I've always wanted to be an educator of some kind. As a child I lined up my dolls and stuffed bears and gave them all lessons on my chalkboard. The desire never went away and in fact I'm currently in school working toward a degree in Educational Studies. So why in the world would a woman who spent years in college to be a teacher decide to homeschool her kids? Good question...
People have a lot of misunderstood ideas about homeschoolers. They think of anti-social, nerdy children who sit at home all day, forced to do bible study, read boring books and fill out worksheets while their friends are living life. While there may be a small handful of students who fall into this generalization, the majority of homeschooling families are much, much different. There are over 1.77 million American children who are considered homeschooled. And each one of those children are probably having a different experience.
There are so many styles and approaches. There's Classical, Waldorf, Montessori, Project Based and Unschooling just to name a few. Some families are Christian, some are Atheist. There really isn't a “mold” for homeschoolers to be poured into, we are all vastly different except for one desire, to empower our children, just like non-homeschooling parents – we just walk a different path to get there. I'm not militant about homeschooling. I don't preach hell fire and brimstone and say that our educational system is pointless and doomed to fail, and I don't look down on families that choose a more traditional approach. I believe that every family has their own set of obligations, experiences and priorities and every child benefits more or less from different approaches to their education. I'm simply here to express and share our own families journey toward homeschooling in hopes that I can shed some light for those who are interested.
Reason #1 - To Be Together
The thought of dropping my son off at school in the morning and waiting until almost dinner time to see him again makes me want to cry. Families have obligations, and must do what we have to in order to survive. Don't get me wrong, there was a time when my son went to daycare. I dropped him off on my way to work and missed him terribly. The day I unenrolled him a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Once I saw how much fun it was to teach him colors, shapes, numbers and ABC's myself, I could never look back. I was hooked. We had so much fun playing games and finding new ways to learn. Every day was an opportunity for more exploration, and most of all, lots of chances to spend quality time together.
Now my son is five years old, and I look back on days when he was two and three often. I have so many amazing memories. We had a chance to bond and connect and I feel so lucky that his milestones were witnessed by me instead of a preschool teacher. Childhood is precious, the years will fly by, and I don't want to miss a thing. When my kids are grown, and out of the house, I know I will look back on our journey and be grateful that I was blessed with so many years of family fun.
Reason #2 - Preserve the Magic of Childhood
Students today are bombarded at a very early age with so many requirements. We ask 7 year olds to take standardized tests and give homework to preschoolers. Pressure is felt right from the start to enter the “system” and become a cog in the wheel. Some schools have done away with programs like art, music, and PE that are a necessary creative outlet for little imaginations. And in some cases, even recess is being reduced to every other day or eliminated completely. Come on society! We have our entire adolescent and adult lives to plan meticulously for our future and stress out about whether we are “good enough” to succeed. Can we not at least allow our sweet babies the chance to have a few years to play and discover the world around them? To see the magic that exists before the “real world” tries to tear it away from them. With homeschooling in the younger years (kindergarten through 2nd grade or so) my kids will only have “school” for a couple of hours. Which means, by the time I'm in the kitchen making lunch, my little ones are running around the house playing. Giving them lots of extra time to have fun and be free.
Reason #3 - Make the World Our Classroom
I don't want my kids to have an isolated view of the world. I don't want their environment to be limited to only two places – school and home. When children are in school five days a week, eight hours a day, they have to bring the world into the classroom. They see what's going on outside their four walls through a computer screen or TV screen, but what chance do they have to go out and touch what their learning about. Homeschooling allows for non stop field trips. If we are learning about sea animals, we can go to the aquarium or the beach. An astronomy unit can include a camping trip to Big Bend where they can actually see the milky way, we can go to an observatory and they can see space with their own eyes. When I teach them Texas History we can go walk around the Alamo. The possibilities are endless. We can do whatever we want, we are limited only by our imagination and desires. A child's worldview is molded when they are growing up, and I want to give my kids the chance to see the whole world as their classroom. I want them to see this planet with a sense of wonder, and not hesitate to go into it with arms open, ready to receive new experiences.
Reason #4 - Develop Self-Motivation and a Genuine Interest in Life
Schools have an obligation to teach thousands of children adequately. That means that many kids get left behind in the process. Students who struggle with keeping up with where they are “supposed to be” don't get the one on one time to really grasp the concepts that would build an authentic understanding. Students who are advanced and already know the subjects being taught get bored and are kept from being able to explore topics more in depth.
At home, if my son becomes interested in dinosaurs for instance – he can dive in as deep as he wants to go. We can go get books, visit the natural history museum, go on a dinosaur dig, go visit a paleontology classroom at the local University, binge watch dinosaur shows on Netflix, you get the idea. These are all things that he would be unable to do if he were stuck in a desk all day, every day. Don't get me wrong, teachers do the best they can with the time and resources they are allotted, but I can give my kids the chance to do so much more. As my little kids become older and start to discover their passion and their talents, there will be no stopping them. If they are into writing, we can take the time to cultivate that ability and help them write and self-publish a novel. If engineering is their thing, we can enter contests, join maker groups and start college classes early. When you find something you love, you'll never work another day in your life. Imagine what can happen when a teenager is given the encouragement, tools and time needed to hone their craft at such a young age. That is the ultimate way to nurture intrinsic motivation in a person and allow them to see early on what kind of hard work and determination it takes to achieve their goals.
Are you a homeschooler or thinking about homeschooling? What are your reasons for doing so? I'd love to hear what you have to say in the comments below!