Our family has been homeschooling for eight years now. Those of you that do not homeschool have probably picked up two interesting facts in just the first sentence. One, you are wondering why I say our family homeschools. No one says their family goes to public school. They say their kids go to public school. This is where homeschooling is different. Homeschooling is not just the mode of education that you have chosen for your children; it is a way of life. Homeschooling permeates all aspects of life. Homeschooling is a way of looking at the world with curiosity and wonder. It means to fully involve your children in learning. This includes not just typical subjects like reading, writing, and math but using these methods to explore other family activities like grocery shopping, travel, and fixing the sink etc. It means not just focusing on the solutions to problems, but being curious enough to think the problems up in the first place. It is ok to not actually find the answer, but to have a very interesting time looking for it.
The other interesting fact that you will notice in that first sentence is that homeschooling is one word. I have found it interesting that most people in the homeschooling community use homeschooling as one word but those outside the community separate home and school into two words. I think that this relates directly to the perception of what homeschooling is. Non-homeschoolers perceive that home school means schooling at home, thus they just modify school with home. Homeschoolers know that homeschooling is truly a completely different entity and therefore created a whole new word to describe it.
Interestingly, our homeschooling adventure began with the decision to homeschool for just one year. As noted, eight years later, we are still doing it. Choosing to homeschool for some people is a foregone conclusion, but for most, it is a difficult decision. Families don’t just homeschool for religious reasons anymore; they homeschool for a variety of reasons and often for more than one (http://www.nheri.org/Research-Facts-on-Homeschooling.html). This change from a “God directed choice” to more varied reasons leaves some parents with a fear that choosing to homeschool may not be the right choice. Sometimes parents can see that the public school is not adequately meeting their child’s needs, but this does not mean that they are confident that they can do any better. In fact, society, family members, and the teacher’s certification process tell them they can’t. Most homeschooling parents choose to homeschool with a bit of fear of what tomorrow may bring (even if they speak very confidently about their choice). Many families, like us years ago, believe that they can choose to homeschool and then if things don’t go well, they can just return to the public school setting. Although this may be allowable, it may not be completely true or easy. Unfortunately, the more child-centered and the less structured your homeschooling style, the farther you may drift from the prescribed school curriculum and therefore the more difficult it may be for your son or daughter to reintegrate into the public school setting. If returning your children to public school is on your agenda (as it is for many parents – episodic homeshooling has definitely shown itself as an emerging sector), then I would highly suggest that you get a hold of your district’s curriculum plan and use it as a frame work for your homeschooling plan (you can usually find it on the district’s website, at your public library, or through your superintendent of schools). While over the course of many years of homeschooling a family will most likely cover the same basics as taught in the public school (if not more), the topics may not come in the same order as at your public school. When considering homeschooling for a short time it is unlikely that the same material will be covered and while it is not necessary to know exactly the same thing, it is helpful to be on the same track. When they return to school it will be this information which they are expected to know and this information which the district will build off of. To see an example of this, talk to someone who moved from a school district in one state to one in another. The children who may have done well in the old school often flounder at first because they don’t know the specific topics being covered or may not solve problems quite the way they do in the new school. If you do not intend to return to school again, your mode of schooling is only limited by your imagination. And if, like us, a short stint in homeschooling turns into eight, ten, or twelve years then you can and most likely will find that how you began homeschooling is not how you end.
Homeschooling is very organic in nature. It grows, changes, extends, dies off, rebirths. While certainly there are many styles of homeschooling that people may label themselves with: unschooling, Charlotte Mason, classical, Waldorf, etc, many homeschoolers find that they mix and match styles and / or that how they use one style may alter from year to year or from child to child. The beautiful thing about homeschooling is that such changes are allowed and easily integrated. No committee needs to be formed. No votes need to be taken. Problems can be recognized and changes undertaken immediately.
I do actually agree that there is a place for public schooling and that homeschooling is not for everyone, but I think it is accessible and reasonable to far more families than currently do it. Homeschooling, which as I said was once a one year choice for our family, has been an unforgettable journey together; one which I will be sad when it comes to an end for us. I encourage each of you to consider trying to homeschool your children, if you are fearful to commit long term then consider it just for a year. You will be amazed at the results and at the experience.
Participation in Education: Elementary / Secondary – Indicator 6 (2009) – National Center for Research Statistics – http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2009/section1/indicator06.asp
Research Facts on Homeschooling by Brain T. Ray, PhD (August 10, 2009) – http://www.nheri.org/Research-Facts-on-Homeschooling.html