Seven Things Homeschoolers Won’t Tell You
Education and the changing landscape of the public school system have been in the spotlight lately. Many of the changes are controversial. You can’t say the word “Common Core” without mutual cringing from both supporters and detractors.
Among the changes to core curriculum and standardized testing is talk of longer school hours and more restrictions. Kids go to school under mounting pressure. Social situations are tense. Security is tight. Zero tolerance has extended from a mantra for criminal offenders to include an eight year old who says the wrong word or brings the wrong toy to school.
For most parents there is a feeling of helplessness surrounding their circumstances. After all, kids have to go to school, right? It’s just one of those things we have to accept.
Other parents are taking a deep breath and stepping out of the world of public school and into the world of homeschooling.
Homeschooling: The Growing Trend
Homeschooling in the United States is a growing trend. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2007 there were at least 1.5 million homeschooling families. While some homeschooled for religious reasons, there was also an increasing number of families who homeschool because of concern for the negative school environment or concern over the academic curriculum.
But just like anything that is different, there are always the naysayers and the ones that shake their heads, citing anecdotal and individual issues as a widespread reason why homeschooling is not a good thing.
But statistics prove otherwise as homeschooling students are consistently testing at or above expected academic levels.
Homeschooling: State and Federal Laws
In the United States, homeschooling is legal in every state and is gaining an increasing number of families. State laws differ. Organizations such as Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) contain links to individual state laws and requirements. They vary from stringent to relaxed.
Despite the legality and the proof that homeschoolers do better there are still common misconceptions and beliefs about homeschool families.
Seven Things Your Average Homeschooling Family Won’t Tell You
1. “Homeschool” does not mean we school at home.
One of the common misconceptions about homeschooling is that we try to replicate school at home. Most of us do not nor do we feel a need to. When you factor in the amount of time it takes to assemble a classroom of kids. Give instructions. Pass out worksheets. Take care of questions and behavioral issues-- the actual in-classroom time of learning is many hours less than the average hours of attendance.
Many homeschoolers, though, choose not to use the “you must learn this thing in this certain way method.”
Homeschool families can adapt to the learning style of each kid. Does your kid think better when they are moving rather than glued to a chair? Make an active game of the lesson, putting the answers on the floor and having your kid jump to the right one. Or go for a walk as you talk about your Biology lesson.
If they are a visual learner you can add a video supplement to the text of the textbook or read it out loud if they do better with auditory learning.
These accommodations, while they can exist in the public school classroom, are not likely to exist in the depth or extent of each individual child’s need.
We also seek out active learning. We go to the museum and talk to the curator or the zoo and talk to the zookeeper. We attend history re-enactments and go behind the scenes at the candy shop. We immerse ourselves in our community and we learn in the process.
While there are some great public school field trips that attempt to do the same, homeschoolers typically do these activities in a smaller group or as individuals, allowing for more in-depth time and attention that just can’t exist for larger groups.
2. We get it done faster than you.
Homeschoolers can do the same amount of work as a public schooler quickly and more efficiently. Part of it has to do with sheer volume since it is likely that a homeschooling family is working with a much smaller group of students than a public school classroom.
We can work quickly. We can move ahead on concepts that are mastered. We can linger over ones that are problematic. At the end of the day we can pace it to meet our kids’ needs and still have extra time for recess and other extracurricular activities.
3. Many of us aren’t particularly religious.
And many of us who are religious are not homeschooling for those reasons nor do we make it the focal point of our lessons. While we can’t underestimate the trailblazing that the early religious homeschoolers made for the growing population of homeschoolers today, current U.S. homeschoolers are an increasingly diverse population that are no longer citing religion as their most prominent reason for homeschooling.
Many that aren’t in the homeschooling community have trouble letting go of the image of conservative homeschoolers and ultra-religious fanatics. And the news-cycle loves to find examples of those families who have very strict, last century lives and religious ideals.
But the truth is that most homeschoolers are just average people. You may be in line with them at the grocery store and not even know they are homeschoolers (unless their kids are with them and it’s 11 AM on a Tuesday).
4. Our kids are more creative than yours.
Okay. Not really. That was just to get your attention. There are plenty of public school kids who are awesomely creative and interesting. But here’s the problem. Many don’t have the time to devote to their pursuits the way homeschoolers do. Because we can get academics done more quickly and make learning more personalized, our kids have time to pursue other interests and more time to devote to those.
Many homeschoolers have talents in arts or music. Others find a propensity for electronics and science and voluntarily spend hours learning and working with experiments. Others are talented bakers or dancers or volunteer at the animal shelter.
The point is they just have the time that today’s high stakes testing, hours of homework, every minute scheduled student does not have.
Sir Ken Robinson's Thoughts on Schools and Creativity
5. We've heard the whole socialization thing, and it's dead wrong.
If you get an eye roll when you ask a homeschooling family “What about socialization?” then you’ll have to forgive us. We might have heard this a time or two---or a hundred. While it’s the most common concern among non-homeschoolers, it is probably the most laughable of the reasons people cite for not homeschooling.
While we might do some school work at home, most of us spend at least several days a week out of the house with---shock----other people.
We do sports lessons, music lessons, co-op classes, field trips and community service projects. Some of these are done during the hours other kids are in school. Others are done right alongside public school students.
The truth is that we are out and about in the community. Our kids talk to other kids. They talk to other adults. They interact at or above the level of most other public schooled kids.
Some people then correct what they’ve said and actually mean “what about being in a classroom all day with the same age peers, sitting at a desk and being told to keep quiet.”
Yeah, well that’s not really very social, is it? And oddly enough, our kids seem to do just fine with sitting in a classroom or standing in line or being quiet when the need arises. These don’t tend to be skills that take 13 years to acquire.
6. We have bad days, too.
It’s not all rosy and Norman Rockwell at our house. We have bad days too. We get on each other’s nerves. The kids are hyper or in a bad mood. Or the parents are in a bad mood. Or both. Sometimes nothing is working. The concept doesn’t make sense. There are too many distractions. Or not enough.
We are not perfect parents who don’t understand how anyone could not want to be with their kids 24/7. We get it. Kids can be tough. Parenting can be tough. We all need a break.
But unlike a public school teacher who must keep pushing on despite the bad day, we have the flexibility to say “you know what? Let’s stop this for now or for the day.”
We can take a break. Go to the park. Go to lunch. Go to the zoo. Because we can come back to that this evening, or tomorrow, or the weekend. There is no rule that says we must school from 8-3. We can school from 7AM to 10 AM or from 8 PM to 12 AM.
We can take turns with other homeschooling families. “You take my kids to the park while I take a break and I’ll do the same for you next week.”
Flexibility can make the bad days be a little less bad.
7. Yes you could do it, but you’re making excuses.
Another common phrase we hear from non-homeschooling families is “Oh I could never do that.”
Well, yes, you could. I’m going to call you on that one.
Despite the idea that one parent must stay home and one parent work (or even that fact that it must be a two parent household), many parents find a way to adapt their schedules to both work and homeschool.
Some of the ways this can happen is to stagger schedules, work from home or elicit help from other homeschooling families or extended families.
With some creativity, many families work and homeschool. Since the actual schooling part doesn’t necessarily happen during regular public school hours, creativity and flex scheduling can allow many different types of families to still enjoy the benefits of homeschooling.
What I’ve learned is that usually when someone says “I could never do that” what they are really saying is “I don’t want to do that.”
And that’s okay. While many of us enjoy and see real benefits to homeschooling, most homeschoolers do not particularly care or feel the need to ask you to change your decision to public school. The reverse isn’t always true as homeschoolers and homeschooling kids are often grilled by strangers who believe the clichés and myths but know little to nothing about the particular family they are feeling the need to question.
We get it.
We get that it still isn’t the norm for most families and that it feels threatening to some people who think we are crusading to end public education as we know it.
The truth is that we have the same goals that every other parent has. We want what is best for our kids and we are working just as hard as every other parent to find and implement that. We really don’t have time or feel the particular need to tell you how to parent.
We only ask the same courtesy.
Sir Ken Robinson Notes How To Make All Types of Education Better
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