made the decision to switch from public school to homeschooling, beginning in the fall of 2014. It was not a decision made lightly, but it was certainly a decision that came as a shock to my friends and family. Some of them are downright laughing at me- not because I have had anything against homeschooling (and not because they have anything against it), but simply because I was pretty convinced that I would never want to do it. HS has always been on the table for me, but I have taken a "one year at a time" approach to it. As long as public school was working, I didn't need to torture myself. This year has made me see differently. Between new school policies, CRCT and common core, issues with teachers and other kids, PS doesn't seem like the healthy option for my kids anymore. I've done a lot of research, read a lot of blogs and articles, spoken with a lot of homeschooling moms, and one thing throughout all of this has become abundantly clear: I have been lying to myself about my abilities and my expectations.
Since I have shared the news with my friends, I am suddenly in the very humorous position of having to defend homeschooling. The girl who was so adamantly convinced that it would take a miracle to change her mind is now talking up the merits to other people. Seriously, it's a riot to my closest friends. The only thing I've got going for me is that I never said I would NEVER homeschool. At least I'm not a complete hypocrite!
It's astounding how many people I've talked to who seem to be very interested in HS but think that they can't do it, for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons are lies they are telling themselves- I know, because I told myself the same things. I decided, as a recent miraculous convert, to list some of the things that either kept me from HS or have served as an excuse for others. If you are on the fence about pulling your kids out of school, perhaps these lessons I've learned and these excuses that have been proven to be lies will help you make up your mind.
1. I'm not patient enough.
This is my #1 go-to excuse. I am not a patient person. This is a well-known fact among my friends and family- and my kids. I guess I sort of had it in my head that HS moms are a special breed of women- women who don't yell, who find infinite joy in messy houses and chaos and craft projects, women who love to listen to the same book over and over again and who don't completely lose their cool over anything. Me... I am not that woman. Homework time at my house can be enough to turn me into Mommy Dearest. Where I once envisioned doing countless craft projects with my little princess, now I know I am too much of a perfectionist to really make that dream a reality. I have a hard time with schoolwork errors that could have been corrected if my kids had simply taken the time to recheck their work. And my biggest mommy secret: I hate reading to my kids almost as much as I hate listening to my kids read to me. It drives me insane.
Since I have started researching, though, I have discovered that MOST OTHER HS MOMS ARE JUST LIKE ME. None of them are perfect. Many of them are honest about where they struggle with the HS process. The difference is that they have learned to embrace it, to take their weaknesses and turn them into teachable moments, to work through those weaknesses to make themselves better moms. I have always said that God would really have to change my heart in order for me to consider HS- and He has. Completely. I trust that He will give me and my kids what we need each day to thrive in this new family dynamic. If I try to compare myself to other homeschooling moms, or just other moms in general, I will come up short- always. That's okay. There's grace for that. Part of parenting is dying to self- doing things that are hard or uncomfortable simply because it is what is good for your kids or your family. Change and growth happens when you die to self. I may hate reading to my kids, but I do it because it is good for them. I may think that I am not patient enough to homeschool, but they are my kids and my responsibility. I can give them what they need to thrive without driving myself insane in the process.
2. I'm not smart enough.
This is a huge one. I think that we as moms tend to think of ourselves as "less than" in many ways, so figuring out if we can really teach our kids is a huge stumbling block in our decision about how to educate them. I know that it seems like teachers go to school to learn how to teach our kids everything they will ever need to know- and really, how do you compete with that? I don't have a teaching degree. How in the world am I equipped to teach my kids?
A lot of what teachers learn in school is classroom management, legalities of teaching, and other things that don't even apply to homeschooling. I won't have a classroom of 28 kids to manage, nor will I have kids with a variety of disorders and learning styles to cater to. I don't have to figure out how to meet Common Core standards. All it takes is one email from the teacher with a misspelled word to tell me that teachers are just as fallible as I am. They may have gotten a teaching degree, but they still have their strengths and weaknesses- just like I do. My daughter's teacher told me a couple of weeks ago that she could teach math all day long, but when it comes to parts of speech, she has to do a major crash course before she teaches the kids! That teaching degree doesn't ensure that they know everything there is to know. Teachers also have teaching guides and a variety of teaching resources at their hands to help them- and so do you.
The scope and variety of curriculum out there for HS is astounding. You have everything from textbooks to DVD teaching to online schools. Co-ops, classes, actual schools where the kids go for one or two days while you reinforce at home are also options. If you can't do math very well, there are so many ways to ensure that your children learn what they need to know- ways that fit your family and your child as an individual. HS seems like a very singular endeavor, but it isn't at all. There is a ton of support and a ton of resources out there to help you. If you want to teach your kids, you CAN do it. It doesn't matter if you are a dunce at geometry- there is a curriculum out there to help you and your child to thrive in a HS setting. Even better? You get to learn right alongside your kids. Dianne Flynn Keith says, “We can get too easily bogged down in the academic part of homeschooling, a relatively minor part of the whole, which is to raise competent, caring, literate, happy people.” This is so true! You may not be as good as a public school teacher at English, but there is no one better to teach your child the truly important things.
3. What about socialization?
Ah, socialization. That go-to buzz word used by adults any time they hear that someone is taking the drastic step of pulling their kids out of school. How in the world will your kids ever learn to be around PEOPLE if you homeschool? I used to think the same thing, honestly- but I think that it is because I misunderstood what socialization means. I also think that we tend to greatly misunderstand what homeschooling is like. We have a picture in our head of a mom and her kids around a table, holed up in their house day after day with absolutely no interaction with the outside world. This just isn't an accurate representation of what most homeschoolers look like. The average homeschooler is involved in groups and co-ops, plays sports, has friends in their neighborhood/church/homeschool group. They go on field trips and volunteer in their communities. They learn how to speak and interact with adults. The people they are surrounded with often share similar family values and interests. Somehow, though, we hold public school up as our shining example of socialization. A great deal of public school is teaching the kids in your class how to walk in a straight line without talking, how to not interrupt, how to sit correctly during story time, etc. (Don't believe me? Hit up the Education section of Pinterest. It will open your eyes.) They sit in a classroom all day long with little time for anything but the most superficial of interactions because a teacher has a great deal of information to impart and not a lot of time to teach it. Kids have 25 minutes for lunch and 20 minutes for recess- the only "social" times of the day, really, and even those social times are limited by the behavior of the class. Think about it: some teachers make their kids sit in alphabetical or boy/girl order at lunch. A lot of teachers take away recess time as a punishment for infractions or for unfinished work. Their social time is greatly limited in these instances. Because of the varying types of family dynamics/ethics/beliefs, kids are likely to walk away from interactions at school with new bad habits, information you don't want them to know/talk about, or hurt feelings. I live in a community where a majority of the kids come from a wealthy subdivision. A lot of these kids are very clique-y, and tend to exclude other children. Some of them are downright mean. Socialization in public school often leads to bullying and self-esteem issues. That is not to say that all social interactions in PS are bad; indeed, my kids have made some great friends. However, a lot of their interactions with other kids have been less than pleasant. My kids will be taking Spanish classes next year at a co-op. They are in Girl and Boy Scouts. They play sports. They have a ton of friends who are HS. Socialization is the least of my worries.
4. If I have to be with my kids all day long every day with no break, I will kill myself.
When one of my closest friends recently informed me that she was pulling her son out of school, this is exactly what I told her. Not without humor, mind you, but still. Sending my kids to school gives me a break during the day to grocery shop, clean, run errands, meet friends, and do all of the other things it is hard to do with kids in tow. I think about how horrible the hours of 4pm to 6pm are, with homework/dinner/dog walking/sports competing for our time and attention, and I wonder how in the world I would be able to do that all day long every day without hurting someone. My friend then told me something that really opened my eyes: In our state, you are only required to provide 4.5 hours of educational instruction per day. WHAT?? But kids go to school for seven hours! How is this possible? I guess when you take out the amount of non-instructional time involved in classroom management for 25+ kids, this is about right. What this essentially means, though, is that if we start "class" at 8am, we can be done with EVERYTHING by 1pm. This gives us the rest of the day for naps/rest time, outside play, cleaning/chores, errands, reading, etc. We won't have homework eating up our evenings after 7 hours in a classroom- we will be done.
For me, this put a whole new spin on homeschooling. This would still provide me with a lot of flexibility and freedom. This will give my kids more time to just be kids. This will give us time to develop a stronger relationship than weekends and a couple of strained hours every evening currently provide. Am I still giving up kid-free shopping? Yes... unless I wait for the weekend or go when my husband gets home from work. Am I giving up impromptu coffee dates with friends? Yes... unless we hit the playground together for some adult and kid socialization. As an introvert, I will have to be very careful about ensuring I get time away from my kids each day, even for just a little while, in order to recharge my batteries. This will be a challenge. We are already facing a lot of challenges, though, so really it will just be a DIFFERENT challenge.
5. Homeschooling is too expensive.
This can be true. Curriculum can be very expensive. If you have more than one child, it can be EXTREMELY expensive... depending on the curriculum you use. Again, there are a lot of options out there, ranging from free to costly. The curriculum I am looking at (for everything but math/science) is free online, except for the cost of books (literature). If you are allowing cost to stand as a barrier in your decision about whether or not to educate your kids at home, let's do a little bit of math. I have three kids. At the beginning of the year, I am asked to provide a huge list of necessary school supplies, both for my kids and for the classrooms. Let's say that that equals about $75 per kid. Then, of course, they will need new clothes that follow school guidelines. I shop at consignment sales and buy clothes when they go on sale at stores, but this can be costly- especially when you buy specific and trendy brands/styles. Let's say, on the very cheap side, $100 per kid twice a year. All of the kids at our school are asked to buy class t-shirts at $10 a pop. So far we are up to $855, and the year has just begun. Then along come school pictures- $25 per kid for the cheap package. Class parties and activities? Let's say $20 per kid for all of the various food/treats/valentines/goody bags/book swaps we are asked to provide for. Then you have teacher gifts, ranging from a few dollars to $25 or more depending on family income. We have 5 teachers this year, so let's say between teacher gifts and teacher appreciation week, our total comes to about $20 per teacher... that's $100. Then there are field trips... My kids typically have three or four a year. I'd say that equals about $40 per kid, depending on the field trip... so $120 for our family. $30 yearbooks (and we only buy one). Book fair? $10 per kid. School fundraisers? Bingo night? Jump Rope for Heart? Fall festival? Add another $150 on there. We are up to $1,390. My son really wanted to do Chess Club this year, so that was $120 PLUS $8 per day for needing to be in the afterschool program in order to attend Chess Club. That's $200. That's the only afterschool activitiy we could afford to do at school, but many families do way more than that. Then lunch. Kids have to eat, of course. Whether or not we send lunches or buy lunch, it still comes out to about $10 per week for each kid. That's $30 per week in food costs at school. Minus breaks, that is about 36 weeks... so $1,080 on food alone. We are now up to $2,670. Let's add in another $20 per kid for incidentals, like spirit week/school stores/etc. Oh, and ice cream. Every Friday kids at our school can buy ice cream for .50... so at $1.50 per week, that is $54. This brings our grand total up to $2,784 for a year of free public school that is paid for by our taxes. For almost $3k I am paying for my kids to attend a school where they are exposed to a curriculum I don't agree with, subjected to standardized tests that don't accurately represent who they are, placed in classes with children who hit/punch/kick/defecate in the classrooms because of inclusion policies, sit alongside kids call them names or impart "wisdom" I don't want my kids to know yet, and are at the mercy every day of other people bringing weapons to school. Your total will look different than mine, but let's face it: public school is not free. It's not even cheap. It might be a steal compared to private school, but we need to step back and figure out the cost of educating our kids that has nothing to do with money. I could put that $3k to better use educating my kids at home, and without paying the heavy social/emotional price that we are paying now.
6. But I don't want my kids to be weird.
We all know the "weird" homeschool kids. They are sort of a punchline. A joke. "Oh, you were homeschooled? THAT explains a lot." I suppose that sometimes homeschooled kids can be weird. There ARE parents who stay at home all the time and never expose their kids to anything, and their kids might not know how to interact in a way that seems "normal" to us. Perhaps, though, we should stop seeing "weird" as a bad word. Perhaps some kids are just destined to be weird, whether or not they are homeschooled. We use the term "weird" to describe anything different than our experience... and, unfortunately, this is both an unfair label and a gross misunderstanding. Gifted children are "weird" to kids and parents who don't understand what being gifted might look like. Kids with learning disorders, kids with sensory issues, kids on the autism spectrum- they all get labeled as "weird". Kids who like something different than their peers are "weird". Little boys with My Little Pony backpacks and little girls who like football are "weird". When things don't fit into a specific type of mold, it makes us uncomfortable. Public school is all about trying to conform kids to a correct type of "normal". I don't want kids who conform. I want kids who think for themselves, who are free to learn how they learn best and be the best version of themselves possible. I want kids who are comfortable in their own skin and have their own passions and who aren't labeled according to what other kids and adults think is normal. Weird kids turn into amazing adults- and if being "weird" is the price my family pays to create amazing adults, that's okay with me. I'll take the weird kids.
7. But isn't it better for my kids to be in school than at home with me?
I guess this one pretty much sums up all of the other points. When public school is our experience, it seems like the best experience or even the only correct experience. This holds true in a lot of circumstances. My family has had a couple of experiences concerning unhealthy churches. We were extremely involved in these churches- happy to volunteer, to serve, to invite others, to espouse the merits of how they do things. I was even on staff at one of these churches. Then something would happen and our eyes would be opened to what we were exposing ourselves to: Unsound doctrine. Works-vs-grace mentality. Staff abuse. Mismanagement. Ungodly leaders. Even so, because it was what we were comfortable with, we would try to stick it out and hope that things would get better. They didn't. It wasn't until after we left that we could see how bad things REALLY were- and what a blessing it was that our eyes were opened.
Leaving public school, for me, is just like leaving an unhealthy church. It has worked for us, it has been okay for us, but it wasn't until this year that my eyes were really opened to just how bad things are getting. I am not okay with the government telling teachers how and what to teach. I am not okay with Common Core or changing dynamics of what is appropriate and necessary for kids to learn. I am not okay with any kind of curriculum that doesn't take into account learning styles and differences. I am not okay with my daughter's teacher telling us, "Do not teach your kids a different way to do multiplication because they HAVE to learn it the way I teach them." I am not okay with my daughter's teacher yelling at her class because they "HAVE to learn it this way because it is the BEST way!" I am not okay with a school dictating what kinds of values my kids should have. I am not okay with my kids spending seven hours in a classroom and then another hour on homework. I am not okay with my kids accidentally calling me by their teacher's name or them accidentally calling their teacher "Mommy". I am not okay with my kids' school performance and intelligence being dictated by a standardized test. I am not okay with my kindergartner's class being held hostage by one little boy with autism who cannot have anyone walk by his desk or interrupt him, who defecates in the classroom trash can and suffers no punishment for his daily physical abuse of his peers. I am not okay with my kindergartner losing recess time because he forgot to put his name on his paper. Things that might have made me uncomfortable at one time have now become deal-breakers for me. Is this the environment in which I expect my children to thrive, more so than at home? Not anymore. I really like the quote from John Holt that says, “What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn't a school at all.”
I have received a lot of encouragement from a lot of different people, but the most encouraging thing I've heard was said to me by my second grader's teacher. I decided to schedule conferences with my kids' teachers before the year is over just to let them know what we are planning and to see where my kids are academically (to see if their teachers had any views on areas of struggle my kids might have). I was expecting censure from all of our teachers about our decision, but have instead received a lot of support. After telling me how wonderfully my son is doing and how he doesn't seem to struggle with anything except his perfectionist tendencies (he comes by that honestly!), his teacher looked me in the face and said, "We will really miss him here next year- but I don't blame you a bit. If I could afford to be at home, I'd homeschool too."
8. But I just don't know if I can do it.
You can. If it is important enough to you, you can do it. Like I said earlier, we are dealing with education one year at a time. Homeschooling is our next route. If that doesn't work for us, we will figure out something else- but I have to be willing to try to do it. I have to be the person that says, "I don't care how uncomfortable it makes me- if this is what is best for my kids, this is what I am going to do." God can change hearts, and God can give you what you need in order to do what you need to do. Trust in that. I will never be the mom that says that homeschooling is best for everyone. It's not. NOTHING is best for everyone. Chances are, though, if your heart is telling you that you should but you are letting any of the excuses on this list stop you, homeschooling might just be the right option for you. In his book Homeschooling: A Family's Journey, Gregory Millman stated, "We want our children to become who they are--- and a developed person is, above all, free. But freedom as we define it doesn't mean doing what you want. Freedom means the ability to make choices that are good for you. It is the power to choose to become what you are capable of becoming, to develop your unique potential by making choices that turn possibility into reality. It is the ability to make choices that actualize you. As often as not, maybe more often than not, this kind of freedom means doing what you do not want, doing what is uncomfortable or tiring or boring or annoying.”
Be open to the challenges, struggles, growth, changes and blessings it has to offer you and your family without comparing yourself to other people or believing lies about your abilities. God gave you your kids for a reason. If this is what He is asking you to do, you CAN do it. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13
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Linking with Making Your Home Sing Monday, Growing Homemakers Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Hip Homeschool Hop, Hearts for Home, Fellowship Friday, Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop, Welcome Home Wednesday,