When I began homeschooling I looked at homeschooling as the last possible resort for my child to finally get a fulfilling education when all other options were exhausted. But my mindset was backwards. Homeschooling wasn’t simply a last resort. It was and is a rational and valuable first choice for education.
I’m a child of public education. But since the 1960’s-1970’s public education has changed considerably . The loss of freedom for both student and educator are painfully palpable. No Child Left Behind. Common Core. Testing. Overcrowding. Societal and economic challenges. In many schools recess and snack time have vanished. Art and music has likewise been cut from many schools’ funding. The era seems to be vanishing when kids could be kids and the normal variations in child development were understood. Kids are not short adults.
Teachers and students are unhappy with the way things are today.
13% of educators leave their school or the profession every year. 40-50% of teachers leave education in five years (at a larger disproportionate level in high-poverty schools). Continuity is gone. School violence rises. Kids ultimately suffer and pay the consequences. Private schools are not the answer for most people, as the costs for families can reach $30,000+ per year/per student. Nor are private schools necessarily a good fit for all learners.
I’m an advocate for strong curriculum standards. But as much as I desire strong standards, I don’t wish our children to be standardized. Nor do I feel classrooms should be standardized. Teachers each bring with them their own unique strengths that are frequently overshadowed in standardized classrooms.
I’ve homeschooled for over a decade due to my child not fitting the age-grouped core standards. Allowing my child to advance beyond age-level was not an option in my particular district, nor common in my home state. Alternatively, I’ve seen other beautiful children lose their innate love for learning trying their best without success to achieve required standards at an age when they were simply not ready. Oftentimes a change in environment is the better answer.
Children should not be made to feel wrong, to feel broken, in a system that does not suit them.
Homeschool = Not The Last Resort.
Homeschooling can allow the freedom to choose what to learn and when. Homeschooling empowers a student to own his/her educational path even from a early age. In today’s internet-linked society, the access for high level individualized instruction is a keystroke away. Support groups, online classes, field trips, local homeschool coops, and so much more. By choosing to embrace each child’s individual needs and desires, there may be as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers.
Families homeschool for many different reasons. Traditionally those reasons may have been primarily religious, but today religion comprises only one segment of the multi-faceted homeschool population. In fact, the proportion of families homeschooling for primarily religious reasons accounts for only 16% of the total group. Dissatisfaction with traditional academics accounts for a higher percentage. Caring for a child with a learning disability or mental and/or physical disabilities are three not uncommon reasons for homeschooling. Sports, the arts, and balancing a meaningful childhood experience with the increasing demands of today’s competitive environment are other reasons. Families also homeschool to escape bullying or school violence.
U.S. homeschoolers number almost two million strong (almost four percent of all students and nearly double the number since I began homeschooling), and their rate is said to be growing faster than the rate of students entering public schools. Documentaries on schools like Waiting For Superman, Race to Nowhere, and The Lottery add to the conversation.
Families may confront overwhelming difficulty in deciding what educational system fits best for their own children. Some teachers are even choosing to homeschool their own children.
U.S. children today are showing more frequent signs of stress, anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behaviors. One in five children are reported to have a diagnosable and treatable mental health issue. The use and sharing of stimulants such as Ritalin is at enormous unprecedented levels. Academic cheating is on the rise. School violence is outrageous. If homeschooling can focus on the child and preserve a child’s mental health and safety, then families who break from traditional school may be at the vanguard of a new and healthier age. Such an outcome benefits society. Many homeschool educators comment on how homeschooling has allowed their children to retain a love for learning that lasts a lifetime. And isn’t that the entire goal of education?
If any of you are considering homeschooling but are unable to decide, a few of the books I found useful as starting points include:
- The Homeschool Option: How To Decide When It’s Right For Your Family [Lisa Rivero]
- The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling [Rachel Gathercole]
- Making The Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child [Corin Barsily Goodwin/Mika Gustavson]
- Free To Learn [Peter Gray]
- Teach Your Own [John Holt/Pat Farenga]
- Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling [Celi Trépanier – coming out March 2015]
Whatever your path, remember that the destination alone isn’t the most important point. So be sure to enjoy the journey.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry