Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Homeschool?

Why homeschool? A question that I pondered for years. As a formally trained educator, I was ‘taught’ how to teach children. The various philosophies of different psychologist and educators on how to deliver content to students were crammed into my brain. The real world classroom was much different than that in the college classes we were prepared to teach. As technology has progressed, teaching changed. Students no longer cared to learn the basics when they could ‘google’ the answers. To the modern day student, the need to learn is not relevant. They can just do an internet search to find the answer and write it down. They don’t see a need to truly learn the why of a subject. It is sad to have to teach basic math skills to fourteen year olds in order to complete the basic mathematics of physical science problems. Students that cannot add single digit numbers in their head and rely on calculators for everything is a sad state of education! How did they make it to ninth grade?

As I trudged through the years of trying to teach students how to solve problems, think for themselves, and learn the content I presented, I became a mother to a precious baby girl. How I wished to stay home and take care of her. I wanted to homeschool, but at that point in our lives it wasn’t feasible. My husband is self-employed and trying to grow his business. My job provided the insurance coverage we needed. Everything changed however, as I saw my own daughter enter the public school system. Although she was in a very good elementary school, I noticed that everything was geared to testing. They took standardized tests in the fall, winter and spring! Luckily, she is a very smart little girl and learning comes easily. However, she is a perfectionist and the testing was reeking havoc on her emotionally. Many tears and stomach aches on testing days. Why should any six, seven, or eight year-old have to endure these pressures? Homework that equated to busy work had to be done to prepare for the endless tests. I had had enough of her homework. What were they doing all day in the classroom? My own students didn’t have that much homework in my course. Most of them wouldn’t do it anyhow. So with my younger son getting ready to enter kindergarten, I decided the time had come to take charge of my own children’s education. Losing an income and insurance was scary, but my children are worth it. My husband’s business has grown to cover my leaving the workforce and insurance and the new adventure began.
It is funny that when my colleagues found out I was leaving the teaching field to homeschool my children, they didn’t know what to say. As educators, we had been led to believe only we can teach children. Homeschool children were inferior to children in our schools. They weren’t socialized and couldn’t possibly do well in the real world. Massive lesson plans must be created.  State and National standards adhered. Test should be conducted. Some told me that at least I would know how to teach my children, since I was a teacher. Others confessed that they could never teach their own kids.
I planned and scheduled for our first days, weeks and months. I was a trained professional. I was treating my homeschool like a regular school. We sat down at the kitchen table and began. Let me tell you fourth grade and kindergarten is not the same as ninth and tenth grade! My son does things his way or the highway. He hates being wrong and does not use writing utensils to write. My daughter would be in tears from the amount of work I gave her. I didn’t think it was that much. What was I doing? My plans for fun learning experiences and explorations were being met with resistance. This was going to be harder than I expected.
I had to stop and think. What did I really want my children to learn? To hate education? No! I wanted them to embrace learning. What should I do? They must learn the three R’s. The state mandates they learn science and history on top of that. So I stepped back and reevaluated what is truly important.  Who came up with the idea that every fourth grader or kindergartener had to learn x, y, and z.  Why should it matter what we learn and when?  Many of our founing fathers were not formally educated and look at the caliber of men they were.  Not every child is going to become a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, teacher, etc.  I know that when children learn about things they are interested in, they tend to branch out even further into the learning experience.  I never thought I would consider the world of unschooling. But parts of unschooling intrigued me. It wasn’t as structured. We could go with the flow. So I decided to adapt to what my children needed. We don’t unschool. I provide a bit of structure and guidance to what we are to learn. We are eclectic in our schooling and this seems to be working.
Reading and history are conquered at the same time. Historical fiction novels for my daughter knock out two subjects in one. Books on science and our monthly visit to library class with Mr. Jack explore science topics. We have some weeks that are devoted to science fun! Luckily my daughter likes her workbooks for grammar, spelling, and math. She also has a grammar class with Ms. Terri at the library. My son does computer based work and the occasional workbook page. The writing utensil has slowly started to become just that! No longer a car, gun, or projectile at least most days. He even finished kindergarten early and proudly calls himself a first grader. We are happy in the learning process. Field trips and excursions add to our learning environment. I believe I am learning just as much as they are!
Is there a right or wrong way to homeschool? No! Each family is different and must find their own path. Would I put my children back in the hands of the public schools? No! Even on the most trying days, I believe their education is far better than that is the public schools. How wonderful it is to hear them reenact historical events in their play. The Oregon Trail is every little boy’s idea of fun. My daughter is finally reading for enjoyment. We have stumbled upon the BoxCar Children mysteries and she is devouring them! My son is in love with addition facts. He counts and adds everything! Sometimes I have to tell him to stop adding. Who would have thought.
I wouldn’t trade the ups and downs of being a Homeschool Momma for anything!