“What’s wrong with ‘regular’ school?”
“You homeschool? Good for you! That must be hard. I could never do that myself.”
“Shouldn’t your kids be in school right now? Is there a holiday today?”
Ah, the questions that my sons and I are tired of hearing whenever we are out and about during the day. The one we hear the most is, “Why do you homeschool your kids?”
[picture of homeschooling seniors teaching the boys about robotics]
We have countless reasons why we homeschool our children, but basically it comes down to a few basics. I am able to be at home and believe that me being here with them as they learn expands their minds more than if they sit in a classroom filled with children, with a possibility of not being helped with certain situations of difficulties.
I will say that a lot of our own personal schooling factors into things. It is going to be that way in general as a parent. Let me share a bit of where we come from first. This portion may be a little long, so bear with me as you learn about my past a bit (skip up to the next set of photos if you don’t feel like learning some of my own school history – this whole post is long).
Rob attended public school. His family moved a lot when he was a kid and wasn’t settled in a more permanent place until he reached 7th grade, which made it difficult for him to keep up with other students. His family was able to stay in that town through his high school years, and then they moved again right after he graduated. He doesn’t remember learning many things that our sons or I learned in school. He doesn’t really know how he got through all his schooling as a kid because little has been retained. He got through all his years of schooling through the skin of his teeth and went a few times to summer school. He received little help with problems he had in learning things. Instead of teachers taking the time to help him, he was mocked by them and by his peers.
I attended two Christian schools, one through first grade and another in second through ninth grade before I switched to the public high school Rob also attended. I did well academically until sixth grade. I had one teacher that entire year who was patient with me, helped me often, and noticed the difficulties I had with dyslexia in regards to math. She tried her best but the following year I was pushed into the “slow class” for math. Every single kid who was in that class was highly mocked by others (which I had already been mocked anyway), but I excelled in that class and the mockery no longer bothered me because I went from a D average to an A. I am glad I was not in a “smarter” class as it was too fast paced. Every child learns at a different pace in general. It doesn’t make one smarter than another, they just have different things they are into. Once I was put into the “normal” math class in 9th grade I became an F math student, taking Algebra 1 three years in a row (without summer school). I ended with a B average in Algebra 2 my senior year (I went in for extra help a lot that year since I had As and Bs in the rest of my classes and if I didn’t get a B in math I wouldn’t be able to graduate). No one in public school ever mocked me for being in that math class though!
Rob and I were both mocked a lot each year in different ways. Some things were simple things we could have changed ourselves and other things were not our fault. I retained much of what I learned each year and can recall and recite things from those days. I liked being teacher’s pet to a few teachers and would ask for help when I needed it. I drew a lot of attention to myself because I wanted people to like me, but instead they’d mock me and call me “weird,” including a teacher in fifth grade who said I was an “eccentric”.
My 6th grade Language Arts teacher gave up on me and could not stand me. She gave me low grades and said I didn’t try, even though I loved to write and asked her how I could improve. Dyslexia caused issues in that area too, but I didn’t realize it at the time. She’d put red marks all over my papers and say, “Don’t even bother.” She made me cry a lot and said I was a trouble maker. Her excuse was that she didn’t have time to help me out and was going to help the kids who tried. Somehow I was the best speller in class though (I got third place in a spelling bee in 8th grade, in which two seventh graders beat me out because I confused “conscious” for “conscience”). The whole thing still boggles my mind.
I had a teacher hit my arm hard in frustration with me in second grade and two of the kids told my mom about it (man did that thing sting and leave a mark). After my mom talked to her about it, she first denied it until my mom said she had two eye witnesses. Then the teacher completely ignored me after the incident, but I was a great student that year so she didn’t really need to take time for me anyway.
I had another teacher in 4th grade tell me that I needed counseling because kids just didn’t like me. She snapped a lot at me and she wouldn’t call on me when I’d raise my hand in class. I was just socially awkward, coming from a dysfunctional family who couldn’t relate to the functional kids in the school I attended. My problems were things the kids and teacher didn’t understand. She gave my mom the number of an art therapist to help me out, who I went to for about half a year. Although she tried to help me by doing this, it just made me feel as if I wasn’t as good as the other kids. My parents separated for a bit after that school year, to give you a small picture of why I may have acted up and had such a hard time.
[The boys learning about the differences between an acid and a base from a homeschooled senior]
I have nothing against Christian schools or Public schools, as each one is different and teaches different things. Rob’s best class was Computers. I was great in Art, Bible, Gym/PE, Health classes/sex-ed, psychology, sociology, computer classes, typing class (which they don’t teach these days, oh my), choir, and band (I was a percussionist). I am a woman who likes hands-on and visual things; not so much the “mental structure” of things unless it has to do with evaluating people or life (like in sociology and psychology). I believe Rob is more of a mental and visual person, but it has to be something he has an interest in or he shuts it out.
This brings me to why I homeschool my children. I don’t really think my kids are ready for public school. I do think that public schoolers learn certain aspects that don’t really make sense to me (such as how I taught my sons to write lowercase letters before uppercase letters which afterwards made it easier to transition into teaching about capitals beginning a sentence or about proper nouns). I really wanted to teach them to read myself, which they are in much higher reading levels for their ages because of it. I honestly love phonics (which is how I learned) and know a lot of public schools aren’t for it. I just think in elementary school ages, those are vital important learning years in which I know I can do a well enough job in teaching. English/Language Arts to me is the most important subject in young ages, so I honestly stress it a lot in my teaching. Also many schools stopped teaching script/cursive writing. I loved learning script in second grade. I still write in script regularly as does one of my brothers. My boys know script (Leto’s handwriting in script is really beautiful. Micah is still perfecting his handwriting art). Common core is a thing that comes up a lot. I figure if I had a hard enough time learning math, no way would I be able to help with homework based on common core. I am confident in teaching math through fifth grade, but after that, computer course curriculum math is what the boys will learn until high school (I know you guys were worried for my kids after reading my math issues, but don’t worry, they’ll do fine).
I think their training at home is more vital at this point. A lot of kids in public school honestly don’t always have a lot of parental influence and are taught by the media, their teachers, and one another about things that I don’t know if they are ready to be exposed to yet. They do hang out with public schooled kids, by the way. To have them every single day around them for a few hours is a different story. I don’t want them exposed to things like pornography for instance which can seriously harm the brain’s chemicals early on (Most boys are exposed to it by friends in school starting at the age of eight. Leto is nine and Micah is seven. I was exposed to it at 6. Rob was exposed to it at 8 – who had a longtime addiction problem because of it – the boys haven’t been exposed but we’ve already started to teach them about modesty and will talk about all when we see they are ready).
Christian school costs money that we don’t have at all, but I did contemplate sending them to it until I saw the cost. I may have bad memories there, but I am not bitter about it and enjoyed the educational portion of it, but not the social portions at all. Some of my favorite teachers and a few kids I went to school with there are now teachers. I have other bits and pieces of disagreement with things in the school, but I think that would be the case no matter where they’d attend. There really aren’t any other Christian schools in the area here either, certainly not in our own denomination either (those are mainly in PA, which we are not moving to).
It is important to communicate with your children about what they pick up no matter what. Rob and I try to discuss things they may have “heard” or have questions about, and I think we do a good job.
I am still seeing what interests our sons. Micah has a love for nature. He loves learning about plants, bird watching, animals of different sorts, drawing, and is more of a visual person. Leto likes music, reading, verbal activities, and learning about the Bible. He likes things that have more thought to them but gets easily distracted. He is very sociable, while Micah is more shy, yet likes to receive attention, and sometimes acts up because of it. They both love games of all types. Now that they have had a few years of homeschooling under their belts, I can configure how to take these things and use it to administer to their personalities and interests.
Micah, in loving nature, can watch a documentary about a specific animal. He then can write me a summary of what that animal is like. We can then find an activity on science about that animal. I can teach him how to spell better using words from this interest he has, he can draw or paint a picture of the animal, and the line goes on and on with possibilities. We can learn about the culture in the area where that animal lives. Do you see the cool stuff that will expand his learning just based on one thing he liked learning about? Schools tell you, “You’re learning this no matter how hard it is for you or not; whether you like it or not.”
I don’t believe in homework. I don’t give homework. I think children should be playing more and learning from life. Children are in school for many hours a day working their minds like crazy. They need time to rest and time to play. I think schools don’t let kids be kids and push them into adulthood too quickly. They force college preparation on them so fast that by the time they are in college they have little “play time” memories to dwell on. Hard work is important, but I only teach for four hours a day and give them Wednesdays off to do things they want to (plus reading, which is required). I don’t believe children should receive too much stress and pressure while they still have their minds developing. My children are smart. They give themselves homework when they don’t finish things in time and tell me, “I’ll do this later.” I say, “Okay, but don’t forget that you have to finish it by tonight.” I try to convince them to get it done early on so they don’t have to do it later on.
Too many activities on top of homework is just too much for kids who attend school outside of the home. Seriously! When my sons danced ballet there were moms huffing and puffing about how they just picked up their daughters from school and that after their hour or two of dance that night, they had a bunch of homework they’d have to work on. It is too much on these little ones! We were relaxed going to their dance classes because they had already been out of school for a few hours.
I don’t believe in patriotic pushes. I am training up future missionaries, be it in their future work places or international gospel teaching missionaries. I train them to treat all people as equal no matter where they are from or what they believe in. The school systems I attended seem to teach an American doctrine of being the best at all things, and I don’t believe the US is best at everything.
When it comes to watching the Olympics, which I adore doing, I cheer for all counties and find favorite athletes from other countries. When I teach about history, I don’t do it based primarily on “our side” but on both sides of the spectrum. History books in the US school systems teach an American perspective only. If I am going to teach my sons to “Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength” and to “Love your neighbors as yourself” then I can’t send them off to grammar school where their books teach them, “It was good we bombed them because things were going on there that were bad.” When those books forget to show that there were hidden agendas at times, atrocities we ourselves did either in retaliation or out of racism, etc. . .I just can’t allow them to be taught such one-sided things.
I don’t believe in pledging allegiance to a nation when my heart is for people in all places. All I learned in history classes were about WW2 (bits and pieces – yet we learned about it every single year, pretty much the same bits and pieces each time), Greek Mythology (about three years of this), Roman gifts to society (oh but not about the oppression they showed), Egyptian history set around Moses’ times (and a few of their rulers), Feudalism, the American Revolutionary War (2 years of this), Columbus (and how “amazing” history says he is) and a few other explorers briefly (Amerigo Vespucci, Cartier, Drake, Lewis & Clark, and Magellan), the Civil War (for about a month only), Martin Luther’s 99 thesis (and basically how “perfect” he was according to the Dutch Reformed school I went to), Martin Luther King Jr. (in 2nd grade, only for two weeks), and 2 weeks on the Vietnam War (and how “necessary” it was). We never learned about actual cultures except the Japanese tea party we had in 2nd grade (when I fell in love with sushi, chopsticks, and Meiji Hello Panda Chocolate). I teach my sons about cultures and histories that I was not taught. Leto, who is in 4th grade history, can tell me history on China, Russia, Italy, the Netherlands, Palestine, and Mexico, that I never knew about until now.
I see a lot of pros and cons to homeschooling just as I see pros and cons with public and Christian schooling. I only plan on homeschooling through the middle school years. I am preparing them now for public high school. I know countless homeschool graduates and those who are currently being homeschooled. A lot of people have these ideas that kids who are homeschooled lack social abilities, but I can let you know that I meet more sociable homeschoolers than I do of students from within the typical school system. NJ is a busy place with a lot of things to do and many people everywhere, so I am basing this on my own demographics.
This post was really long and I am amazed if you got through all of that. If you skipped a few paragraphs and skimmed it, I understand. Perhaps I should have cut it up a bit. This has been in draft form for over a month, so I felt it was time to just get it done with! Thanks for reading it!