Recently, someone commented on my post on St. Patrick’s Day, and, quite randomly, asked basically, why I go to the effort of homeschooling when there are public schools that provide a decent scholastic education and, more importantly, a good social one as well. I say randomly because the post had nothing to do with the fact that we homeschool or our homeschooling activities; the comment came out of left field. It did get me thinking, though. It’s not that I don’t know my own reasons for homeschooling. I do, and I’ll list some of them at least. It’s more that the whole question seemed to be basically asking why I waste my time on it when there’s no real need. To that, I say, we obviously have very different ideas of what constitutes a good education, and that’s OK. I’m thankful that I’m only responsible for my own children’s education, and since I am, I homeschool.
I should start by explaining some basic history. I was homeschooled from 4th through 12th grade, but, aside from my brother (who was homeschooled from 7th through 12th) and my sister (who was homeschooled only for her Senior year of high school), none of my other siblings were. My parents started out doing what most people do: they sent their kids to school. Unlike some, they sent their children to both parochial Catholic and public schools, depending on the schools in their district and the needs of the children. By the time I was in school, they had seen more than their fair share of what the education system in this country had to offer. Still, they put me in our parish school, and, had it not been for an advertisement in a Catholic newspaper that my mother happened upon, there I would have remained. There was nothing overtly terrible about the school. There just wasn’t anything overtly good about it either. It was average. My parents decided they wanted more than average for us when my mom saw the ad. Until then, she hadn’t thought of homeschooling as an option. She decided to give it a try with me and my brother, figuring the worst that could happen was that she re-enroll us in the parish school after a year’s absence if it didn’t work out. I’m happy to report, it did in fact work out, and quite nicely at that.
From the day we started homeschooling, I can honestly say I never had a moment of regret. I wasn’t alone because my brother, and then our sister, was with us. Later, my niece and nephew joined us and were homeschooled as well. Eventually, my sister moved closer with her homeschooled children and it was basically like having our very own, very close knit, school. Even before that though, I never missed having classmates. Maybe that’s something strange in me. Who knows? I do know that, while I didn’t miss having classmates I also wasn’t anti-social and I wasn’t lacking in socialization skills either. We attended art classes and tennis lessons. I played with my best friend next door every day. I went to Mass most days with my father, and volunteered at a local hospital on a regular basis. By the time I was 14, being homeschooled afforded me the opportunity to have a job as a file clerk (albeit getting the job through one of my sister’s) at a doctor’s office where I interacted primarily with adults. Suffice it to say, socialization skills were not an issue, and I find this to be the case with most homeschoolers.
Our education was rigorous but entertaining. It afforded us time to study both what was necessary and what interested us. I studied a great deal, but I also played, and enjoyed fairly regular trips into Manhattan to see shows and museums. Part of our weekly routine involved trips to the downtown library, for fun. I enjoyed reading, and being homeschooled afforded me plenty of time to indulge. I’m still a big reader to this day, something I can’t say about many of the kids who started out with me in my first grade class. This is partly to do with my personal preferences and partly to do with the way school work tends to be seen more as work or drudgery than anything else in many schools. Being homeschooled, I was raised with the understanding that learning really is a lifelong endeavor, a basic staple of our everyday lives, and not bound to within the confines of the four walls of a classroom during specified hours.
By now, perhaps you’ve gathered that I enjoyed my childhood and that I see being homeschooled as having played a large part in that enjoyment. It’s probably no surprise, therefore, that I would choose to homeschool my own children. While it’s true that some homeschool because of a lack of “good” schools in their own area, and others do so because of religious reasons, I do so because I want to give my children the kind of childhood I had. My husband, by the way, was not homeschooled and he enjoyed his childhood just as much as I did. Together though, we agreed that, based on both of our experiences, both our educations, and yes, partly the lack of excellent schools near us, we wanted to homeschool, as our first choice, not as a last resort.
If in reading this you are looking for specific reasons as to why we go to all the effort (and effort we do go to, trust me), here are a few of them, not in any particular order:
- We want our children to be raised by us. Call me a jealous mom, but for me, sending my young children out to a school, at the age of five or six even to spend most of their days with others just doesn’t work for me. I want to be there for all of it: the struggles and the triumphs; the first words they read on their own; the first time they “get’ subtraction or division; their childlike, trusting belief in everything their “teacher” tells them. I can’t just give that all to someone else.
- Speaking of that childlike trust, if, knowing that children do tend to believe most of what their teachers tell them, we want to know exactly what their teachers are telling them. The only way to guarantee that is to be the teachers ourselves.
- I don’t see how I could hope to pass on our Faith to our children if I don’t see them for eight hours a day. I believe that children learn best by example, through modelling of behavior. How can I model the correct behavior if they don’t see me for a large part of their day?
- I want my children to remember more from their schooling than just facts in books. I want them to remember loving their time learning about God and His world. I’m hopeful that, if they love it now, they’ll continue to do it as they grow up.
- Over-scheduling is one of the biggest problems I see with so many children and families. It’s not one that I usually find with homechooling. We spend about two and a half hours on our table work each morning. The rest of the day is spent playing and participating in family life, enjoying each other’s company.
- I want my children to really know each other and us. Again, in my opinion, it’s hard to do that when you don’t spend much time together.
- Educationally speaking, many of today’s schools are not up to my standards, and I’m not talking just about the religion classes (which are mostly abysmal, in my opinion). It’s not just the test scores, because I know they don’t tell the whole story. It’s our society in general at this point. While yes, many fine people I know were educated in the American education system, many more not so fine people I know were as well. The system is broken and I don’t feel the need to give my children to it to have them broken as well.
These are some of our reasons for homeschooling. I’m not saying homeschooling is right for everyone and I understand why some might not want to or be able to even if they do want to homeschool. What I am saying is that, to me as to I’m sure most parents, when it comes to my children, anything I think they need is worth all the effort in the world to give them. To me, it’s not that much effort compared to the results I’m seeing. To others, maybe it is. To each his own. That’s the beauty of America (for now, at least). We get to make these choices for ourselves (and for our children). Here’s hoping it stays this way.