Monday, July 26, 2010

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool..That is the Question

For those of you who are already homeschooling, I apologize for the repetitive nature of this entry. However, for those of you courageous adventurers who are thinking about taking the plunge, I have a few words of encouragement..and caution.

Our decision to homeschool came much more out of necessity than desire. I had no particular fondness for the whole philosophy of homeschooling, but rather wanted what was best for my child at the time. What sprung from that decision surprised me. Once a critic of the homeschooling movement, I became an advocate and to this day strongly support homeschoolers around the world.
In my humble opinion, God has given us as parents an innate desire to do what is best for our children. Sometimes that means sending them to public school. Sometimes private schools are needed and sometimes homeschooling is truly the best option for a family.

If you are exploring homeschooling you possess the single most important requirement for homeschooling: a desire to do so. If someone else has suggested it to you but you have a repulsion, you probably do not need to be homeschooling. It is just one of those occupations that require a dedication that does not come from suggestion alone. True, necessity drove me to explore the option, but the concept-once I rid myself to my prejudices- intrigued me. I liked the idea of being with my son all day. That is not to say that the absence of that desire makes you a lesser parent, it just makes you a person who probably shouldn't homeschool. You have to really want to do it. You must love to be around your kids..all the time. If you are the type of parent who enjoys time alone and looks forward to the beginning of school each year, you will need to think long and hard about why you are proceeding.

On the other hand, if you absolutely love being around your kids all the time, it may end up being a good option for you. If you enjoy teaching your child constantly then it may be a good option for you. You will absolutely be around your child all the time! It is a blessing. Perhaps you think you cannot homeschool because you can't teach your child...well, what do you think you are doing for four hours every night when they come home from school with more homework than we had as children in a week? You already are homeschooling!

Don't worry, you are supposed to be nervous! after all, it is not to be taken lightly. You will be the only person responsible for your child's education so it will be necessary for you to be truly committed to this task. Do not, however, be discouraged! You CAN homeschool! If you really want to do it, you absolutely can! Do not allow the naysayers to influence your decision. There is a great deal of ignorance about homeschooling, much of it regarding the reason you are doing it.

There are several good reasons to homeschool:
1. You are in a bad school district
2. Your child is gifted or has a disfluency that is not being addressed at school
3. You have strong religious views and would like to share them with your child
4. You live a transient life and desire continuity of education
5. You would like to have a say in what your child is learning
6. Either you cannot afford a private school or the one you desire is not close to you

The list goes on and on. Contrary to popular belief all homeschoolers are not religious fanatics-even those of us who are homeschooling for religious purposes. Many cannot afford the expensive private schools and find the quality of educational materials to be as sufficient as those one would pay ten times the amount for in the private school systems. There is balance. We do choose to shelter our children to a degree, but we also expose them to many things they have never been exposed to before.

Lame reasons NOT to homeschool:
1. Socialization-since when does any adult you know associate with those in his or her exact age group? Socialization is not only possible, it can be difficult to keep from being too social!
2. You don't think you can teach your own child
3. You are not a many times I have been inhibited by my teaching background!
4. You are not organized enough..organized is a relative term. There is a need for organization, but it doesn't have to be what everyone else thinks it is. You are organized in your own way-you have to be. Just make those skills work for you not against you
5. Your family doesn't want you to..who is raising your child? Besides, when they see how creative, intelligent, and polite your kids are, they will get over their misunderstandings. Alternatively, you can offer them the opportunity to pay for private school--works every time.

Arm yourselves with the facts. Clip articles from the newspaper that make you want to homeschool. They don't all have to be negative. Perhaps you saw a spontaneous paleontologist organize a last minute public dig of Late Cretaceous Period sea life and you wanted your dinosaur loving child to experience it( IT WAS AN AWESOME DAY!). Maybe you clip the new guidelines on sex education that you disagree with. Perhaps the thing that motivates you is the number of homeschoolers getting into Ivy League schools and receiving scholarships. The important thing is to keep in mind always why you are doing it.

Inevitably, a friend, relative or you will question why you made this decision. Think about it. Be aware. Commit and be armed with answers. It will help!

The next thing you need to do is be around some homeschoolers. Decide the kind of homeschool you want to have. There are 'home at school' curricula that you can order and the organization will even grade your child's work. Schools like Seton Home Study School and Kolbe Academy both offer an accredited curriculum and do all the organizing for you and even offer transcripts. Perhaps you like the idea of having more structured materials but do not want to have others grading your child's work or deciding what they will read. Some even 'unschool.' Those who choose this method have a mostly unstructured method of homeschooling that I am not comfortable with so will not address in this blog. I am not saying I disagree with it, but it does go against my nature as a teacher to teach this way so I will not be a good advocate for it.

The next step, after you have decided to homeschool is join an advocacy group. Home Schooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a group that stays on top of the laws regarding homeschooling throughout the United States (and the world, actually). Membership is relatively inexpensive and can be broken down into a monthly payment ($9 with a military discount) but you'll surely be glad of it if someone begins to question your homeschooling. They will defend your just cause against school boards, etc. We have friends who have utilized this very valuable service. Even if you never have to use it, it is not only good to support them but it is also good to know what laws apply in your state.

So now that you have decided whether or not to homeschool, what kind of homeschooler you are, and have armed yourselves with a legal team and knowledge about your endeavor, the next step is organization and I will address that little gem in my next entry.

Happy homeschooling!

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