August 7, 2011

Questions about homeschooling

Yes, we're on vacation.  But the kids are snuggled up with Shirine watching Shrek and everyone else is napping.  I flipped open my laptop to check e-mail and I got the kindest note from a fellow Baha'i and blogger, Chelsea, with some very sincere questions about homeschooling.  She said that if I had already blogged about these concerns, I could direct here there, and I though Gee.  I get these same questions at least once a month from friends, readers, and complete strangers at the grocery store when home schooling comes up.  I might as well make a post about it.

The questions range from, "Did you always know you wanted to homeschool?"  to, "I have reservations about it.  I don't have any teaching experience and I feel overwhelmed.  Do you ever second guess your choice?"

I think these are such important questions and all home schooling moms I know ask them of each other all the time.  So I think it's only fair to ask them of ourselves before we make the leap that will change our lives and our children's lives for the long haul. 

Did I always know I wanted to homeschool?  I suppose that depends on your definition of always.  Even as a kid I thought that would be totally awesome.  I didn't want to be home schooled myself, but I did think I could do it for my kids and wondered what it might be like.  By college I knew at a minimum that when I did have kids, I wouldn't want to hand them off to be highly influenced for 7 hours per day by people whose values were unknown to me.  Kids end up spending more hours at school than they do at home,  and seems like just about anyone can be a teacher, so I decided that I could be one of those teachers who did things right (haha!  The very idea makes me laugh now) and then when I had kids I could either home school them with ease, having done it all before, or at a minimum I would be in the same building with them and know exactly who the influential adults in their lives were and what they believed about the world and how it works.  So, either way it was a win.  When the time came, though, I realized that I had never run my wild home schooling fantasy by the other parental unit in our family, Joe.  Lucky for us, he agreed to a trial run and we've never looked back.

The question of credentials and second guessing my ability or choices is a good one.  And one I have major feelings on.  I feel strongly that you do not need a teaching degree or license in order to rock the homeschooling world.   Almost anyone can do it and do it well.  Is it easy?  Nope.  Is it fun? Yes?  Is it totally worth it?  Totally, if that's where your heart is.

I feel very agitated by the assertion that you need a college degree to teach your children.  Home schooling isn't about knowing everything.  There are so, so many resources out there for home schooling families. There are major curricula that have been altered for the home setting, there are tutors, clubs, online public schools that will supplement only the subject you don't feel confident to teach.  There's just a ton of support!  And a lot of it is free, so you don't have to be rich and hire private tutors to make it work.

I think the biggest hang up is how to start.  Knowing what your options are is overwhelming and that's the one area that I feel my college degree helps (well, that and making my husband feel better when strangers ask if he really feels his wife is qualified to take this on).  In college, teachers don't learn how to do everything they are ever going to teach.  They really don't.  They learn all the different methodologies that have found favor in our country or England, and they learn a lot of behavior management strategies.  The strategies for subduing the masses will be relatively useless to a homeschooler.  It's the range of methodologies that you'll want to know and you can certainly find a book or website on all of them once you know what they are.  But to google something or find it in the card catalog you must be able to name it, and to name it you must have been exposed to it at least once before.

I may have no grounds on which to consider myself qualified to do this, but in my spare time (what little there is) I have been putting together  a book that I hope will serve that purpose for new home schooling families.  I'm just putting together a short overview of each of the major approaches that I learned about in college and how I see them applying to the home school environment.  That way you can pick up one book and see what all of the approaches are on the surface and then know what you might want to research more in depth.  It's the one thing I think the home school market lacks.  So, hopefully I'll have that all wrapped up in the next couple of months (or year).  It's completely written, but now needs to be edited and polished.

Anyway, once you know what method of information delivery best suits your children (and the odds are good that they will all need a little something different) the task is really very simple.  Time consuming, but totally doable.  You can do it.  Even with no degree.

Do I ever second guess our choice?  I feel like I'm supposed to say yes.  But the answer honestly has to be no.  I never wonder if we are making the right choice.  I just know we are.  And I can only say that because we're not so married to the idea of homeschooling that we will force ourselves to continue if it stops working for us.  We assess, make changes and reassess all of the time.  But we never feel like it's not the right choice for us.

My daughter is ahead of the curve in some subjects and has gaps in others.  But with homeschooling, she has the freedom to pursue high school geometry even if her spelling is still on a first grade level.  She's not held back by what the system thinks 7 year olds can and cannot do.

My son who would be entering Kindergarten in the fall has his own unique set of strengths and weaknesses as well.  He has speech issues and is in speech therapy, but he's a whiz in many academic areas.  Having worked in special ed, I know that almost every kid with and IEP isn't challenged academically because they've got the special ed stamp on their forehead and people expect less of them in all areas.  Here, he can go work on his speech with the therapist, but then come home and be challenged in other areas.  Plus, he has a significant resistance to being instructed and to sitting still for long periods.  At home I can teach sneaky, and he can take breaks between each subject so that he's not getting in trouble for being distracted.  I'm pretty sure that in a classroom setting, he'd end up being a discipline problem simply because he needs to move.  At home, he can move and as he matures I can require longer and longer time spans of sedentary learning.  No problem.  And as a result, he's not in trouble or labeled ever.

All of these are major perks for home schooling in our family.  But if and when the kids decide that it's not working for them, they are free to try out their alternatives guilt free.  It's only worth putting my time and energy into if everyone is happy and enjoying the choice.  As long as we maintain that outlook, there are no regrets or second guessing. 

I have to say how much I enjoy these questions. I feel so honored to be asked.  I love hearing that someone who asked me a year ago about it is now taking the first home schooling steps.  I also love, believe it or not, when moms say, "Gosh, I thought it would be a good thing for us, but now that I hear all of this, I'm thinking that it's totally not for us."  I figure that if it's not their thing, it's better that they asked the questions and heard honest answers before pulling their kids out of school and interrupting their groove.  So, I always welcome those personal questions about doubts and about how much work is really involved in this sort of venture.  It's certainly an overwhelming idea, but the practice of it is doable and enjoyable if it truly your calling.

Let me know what other fears and questions you have and I'll do my best to give you an honest answer.

4 comments:

  1. A great read, cheers from New Zealand, Marie

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  2. Awesome thanks so much for all your thoughtful answers and examples, they really helped me envision your path and thoughts a bit more ;-) I do always think I would love to homeschool but I second guess my own sanity lol, though never my ability or that it is "right." I guess all things are not easy, and i just need to accept the mindset that it's okay to be "on a path" and not "there yet" even in something so important as educating my kids - if that makes sense. I cannot wait to get your book!!!! if you ever want someone to read and give possible edit ideas, as a person totally unfamiliar with all the facts but with experience writing etc, let me know ;-) thanks again!

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  3. Ooh, Chelsea, I just might take you up on that offer. I will be honest, though. Sanity on the home schooling path comes and goes. There are lots of days where my sanity is challenged. I tell myself that so long as it is simply challenged and not lost forever, we're doing okay :)

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  4. I've taken the plunge and created a new homeschooling blog ;-) http://beautyinwonder.blogspot.com/ and a blog to document our virtue-related circle times http://familycircletime.com/ In your book did you have a list of favorite resources/books to begin with? I'm beginning to read a lot more and wondering if I'm missing any great ones. Hope you are well! Love the recent posts. You have such a beautiful family!

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