Can You Homeschool?
by Dorothy Gill
You have no clue what it’s all about, or what a real homeschooling family actually looks like, but you’re pretty sure that they’re a strange breed of survivalist apocalypse- types who live off the grid behind their ‘No Trespassing’ signs.
After all, what else could possibly possess a family to say “no, thank you” to a free education provided just down the street, and instead take on the full-time responsibility of teaching their own kids — if it wasn’t for their paranoid anti-social tendencies?
You might be surprised to learn that the most frequently-cited priority of families who take this road less traveled is the happiness of their children. I’m betting that you can relate to that one, so here’s a look at the top three myths about the whole homeschooling phenomenon.
MYTH #1: What about socialization?
If you are asking this question, then you have probably not met many homeschooled kids. Or you have met them but did not realize it, because you were looking in vain for those rumored telltale socially-awkward clues.
As it happens, kids who do not spend the majority of their waking hours in the exclusive company of their peers end up being perfectly comfortable relating to and spending time with people of all ages. (This is similar to what they will encounter in the real working world, after all, so you can rest assured that your kids will be well-prepared to take their place in adult society.)
If in fact you did notice anything unusual, it might be that you were surprised by the child’s polite, unaffected manner. Chances are you were greeted by name while being looked in the eye and offered a hand to shake — all from a smiling face that didn’t seem to hold you in any particular contempt for your adulthood.
Frequently, homeschooled kids’ self-confidence is not as vulnerable to pressure from their peers, and therefore they may well be more individual in expressing their style. This self-expression might manifest itself as anything from geek to fashionista, though chances are it will not mirror what you’d see on the local school grounds.
If you are asking this question, then you have probably not met many homeschooled kids.
You may also notice that homeschooled kids are generally happy. Even the teens. This is because being able to use their time more efficiently, having access to home-cooked nutrition three times a day, adjusting their study schedule to accommodate their sleep needs, and the absence of the daily social ostracism, cliques and bullying which are huge sources of stress in the life of ordinary teens actually ‘dials down’ the usual teenage surliness.
You may also have noticed that homeschooled kids are generally happy. Even the teens.
MYTH#2: Most people are not capable of homeschooling their children
If you’ve ever wondered if you have what it takes to homeschool, there’s only one question you have to ask yourself: “Got kids?” If you do, then you qualify.
In fact, the education of children in the home, by their parents, in the company of their differently aged siblings, is the most natural environment for learning.
There is no automatic barrier that materializes in the mind of a child at the age of 5 or 6 that renders void the parent’s heretofore competence in directing the child’s discovery of her universe. And there is no ingredient more important in the education of children than love. In this, a parent is more qualified than any credentialed stranger can ever be.
By virtue of your vocation as a parent, you are already endowed with everything you need to successfully homeschool your children.
MYTH#3: Homeschooling means re-creating ‘school’ at home
‘Home education’ is a much better description of this work than ‘homeschooling.’ This is because schools are where you load a room up with same-aged children sitting at desks and attempt to teach them all the same thing at the same time. This requires text books that are designed to facilitate 45 minute instruction segments, punctuated by a bell.
There is no need to replicate this dubious environment at home. With education (as opposed to ‘school’) as your goal, you have access to the world as your text book and the rhythm of family life as your school bell. And your local library, community center, the internet and the dozens of online curriculum providers will provide as much or as little assistance as you could possibly need. This approach accommodates any budget, and allows you to custom-tailor your approach to each child’s needs.
With education (as opposed to ‘school’) as your goal, you have access to the world as your text book and the rhythm of family life as your school bell.
So, have the courage of your convictions. Turn off the TV and video games, harness your kids’ creativity, direct their natural curiosity and let the learning begin.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dorothy Gill is the mother of four sons, ages 11 to 26 and she has been homeschooling since 1992. She is active in her parish and lives in Vancouver, Washington with her husband and three of her four sons.