I have had my share of conversations regarding homeschooling. It used to be the “socialization” question, but recently I’ve had a lot of people telling me I am not qualified to teach my children because I don’t have a degree in elementary education. As it turns out, we moved into a neighborhood that has an insane amount of school teachers.
I’ve decided to compile a list of all the things that people bring up to me about why I (or they) shouldn’t (or couldn’t) homeschool and my answer to them.
Socialization. What about socialization? Have you ever said this? Have you heard it? It feels like for a long time I would be asked this question as if the sole reason to send a child to school was to “socialize” them. My husband and I joke about this all the time. Why would we send our kids to be socialized by other kids who are sent to school to be socialized by my kids? Talk about the blind leading the blind. No thank you!
We all know people that we think are weird, and that is a big reason that people DON’T want to homeschool. We don’t want our children to be considered weird. Well, let me let you in on a little secret. If the parents are weird, most likely the children will be weird. We tend to take on the habits, language, mannerisms, and social skills of those closest to us; our own family. That doesn’t mean that we can’t change if we see an area of improvement, but usually what happens in the home plays a greater role in our socialization than what happens at school.
What I find fascinating, is what these words actually mean. Socialization means, “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.” Do I want other kids and school teachers to be the one responsible for teaching my children what their “personal identity” is? I’m not going to get into the politics right now about what schools are teaching children about identity, but my belief is that it is my responsibility, as their parent, to help them learn who they are. Not the teacher and never the government schools. I am also responsible for teaching them what the norms are. Do I want my kids to learn the so-called norms of a society that is increasingly rude, whiny, or apathetic? No! I want my kids to learn the norms from me. I can be intentional about how I allow and encourage my kids to interact with others.
What about teaching children values and behavior? Who do I want to be in charge of teaching values? Does the government-led school teach the same values that I want to be instilled in my children? When it comes to teaching these skills, I want that responsibility.
I also want my children to be sociable. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines being sociable as, “Ready or disposed to unite in a general interest”. To me, that means they will be ready to talk with others of all age groups and abilities. I want them to know how to show interest in something that may NOT interest them. Generally speaking, to be good humans. I personally believe they won’t get that through public school.
Qualifications. This actually never came up until recently. The first time someone suggested that I was not qualified to teach my children, I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor and I’m also pretty positive I stared at them with a look of incredulity. I’m reminded of a tweet that I saw (and I’m sorry I can’t find the author!) that says, “If children started school at six months old and their teachers gave them walking lessons, within a single generation people would come to believe that humans couldn’t learn to walk without going to school.”
Who is the one that determined children needed to attend a school in order to learn? If I want to teach my children to cook, do I need to go to culinary school? If I want to teach my children to clean their room, do I need to be a professional maid? Are there even schools for that? Although,(if I’m being snarky) maybe the reason we know so much about housework is due to home economics!
I am well qualified to teach my children their ABC’s. As a matter of fact, a lot of curriculum these days has become very much open and go where they even give you what to say and the answers they want from the kids. A lot of times we are also learning right alongside our children. There will never be a curriculum that teaches everything, regardless of whether you learned at home or school. Each curriculum teaches in a different manner, which means that some children will be able to understand based on their learning style and some will struggle. Some teachers will be able to teach to the child, but most are learning that they need to teach to a test instead of a child. Each curriculum also decides what they deem is the most important, thereby creating a certain bias in our children. To me, that was one of the main reasons that I wanted to homeschool. I can choose whether I wanted to focus on a creation-based science or evolution-based. Do I want my kids to study the founding fathers, skim over it, or learn they are not men to be revered? Do I want their math to be workbook based or game based?
I can hear some parents now, “Yes, yes. That is all fine and good for the early years. But what about algebra? I can’t possibly teach my children chemistry! What then?” My mom homeschooled 14 children without a college degree. She has math books and would learn it herself and then teach us. She also watches YouTube videos about how to solve it, or looks through multiple textbooks. If that’s not for you, then let me ask you a question. If your child was failing math in public school and the teacher was not able to explain it to your child, would you let your child flounder? Or would you try to help? I take a more active role in my children’s lives. If they need help and I can’t help them, I find someone who can. A learning center, a tutor, or a mentor. Someone who is adept at teaching to different styles.
Let me take you back a minute. I am not great at math. As a matter of fact, the first math class I took in college was remedial math (I really won’t get into it here, but I was DEFINITELY not the only one in that class, so public school can’t really be that much better if you get my drift). The teacher was amazing. She would explain a concept and how to solve the problem, then she would say, “Who understood that?” To those who raised their hands, she would say, “Since you understood that, stop listening. I’m going to explain it in a different way and I don’t want you to get confused.” After explaining it in multiple ways, she would then instruct anyone who still did not understand it to come to her office for personal instruction. THAT is teaching. THAT is what our children need. If I can’t find the right way to explain it to my children, I will find someone. Period. Don’t think you need a degree in teaching to help someone learn.
Staying on track. This is one that I think a lot of parents think at one time or another. Will our children stay on track with their public schooled peers? Yes and no. If you are wanting to at some point put your kids back in school, I can understand this question and if that’s what is going on, my advice would be to get online to your school district and print out their requirements for the grade in question. Most have it readily online. Then you can keep track of where they are and what you will need to work on.
My personal belief is that it doesn’t matter if they are on par with others their age. Each child learned to crawl/walk/talk at their own pace, why can’t it be the same with reading and math? That’s not to say that you stop all academics, but maybe just that subject they are struggling with. When my oldest was four she really wanted to learn to read. I ordered a curriculum and started, but she dug in her heels and didn’t want to do it. When I asked her why, her response was, “I don’t want to learn my letters, I just want to learn to read!” I tried explaining that you need to learn the letters before you could learn to read but she wasn’t having it. So I waited until she would not put up a fight. I tried every once in a while to start again, but if she put up a fight I would stop again. She was seven before she was ready to learn her letters and once she did she flew with reading and hasn’t stopped. My next oldest saw what her older sister was doing and where learning letters was going so she quickly caught up. She was five. Every child is different and that is okay.
We have the luxury of not being on the public school schedule. I can take them through the summer if we need to. I can put other subjects away while we catch up if we want to. Or we can put other subjects away for a time to foster a budding obsession.
I was talking with a college piano teacher one time and she told me that she didn’t care when someone started playing because that did not measure how good they were. She would take someone who had never played the piano before, and if they applied themselves they would learn everything they needed to know in college. I have heard that for math as well. There is a really great article about learning math. In it, the author talks about taking kids ages 9-12 through the entire math curriculum for grades K-6 in 20 contact hours.
“Walking around in a self-congratulatory haze, Greenberg contacted a friend, a leading elementary math specialist in the public schools, to gloat.
“Not surprising,” mused his friend.
“Why not,” asked Greenberg, having had the wind at least temporarily removed from his sails.
“Because everyone knows,” he replied, verbally stomping on Greenberg’s ego, “that the subject matter itself isn’t all that hard. What’s hard, virtually impossible, is beating it into the heads of youngsters who hate every step. The only way we have a ghost of a chance is to hammer away at the stuff bit by bit everyday for years. Even then it does not work.” (Honesty is refreshing, isn’t it?) “Most of the sixth graders are mathematical illiterates. Give me a kid who wants to learn the stuff – well, 20 hours or so makes sense.’”
I have heard this over and over. Give me someone who wants to learn and it will come easier and faster. That’s why I am not worried about if my children are on grade level. My job as a parent is to teach my children the love of learning. To want to know the information that I can offer, even if it’s just to pass – or test out of – a college class. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and thought, “I have given you the answer to the question you have and yet you cast it aside.” People will not understand until they are ready. The greatest gift you can give your child is the ability to want to learn. Otherwise known as the love of learning. Don’t worry about grade level.
I need a break from my kids. I hear this one a lot. Yes, you are with them a lot. Yes, it can be tiring. I believe being a stay-at-home mom is more mentally tiring than anything I’ve done. It’s a different kind of tired. You can feel weary, maybe feeble at times.
I have been there so many times. But, and I mean no disrespect to those who view otherwise, I put my kids over my tiredness. Or my annoyance. Or my desire for “me time”. Yes, I need breaks and when I do, my husband has taken over and allowed me time to get out. Yes, sometimes, especially after the birth of a child, I need a little (or a lot) more than an hour. Yes, when I come home after time alone, my house is still a wreck. Yes, my kids are watching TV. Yes, I come home at times and think it wasn’t enough time. Yes, I have the same thoughts.
No, I wouldn’t change it. No, I don’t think my cup needs to be perfectly full every day. No, I don’t mind the mess. No, I wouldn’t want to be away from them every day and not seeing their eyes light up.
I have never been one of those parents who looks forward to the time their child was not with them. I am actually on the other end of the spectrum and feel immense guilt if I am not around them the majority of the time. I’m a work in progress. With that being said, there are certain things that help revive me. Once a year there is a quilt shop hop where I live. Some of the women in my family travel to different quilt shops to get a free pattern. Sound boring to you? It excites me! Find yourself a passion that gives you a little time. Homeschool conferences are great at bringing perspective when I need it. They help me keep my eyes on the prize, so to speak.
It’s like Forest Gump says, “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.” It’s the same for me. My husband and I are a team. When I need him to take over, he does. When I need to get out, I do. When I need to shut myself in my room and lock the door, I do. When I need to have the kids quiet, I turn on the TV. I’m human. Sue me.
Here’s the kicker, though. I know that we all doubt at some point. Even when you finally feel like you are getting a handle on it, some well-meaning person will say something that will throw you off. I had someone tell me, “well, I guess your kids can always catch up later.” Because, obviously, all homeschoolers do is sit around in pajamas all day long! My advice for this is to think of a response to rudeness before it happens, that way you are always prepared. I usually laugh and say something like, “I know, right?! Homeschoolers are weird!” I personally don’t engage in a conversation unless I know the person is genuinely interested and not just spouting their prejudices.
I hope this helps you a little and I hope that some of the uneasiness that you might be experiencing eases a little. You are enough. Your kids will turn out fine. Stay the course. Everything will be okay. Remember what Gandhi said. “There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”