for "answers" from those who might have experience with the subject. The following is my response to these questions:

1. Isn't it really hard to do?
2. Isn't it really expensive?
3. Won't other people think we're weird?
4. Don't only hard-core religious evangelicals homeschool?
5. Won't we have to teach our kids everything ourselves?
6. Won't they grow up "weird" and unsociable?
7. Will they still be able to join sports and clubs?
8. Will the kids hate us?
9. Will we hate the kids?
10. Would it be hard to enroll them in public school later if we decide not to continue homeschooling?
11. Is there room to homeschool if we're living in an apartment?
12. Can they still get into college?
13. Will we both still be able to work?

Straight from the horse's mouth as a girl who was homeschooled all the way through junior high and high school...

1) It does take work. I watched my mom homeschool four of us and it took dedication and diligence to make sure tasks were being completed and lessons were getting planned, but parenting in general takes a lot of work. People who don't want to work hard as parents probably shouldn't be parents... (in my humble opinion)

2) My family homeschooled on 1 income- my dad is a mailman, so it was doable. We made sacrifices - we didn't go on a lot of big vacations, my dad did have a second job for a while and so on, but I think that would have been the case even if we were in school. Homeschooling was not what cost the most- but having my mom stay home did cost a lot. But it was a blessing at the same time.

3) Some will think you're weird. Some will think you're cool. Regardless, you'll get a lot of questions. What's wrong with being unique anyways?

4) While my family is definitely Christian and involved with our church, my parents didn't choose to homeschool us for any religious reasons in particular. I appreciated being able to have some formal education about church history, but "Bible" wasn't really a core subject in our curriculum - literature, science, and math.

5) Join a co-op or alternative school option. There are some "schools" here in Seattle that meet a couple days a week and send along homework for certain subjects. When we got into high school and subjects like chemistry that my mom wasn't equipped to teach on her own, we bought DVDs of interactive class broadcasts (bobjones university) which were good. Religious, yes, and while I'm definitely not a fan of "bob jones' philosophies", I feel like I was adequately equipped for college classes in science and math that way. I know other families who did these subjects on their own, but this worked for my family.

6) I've known weird/unsociable homeschool families. I've also known some pretty weird and unsociable public school and private school families. If you're weird and unsociable, you'll be that way regardless of whether you attend a school or not. We were involved in youth group at church and various activities in the community- sports, music lessons, and more, so I didn't really miss the social piece at all. When I got to college, people were "surprised" to find out I was homeschooled, because I was so "normal." Whatever that means.

7) Yes - most schools allow homeschoolers to participate in classes, extracurricular activities, sports, etc. It's definitely feasible.

8) I love my parents and always have. I don't think my educational background has anything to do with it - unless making me appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices they made to give me what they felt to be a really quality education and family connection.

9) My parents probably hated me at times... (or at least really disliked me) but that would have been equal or maybe greater if I'd been in school. I think I could have been a real brat if I'd gotten caught up in the wrong crowds. I was a brat half my teenage years anyways, just like everyone else, right?

10) My two youngest brothers are currently attending public schools because my mom decided to work outside the home. It was a difficult transition in many respects, especially for my mom, who misses being at home with them all day. They do fine in school, have made friends, participate in music/band, sports, etc. I think as long as you keep records of the subjects you've taught, you probably won't run into any problems from schools.

11) You could probably homeschool in a closet if you wanted. I did most of my schoolwork at the dining room table, on the couch, or in my room on the floor or at the desk. I sometimes did it at the doctors office or in the car. You might have to be creative with storage of books/materials but it's doable. Our house wasn't huge and my mom always found a way.

12) I went on to graduate magna cum laude at my state university and just finished my master's degree last August. I had no trouble at all getting into school. My SAT scores and documents my mom sent along with my application probably helped (she kept an intensive list of my reading/literature and transcript of subjects formally covered).

13) As to whether you could both work, I can't really answer that. I think that might be tough, especially if you're trying to homeschool little bitty elementary/preschool agedkiddos. But as with anything, I think creativity, diligence and flexibility with scheduling could make it possible.

I'll end with a few extra notes of my own: a) I don't think homeschooling is for everyone- parent or child. Some people insist that there is only one right way to educate your kids - some say ONLY public school and others say ONLY homeschool. I say BALONEY. It depends on the kid and family. My brother and I are pretty much polar opposites in terms of personality. I am very internally motivated, he's not as much - I did really well and enjoyed homeschooling, he did well at the high school (not that he didn't do well at home, but he worked harder when someone else was "driving him"). I think as a parent, you need to use discretion about what will work for your kid's personality. I think it's worth trying different things, but if something's not working, it's okay to change course mid-stream.
b) I was a sociology minor in college and as a class project conducted a research paper on homeschooled girls and self-esteem. I interviewed a number of girls and I think I have the paper saved somewhere on a disc. If you're interested, I can email it to you- if not, no offense taken. I know you're looking way off into the future with this topic! A quick summary of the results: no significant insecurities or low-esteem was noted from a multitude of interview questions. In my research, I actually found studies that indicated that homeschooled kids are MORE involved in their communities and social activities than the average kid since they and their parents are making sure to seek it out. There were other interesting findings in my research as well, but that was a few years ago and I can't recall anything from that long ago!

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