My oldest is 4 and we’ve begun to homeschool. But since she is not expected to be sent to kindergarten yet, I haven’t had to answer any questions about our choice. That time is coming though. And I know that there will be a lot of questions. So I decided to write down all of my reasons…not only to have my thoughts organized for when people ask, but because in the future on difficult days I might need a reminder as to why on earth I’m going to all this trouble!
Organic, “free range” learning
When I was running summer camps and we had anywhere from 30-50 children at a time, I quickly learned that the easiest way to keep things from going nuts was to keep them all contained. Free time was fun and important but that’s when all the conflicts arose. Kids got hurt, kids were mean, kids didn’t follow rules, and in older camps boys and girls started doing things we don’t want boys and girls doing! So I made sure to fill the day with a lot of planned, adult-led activities.
It’s no wonder that this is necessary in school. In order to keep the class under control and to teach them what they need to know, a lot of times children need to sit in their desks, face forward, be quiet and listen. It is important that they learn what will be on the tests because then we can make sure that teachers and schools are doing their job and that all of the children are getting an adequate education. Etc. etc. There are so many creative, fun, amazing elementary teachers and as much as they might want to do more hands-on, exploratory, curiosity-building teaching…it can be really difficult to do within the education system and with so many kids. Not entirely impossible, but difficult. Even the best teachers talk a lot about getting bogged down and giving up on some of their ideals in order to do the easier thing. (Which I’m sure can happen in homeschooling too.)
Homeschooling allows for so much more flexibility in how children learn. They can explore and touch and play with things in order to learn. They can ask a million questions. They can spiderweb from one subject to another as their curiosity leads them. I am excited about homeschooling because everything is an opportunity to learn. As we cook together, they will learn about nutrition, about cooking, about following recipes, and math/fractions as we measure ingredients. As we shop they will learn about the value of money, how much things cost, addition and subtraction, responsibility. As we hike we will learn about the world around us and an appreciation for God’s beautiful creation. As we travel on vacation we can learn about the things we see at museums or historical landmarks or about where Lewis and Clark went. As we are driving down the road and see a rainbow, they might ask how a rainbow is made…and we’ll go home and look it up. In all that we do, we will ask questions and find out the answers to those questions. Things that they are super interested in can be looked into more- we can watch documentaries, write reports, make costumes or food or do a craft, etc. This is often called interest-led learning.
We will sit down and do worksheets sometimes or play with apps on the ipad. We will sit and read stories and do crafts. But that will be a small part of the day rather than most of it. Especially at first when they are so young.
Encouraging curiosity and a love of learning
My husband is a high school math teacher and he feels like by the time most kids get to him, they have lost a lot of their curiosity. They want to be told the steps of how to do something rather than think, “how might we solve this problem?” He wants to be able to give them some information and have them come up with a question that needs to be solved. He wants them to think of math, and the world, as a fun puzzle. But they tend to just sit and stare, say “I don’t know”, and wait for an answer.
I am no expert, but I feel like if we went about educating our children a different way, they might be able to have better attitudes and more curiosity as they enter into their teens…and if they are one of those weird homeschooling families they might not be around the kids who tell them that learning isn’t cool and that the cool thing is to just care about how they look and what boys (or girls) they can impress. At least, a mom can hope…right?? 😉
Children learning to engage with people of all ages
One of the things I really like about homeschooling is that they aren’t in a room with 20-30 other kids their age. When you think about it, your kids are really learning about the world- what is important, what is valued, how to act, etc.- from the people they spend the most time with. And in school, that means they are learning these things from other kids their own age. Their home life is definitely very important and I’m sure their teachers will have an impact on them, but they are spending the hours of 8-3 Monday-Friday for most of the year with a bunch of other children their same age. That scares me a little. I was a public school kid. I remember what it was like. And it’s not like I can or want to shelter my children from everything in the world, but I want them to be surrounded by good examples and great mentors to help them as they learn about the world. I want them to develop relationships with other adults, nice older kids, and then to be good examples to the kids younger than them.
A close-knit family
When I meet a homeschooling family, one of the things I notice is that the kids play really well together. They are used to doing it, they know how to do it, and they are friends. They still have their sibling squabbles, sure, but I don’t often see an older sibling getting together with her friends and being mean to her little sister and telling her she’s not welcome. I see brothers and sister who take care of each other and know how to include each other in their play. I love the idea of my kids all being really good friends and I think that although this can happen even if they go to school, this is a really great benefit of homeschooling.
Low student-teacher ratio
I think that one of the biggest gripes of public education is the student to teacher ratio. One teacher in a class of 20 kids cannot meet every individual child’s needs. All children learn differently. All children have different strengths. As my husband is teaching, he knows that some kids aren’t following and other kids have already gotten it and are bored…and he has to teach to the middle. All he can really do is teach the best that he can so that the majority of the kids get it and then strongly encourage the kids falling behind to come in for extra help before or after school or during a free period or at lunch…he is always there to help. But a lot of times they don’t come in. And then parents are mad at the teacher! (Aah! Don’t get me started on how some parents treat teachers!) 😉
ANYway, a big plus of homeschooling, I think, is the individual attention to each child’s education. You can teach them at different speeds and in different ways, according to how fast they catch on and how they learn best. And it wouldn’t just be me or my husband teaching them. Big Sis already loves to teach Little Sis how to do things. Siblings helping each other to learn is a beautiful part of homeschooling, I think.
Taking an active part in my child’s education
And one of the things that I feel most strongly about is my responsibility as a parent to bring my children up to be responsible adults and to love Jesus. And again, this can happen whatever the situation. My husband and I both went to public school. But it’s something I really care about, I am really excited to try it and I believe in it. I think I would want to homeschool even if I wasn’t a Christian because most of my reasons are about learning and family, but because of my faith, I think it’s even more important to me that I dedicate so much time to their education because I want God to be the center of everything. I want them to learn to love God and love their neighbor and to have that love be the center of what we do. We’ll learn to read, to add and subtract, to problem solve, and discover how the world works…but we’ll also do volunteer work and have an outward focus of kindness and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation in all that we do.
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I might not homeschool all the way through high school. I think with a good foundation of curiosity, motivation, love of learning and values, they can go to public school and hopefully bring those things with them. Then again I just watched Mean Girls for the first time the other day and I started to question these thoughts 😉 (it was on Netflix, my husband was gone for the night, I was curious….don’t judge. haha)
Do you homeschool? What are your reasons for doing it?
Thanks for reading!