I thought I would explain our reasons for homeschool to those who are curious for their own kids’ sake or are questioning the idea of homeschool. Every family’s reasons for homeschool may be slightly different. For us there is not just one singular reason but many reasons and while we might find solutions for one or two of these reasons through private school, the combination of them all is what pointed us towards homeschool. Here are 10 of those reasons, in no particular order.
1. Religious Liberty
This is definitely high on our list of reasons. We are a children of God, called by his name to follow after his heart. I want my son to be free to express his faith in everything from simple conversations to a book report if he so chooses. I don’t want him to be stifled or reprimanded for saying something politically incorrect at school because he mentions God or his commandments. There are way too many stories these days of children who are told they can’t do this or that because mentioning God might disagree with someone else’s belief. We’re from the school of thought that more discussion, more freedom, more liberty trumps most any reason for limiting free speech. Yes there will be people who are lunatic fringe, yes there will be people who have no boundaries and are disrespectful of other’s freedom, but wouldn’t you want to know about those people up front rather than live in blissful ignorance? Simply put moore freedom, more speech, not less.
Another thing high on our list is avoiding indoctrination. Those on the other side of the ideological divide will try to say that their isn’t any indoctrination or that in fact we are the ones seeking to indoctrinate our child. My response would be that our children learn by example from us every day, they learn our routines, our values, our beliefs, and our lifestyles simply through osmosis. What I am trying to avoid is having strangers push values and beliefs and lifestyles on my child through insidious means. Public schools often teach our children opinion, often presented as facts, before our children are old enough to discern the difference between the two and when our kids young and most trusting.
A simple example I would give is the Green/Global Warming movement. Our kids are taught about recycling at an early age and how it is our responsibility to limit our use of resources from an early age in order to ‘save the planet’. Children come home from school and chastise parents for not recycling enough or for anything else they’ve been taught is wasteful of the planet’s resources. As a Christian I believe we are to be good stewards of the earth, but I also believe that there is a lot of faulty scientific “evidence” out there by people with agendas. I will teach my child about recycling and being a good steward, but I won’t teach him that Man-made Global Warming is settled science or that he should feel guilty about whatever car he drives in the future or for buying a bottled water on occasion. This is control through guilt and another way of eroding our freedoms.
3. Educational Quality
This one is pretty simple and straight-forward. We can give our son a better quality education that is tailored to him in a one-on-one situation than being put in a classroom with 20+ other kids and one teacher. Truthfully it’s basic math, the teacher to student ratio is much better at home. In addition to the teacher ratio, I can also shape the curriculum to benefit him. If he is more of a visual learner, I can purchase curriculum and visual aids that help him learn in the style he is most likely to succeed. If he is a hands-on type of learner, I can create more active ways to teach him even basic concepts. I can truly give him the most beneficial environment for his learning style. In addition, if he struggles in one area I can order extra materials to help in that area. Instead of going over a concept for a month of lessons, I can extend those lessons longer if I notice he’s not fully grasping the material. We can completely tailor his schooling experience to give him exactly what he needs to learn. It’s a recipe for success.
4. Educational Diversity and Unique Experience
Lets face it most schools, especially public, are struggling for funding. They have often cut back on many experiences that simply cost too much. Most schools no longer have field trips or do science experiments that would be too costly for the district. These are experiences that we can provide our son. In addition we can turn vacations into education experiences as well with side trips to battle grounds or historical buildings. We can study architecture and go study famous paintings at our local museum of art. Want to do a study on American Indians? We can go visit the local burial grounds we have only one county away, we could go visit Flint Ridge or get tickets to see the Tecumseh! outdoor drama. All of these things will add hands on learning experiences and more educational diversity than the local schools can provide.
5. Family Bonding
I think this is an area that probably gets over-looked by a lot of people, but home schooling provides more time for family bonding. Strong family bonds create confident children and therefore confident adults. In today’s world where people barely have time to sit down and have dinner at the table as a family even a couple of times a week, the importance of family bonding has been discounted and pushed down the priority list in favor of supposed ‘well-rounded’ children who are in a million activities. This has come at the expense of really instilling a sense of family to children.
I’ve heard many parents who complain that between after-school activities and 2 hours of homework, they barely spend any quality time with their kids through the week. Weekends are filled with soccer/baseball/etc. games, running errands, yard work, sleep overs and a host of other social obligations. When do you spend time with your kids as a family unit? When do you just spend time talking, playing a game or making a meal together. It’s been said that the generations growing up now are having problems connecting to people in person, that the digital life is so big of a role in society today that we’re losing the ability to have basic conversations with one another face to face, but I also believe part of the reason is that we don’t even have those interactions with our own family anymore!
6. Social Development
Ahh, here we go, the thing thrown up into the faces of homeschoolers everywhere. Your kids will be socially awkward! Your children will have no friends! Homeschool kids are weird! If you’ve talked about homeschooling for very long, you likely heard one (or all) of these comments and many more. I’ve heard these comments and many more and I haven’t even started doing official homeschool yet (as declared to the state)! I will never forget the lengthy diatribes I received from a business acquaintance on Facebook when he saw that my husband and I were planning to homeschool. Oh my gosh, you’d think I just said I was going to lock my child up in a dungeon! At a certain point I had to un-friend this person as he would not let it drop no matter what amount of information I gave him as to what all modern homeschooling can entail. There are all sorts of extra-curriculars available to homeschool families these days, there are co-ops and learning groups, organized sports through civic groups and other socialization opportunities through church. Yes, I said CHURCH. Oh my, when it came down to it this acquaintance was really more upset by two facts. One, that his family members were teachers and how dare we think we could do as good of a job teaching our child as a school teacher. And two, we would be exposing him to religious values that people like his family members wouldn’t be able to constantly undermine! Oh my! The horror!
It was my first in your face type of interaction with someone about our decision to homeschool. Well that’s not completely true, I have a sibling that seems to also have the backwards idea that homeschooling will lead to no social skills. She is overly social though and stuck in the mindset of homeschool kids of yesteryear who never left the house or had friends. I’ve tried to educate her, but I find people who really have this idea in their head do not allow the new realities of homeschool to overcome their preconceived, antiquated notions. Back to the business acquaintance though, I think the part that most shocked me is that this person that I never had interaction with face-to-face, never had any personal interaction with at all, thought he somehow had a say in how we raise and choose what is best for our child. Seriously, it flabbergasted me.
So here is what I would say about socialization as a concept in general since I have already addressed the multitude of ways for children to be exposed to their peer group through extra curricular activities. What exactly are the benefits of socialization? Ultimately the goal is for children to become successful ADULTS, therefore they will need to be comfortable and have the ability to socialize and relate to other ADULTS. In a traditional school setting, he would be socializing with other children in his age group. I’m not saying this is necessarily a thing to avoid; however, lets not kid ourselves that the socialization that goes on in childhood is mostly positive or overly beneficial. Children are encouraged to become conformists in order to ‘fit in’. It not only detracts from a child developing their own unique personality, they are surrounded by things like bullying and peer pressure that distracts from the true purpose of school which is learning.
Furthermore, children are very impressionable, that’s why peer pressure comes into play. When you ask yourself, who do you want your children to emulate, would it be the character and values that you have or the character and values of your child’s peers? I would think for most of us this should be a no-brainer. Children who are homeschooled are often more mature when it comes to social interaction because they are unencumbered by the influence of negative behavior and the need to impress their peer group. As a whole, homeschooled children have less behavioral issues. So while there are those who would consider the socialization aspect of homeschooling a ‘problem’, I would actually consider it a positive. Our child will get plenty of opportunities to socialize, perform, play a sport and just hang out with other children, but he won’t be in an environment 7 hours a day that includes bullying, worrying about what brand of clothes he’s wearing or goofing off in class with his friends to try to impress them when he should be learning.
7. The Loss of Common Sense
I don’t know about you, but I think common sense has been dying a slow, painful death. Recently when I brought this up after a particularly stupid story, I got in a little back and forth with a family member about this fact and she went so far as to basically want to dissect the term and as what is common and try to act like what is common sense for one person is not common sense for another. Hello? Isn’t that further proving my point that COMMON sense is dead? Those things that we as a society knew as innate have been eroded in one way or another. How does this apply to our decision to homeschool? Well let me explain.
If you’ve been on the internet for long or even watch the news on a regular basis, I’m sure you’ve seen stories like these headlines:
5 year old suspended over Hello Kitty bubble gun threat
Va. middle-schooler suspended for confiscating razor from self-harming student
Students Burn After Denied Sunscreen on School Trip
Boy suspended for gun-shaped pop tart
These are just a few of the stories I see on a regular basis come across my screen. Most of them all revolve around one basic thing, No Tolerance Policies. No Tolerance Policies are really a big knife stuck in the corpse of common sense. It’s the death nail. When you create policy after policy that says, ‘hey this is the rule and there will be no evaluation on individual basis, all offenses will be lumped together with the same punishment’ then you are removing the ability to apply common sense.
In this era of hyper vigilance and fear based decision making, we are vilifying a 5 year old for saying she’s going to shoot someone with her bubble gun for pete’s sake! How can this possibly be looked on as a good thing? And school officials are so committed to these blanket rules that all compassion is thrown out the window. I for one do not want my child being looked at as a number, who when he makes an innocent comment of a child, will be looked on as some offender. As the mother of a boy I am especially sensitive to these stories about simple boy play that are getting boys suspended. Long gone are the days where playing cops and robbers or cowboys and indians is considered harmless boy play. Now instead somehow if your child plays with toy guns, pretends to point his finger as a gun or even says the word gun your child is categorized as a potential school shooter or psychopath.
My son is a very active boy and has an incredible imagination. He’s been known to make a gun out of Legos, likes anything that can be used as a sword to pretend fight and is currently obsessed with Minecraft and it’s swords and pickaxes. He loves to play with his Nerf guns and water guns and will go around saying, “I’m going to shoot you!” while chasing the subject of his play. It wasn’t too long ago where this type of play was the norm, but now in the days of political correctness and increased fear-mongering those words would get my child suspended for just being a normal little boy. It wouldn’t matter if he was only 5 and was talking about a bubble gun, it wouldn’t matter if he was just playing around with his friends, it wouldn’t matter if he actually had the ability to follow through with this perceived ‘threat’, in today’s society of blanket rules and No Tolerance Policies he would be treated the same way as a teenager who brought an actual gun to school or made an actual threat towards another student. Common sense is dead in the public school system.
8. Common Core
How can I say this gently? I hate Common Core. To me it’s a bad remedy to the miss-diagnosis of a perceived problem. The problem? Poor test scores, high drop out rates, losing ranking in education compared to the world…really there is a bunch of reasons, but the general problem is the decline of children graduating and getting a good education. There is also a concern about the disparity in education between geographical regions. I will concede all of these points, but the part where I diverge from the path that Common Core takes is how this problem is caused and what to do about it.
I firmly believe that our educational output right now is closely tied to the erosion of the traditional family and strong family units. Without a mom and a dad who are building a stable home for their children and are involved in their education, children will slip through the cracks more often and graduation rates will diminish. Without parents who are present in their kids lives and put a high value on education, children will also not value their education. Without parents at home children will be bored and go find something to do with their friends and at this age their reasoning abilities and maturity levels are very low. This will lead to mischief and landing in the legal system or under the influence of drugs or having a baby at the tender age of 15. All of these things become distractions from getting a proper education. In essence, the more families erode the less devotion and importance is put on a proper education. Single mom’s have to work more to provide, absentee fathers are not there to set examples for young boys, children have more homework yet less parental supervision making sure it gets done..the list of issues goes on and on.
Somehow though the powers that be determined that instead of looking at the social issues we have that are truly at the root of our educational system problem, they decided that the way we are teaching our children is the real culprit. To that end they decided to re-invent the wheel. I’m all for true improvements, but honestly it’s like the old saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. What we are left with is really unfair and somewhat cruel to our children.
Some of the classwork I have seen, especially in the area of math, is on purposefully confusing at best and flat out trying to trick students at worst. There is no reason to make simple math concepts overly complex. Memorization is not a bad thing. I refuse to believe that learning the basics, as millions of people have successfully done before, is somehow a bad way to teach. It may not be the perfect way for every student, but since when do we teach to the lowest common denominator? Some children are always going to need more help than others or need taught in a different way. That doesn’t mean we change the way we do everything to fit that small segment of society. Honestly it’s the dumbing down of education to create more uniform results. Notice I didn’t say to elevate results, but to have less disparity in the results. In life there will always be winners and losers, you can’t regulate equality of results, but in this ‘everybody gets a trophy society’ it seems that’s what we’re trying to do and the ones paying the price are our kids. We’re creating uniform mediocrity.
It also cuts parents out of the equation. How are parents supposed to help their children with homework and work with them on concepts they are having trouble with if parents can’t even figure out the way their child is being asked to learn. A parent could teach their child a math concept in the traditional way only to go to school and be told that it’s wrong because of the method used, not the answer being wrong. This sends the message that further erodes the parent/child bond, not strengthens it as a parent helping and being involved in their child’s education should. In essence, Common Core makes the problem with education WORSE as it seeks to erode the family structure more and place the school system as the head of all authority with our kids.
Math isn’t the only area of concern with Common Core, just a glaring one. Another concern I have is the change in thought from teaching children how to think to teaching children what to think. Teaching to the test is now the norm and the tests do not allow for independent thought. Teachers teach children to simply spit out whatever they have been told for the test and not to self evaluate the material and come to their own conclusions and support those conclusions. This is so wrong and goes hand in hand with our indoctrination concerns. I could go on and on about the evils of Common Core, but suffice it to say I don’t want my child being taught this way and it is a definite concern that factors into our decision to homeschool.
9. Personal Responsibility
We talk parenting seriously. We have been entrusted by God with this beautiful blessing of a boy. We are to train him up in the ways he should go and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. We are responsible for another human being. Who he becomes will be in great part to how we parented him, the decisions we made for him and the example we set for him. We want to give him our best. Our best time. Our best love. Our best example. So why would we not want to give him the best education? If we believe we can provide that then it’s our responsibility to do so and give him what we feel is the best education to afford him the best opportunity to be a successful adult.
Those things that create a successful adult are not just traditional education though, but a multitude of intangibles that we are teaching him on a daily basis. Things like a good core belief system, strong values, good moral character, confidence, knowing how to treat other people, etc. Most of those are not things taught in traditional school, they come from exposure to wisdom of others who are older and wiser. They come from family units that model those things in everyday life. The more exposure to that wisdom, the more those foundations are set. Being homeschooled allows more exposure, allows more opportunity to teach the intangibles.
As parents, we are accountable to God for how we are training up our child and the more we are there to give him life instruction, the less influence negative forces have to undermine that foundation. He is our responsibility and it is up to us to make sure he is learning everything he needs to know, in every aspect of life.
10. Master of your own schedule!
This one is a great benefit of homeschooling. You want to take a vacation in the middle of the school year? No problem! School can be packed up and taken with you! Does the weather look nice this week but not so great this weekend? Take a few days off mid-week and do school on the weekend! Have doctor’s appointments you need to schedule? Well there’s no worrying about going to get your child out of school and scheduling around an important test as you are the teacher and set the schedule! There are no permission slips to sign, excused or unexcused absences to worry about or write notes for…you simple make up your own schedule that fits your family and it’s extremely flexible since it can be re-written at any time to suit your needs.