Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Should I Homeschool?

This is a question I have been asked a lot recently, or at least a simplification of the questions I have been asked. Variations include:
“What made you decide to homeschool?”, “I’ve been thinking about it with my kids; what made you pull them out?” and “I am not sure if I should pull my kids out; how did you decide?”

I think that education, like most things in life, is supposed to be a highly personal experience. For some kids, that kind of personalization can be accomplished in a classroom, even if it’s with 20 other kids in the room. If your kid is one of those types, and is happy and performing well in school and enjoys being there, then leave him alone! If your child’s teacher is amazing, and seems to genuinely enjoy your child, and your child has her teacher on a pedestal, then leave her alone! The structured environment and group learning does work well for some kids. There’s no need to interfere with that if things are going well unless you just really want to homeschool.

However for other kids, the classroom is not an enjoyable environment and has the potential to be a damaging one, especially if your child has any kind of developmental disorder, learning disorder or is just plain quirky. That doesn’t apply across the board, of course, but for some special-needs kids environmental factors can chip away at self-image. In such a case, the warning about children being cruel applies in spades. Kids are quick to point out anything or anyone that is different, and some kids can be vocal about it (even if they’re not flat-out rude, which may or may not be interpreted by a SN child as criticism). Not only that, but negativity comes from the teacher – in the case of a bad teacher, it can be direct. Lucky kids with great teachers STILL get that negativity through indirect means every time they’re handed back a paper with a bad grade, or are required to stay on a lower level while most other kids advance, or are consistently called out for discipline issues. Even kids who are not “called out” in those ways, but who just does things differently from everyone else in the class – that in and of itself can wreak havoc on a sensitive child’s self-esteem.

I can remember seeing kids who were terribly awkward, who didn’t socialize well, who consistently performed below average and who were generally, genuinely unhappy. I can’t imagine being a mother who sees my child struggling and suffering in such a way and NOT be compelled to do something about it. On the other hand, I can remember seeing kids who struggle socially and academically, but who were very happy in school. It’s a case-by-case thing and no one circumstance is going to be the defining factor for every family.

I think that for me, that was the main motivating factor – my child was unhappy in school. Not that there weren’t great days, not that his teacher didn’t love him and sincerely want to educate him, not that his aide wasn’t doing everything she could to help him, not that the child is not SMART to begin with… but even with all that, his confidence was beginning to wane. His joy in learning has diminished to the point that he was starting to believe that he is simply incapable of learning some things. His comments about himself were becoming negative and self-derogatory, and I just couldn’t have my 8-year-old feeling that way without taking a serious look at the factors contributing to that.

The fact is, he may not be capable of learning what they want him to learn, the way they want him to learn it! For example, writing the < or > signs and demonstrating that he understands the concepts of “greater than” and “less than” and writing out g-r-e-a-t-e-r t-h-a-n  and l-e-s-s  t-h-a-n  are two totally separate things! He GETS the math – he completely understands, grasps the concept and can demonstrate whatever instruction is thrown at him. But making him write, on paper, 25 examples, every day, for 2 weeks is NOT his style – and who can blame him? I would loathe being required to constantly prove that I’ve learned a skill – it’s boring and repetition does not necessarily mean assimilation! I can’t tell you how many things I remember “learning” to pass a test, and them promptly forgetting as soon as something more interesting comes along. What is working for us is to do his math on the chalkboard. That means that I end up with chalk dust in my face at least once during our lesson since he can’t seem to keep from clapping the erasers, but seeing him work and what’s more, enjoy working on his lesson, is worth that.

I guess the deciding factors need to be combined and discussed. Things such as gauging your child’s level of satisfaction, how his or her self-esteem is being developed and affected and how much learning is taking place and how well it is retained. Of course, your intuition plays a part in this, too. If things seem to be going well and Mom has a feeling like this is not the right environment, then do some more investigating! I am a proponent of following your instincts (as evidenced by my username). I think that intuition was given to moms to help us be the best advocate and care-taker for our children, and should not be ignored. I can honestly say that mine have never led me astray, so yes, that will play a part in the decision-making process.

I’ve heard a lot of reasons/excuses why someone can’t homeschool. To me, that’s like a lot of the reasons I’ve heard why a mom can’t breastfeed, or a family can’t survive on one income – it usually comes back to a lack of information, a lack of support and/or a lack of interest in doing so. Again, not true across the board, and like breastfeeding or being a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling is certainly not for everyone, and there’s no shame in that! But if homeschooling is in your heart, and you want to do it, please don’t talk yourself out of it by saying “I can’t”. So far, it’s worth the effort! In any case, this is just me thinking out loud. It’s not meant to tell anyone what to do or be a comment on anyone but myself and my own children.

Warmly,

~h

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