Presently there is a lot of interest in homeschooling. Covid-19 has created challenges that the public school system was unprepared and is ill equipped to handle. So many kids especially special needs are falling through the cracks. This has led many families searching for alternatives for their family, including taking the leap to homeschool. During the initial crisis school period a lot of families like myself have learned public schooling is not all they thought it was, and kids are being exposed to ideology that goes against their own. Some families have even experienced content being forced on kids that is way above their maturity level and the schools demanding parents not listen to what is being said to their children. There were teachers instructing their students to not tell their parents what was being taught to them. I don't know about you, but I've taught my children from a young age that if someone is asking you to keep a secret from us the parents, that person is not a person they should trust. The horror stories I've heard from friends whose kids are zooming for public school have shocked me to my core. It makes me resolute in my decision to never send them back.
We are over halfway through our first year homeschooling and I've gotten the same questions repeatedly asked of me about what we do. Here are the top five questions I get asked and what I think all parents should know.
#1 We are homeschooling. We don't do SCHOOL at home.
In public school there is one teacher for on average 20+ kids. They stand in the front of the classroom and tell them what they are learning, how they will learn it and for how long they can learn about it. It is strictly regimented by a clock. Students are marched like inmates from place to place allowed to speak to no one and told when, where and how they will do everything.
I have a 7th grader and a 4th grader. One has special needs and the other doesn't. One is a Math wiz and the other is a History buff. They each have so many unique gifts and learn in different ways. There may be some days we only cover one subject because we didn't want to stop learning about it. We read books rather than textbooks, we can go as fast or as slow as we want and the most important thing for me is I'm not teaching to a test. I don't have to worry about my job or a raise being determined by how they performed on a test. I can teach to the whole child and let their interest and abilities lead the way. I can teach my kids in the way they learn best, which has reinstated a love of learning that had almost been drummed out of them by the public school.
#2 We can and often finish by lunchtime
Our school day starts at 8AM and we are usually done by 12:30. By done I mean all core and elective subjects have been completed for both kids and no "homework" left to do. While they do have to read for 20 minutes at some point it is usually saved for just before bed. There are rare occasions where we are doing a special project or one of the kids was just having a bad day and off task where we aren't completed but the allure of the sibling being done and off playing usually drives them to finish up quickly.
What parents have seemed to learn from the crisis schooling is the amount of busy work kids are given and the amount of time wasted in transition times in the public school setting. We don't have any of that in homeschool and every assignment we have, has purpose and intent and used to assist with mastery. When my child finishes a lesson they just move on. They don't need to sit around and waste time waiting on others to finish. We don't need to spend time waiting on others to get "quiet" enough so we can go to a special area. I am able to be far more efficient teaching my two kids vs working with 20-30.
Our learning is also not confined to a building or regular "school hours" Anywhere and everywhere is our classroom and no topics are off the table. Grade levels don't determine when we can learn a specific lesson. A simple question can start us on a history, science or reading project we never expected to do, but when inspiration knocks we have the freedom to answer the door.
#3 No Testing Required
Often those new to homeschooling worry about teaching the right material to keep their kids on "grade level standards" worrying themselves their kids are going to fall behind. Statistics, however show quite the opposite. In fact more often than not homeschooled children out preform their peers whom are in the public school setting. You can see the results of what your child knows at the dinner table, in conversations they have with family members or a simple question and answer game.
When we teach our kids new life skill we don't move on and expect them to walk before they crawl or run before they walk. We work with them and help them master each skill at their own pace and in their own way. The same should be true when it comes to academics and can be in the homeschool setting. With the lowered student to teacher ratio we can see where the child is offer support and supplements where needed and know with 100% certainty when they are ready to move on.
Some people do like to test to have for a comparison to their peers and to prepare them for later in life for college exams. Test taking skills are a good practice but not necessary for very young children.
#4 Grade Levels Are Arbitrary And Unnecessary
Grade levels were created to group similar age kids together to account for average ability. Thus making it easier to teach larger groups all at once. So what happens to the kids who are above average or even worse below average? What happens to them? Well in public school more advanced students are often bored or bogged down with busy work to keep them quiet, and the below average kids are tugged along behind the ship just trying to keep from drowning as they are thrown a life vest that seems to stay just out of reach.
We are not allowed to group kids by abilities anymore its considered discriminatory and unfair. So instead better performing children are held back and poorer performing kids are rushed forward. How is that fair to anyone? In my schooling career I have been at both ends of the spectrum. I have learning disabilities and before I learned how to study or tricks to help me, I remember feeling embarrassed when holding the class up, and feeling impatience when someone still didn't understand after it was taught for the tenth time.
In homeschooling I get to teach to the individual not the age or the grade. If my child is stronger in one subject we can really push forward and work as fast as they want. If they struggle we can slow down as much as we need until they understand. We can always catch up later
#5 We Socialize With Everyone.
Socialization is often the most asked about question of homeschooling families. Which I often find quite comical. If you've been in a public school ever, you know chances for socialization is kept to lunch time where kids have about 20 minutes sometimes less to stand in line to purchase their food, scarf their food and talk to their friends. Often kid are assigned seats away from their friends to further reduce the children talking to each other to make sure they eat. I was a homeroom mom and PTO board member, and I've seen the links the schools will go, to keep kids from talking to each other.
The social circle of a homeschool family is as diverse as your neighborhood and spans across many generations. While public school children are restricted to their own age peers. Homeschool kids have many opportunities to make friends with kids much younger than themselves all the way up to those kids whom are young at heart. Homeschool children have the opportunity to have a friendship circle unrivaled by their peers. They are not afraid to speak to or in front of adults because doing so is a normal occurrence. In public school the only adults in the building are all in charge and kids can only speak to them when called upon. The imbalance of power causes fear often in children when interacting with adults.
The social skill our children receive as homeschoolers has real long term effects with how they see the world. The ability to not be afraid to talk to anyone, and learning to be inclusive of everyone regardless of age. Being in age diverse settings is more realistic of how the world works. In your jobs, at church, and at events you will not be just with peers you will be surrounded in many different age groups. Having this skill helps them to become a more successful adult.
#6 It Makes Learning A Way Of Life
When you begin educating at home , you really can't help but to make it a new way of life for your family. Discussions from all of your school lessons will inevitably become part of the dinner conversation. When your children ask a question they didn't think about earlier, or they ask questions when they did research on their own after the school day is done. We study and focus on things my children are interested in, which leads to a lot of independent study. Simple things like a flower or a insect discovered on a walk can be counted as a science lesson. You will soon come to realize lessons can happen anytime and anything can become a learning moment. Your child is not limited by a school bell and a schedule. Nothing is off limit because of their age. Nothing has to be taught a certain way, at a certain time and at a specific pace because somewhere someone thought that is what was best.
One of the best parts of homeschooling has been learning alongside my children. There are so many things I've learned and ways to learn different subjects I wish had been available to me as a student. I'll let you in on the secret of all successful homeschoolers. Learning together as a family is the best and easiest way to instill a love of learning all of their lives. Find creative ways to learn the less fun materials. Make the most of every moment. Take this time to not only educate, but teach your children how to be a successful adult.