Thursday, March 31, 2005

Talking about homeschooling

Having made the decision to homeschool (although I'd rather refer to it as letting my kids pursue independent learning, or something like that), I am now beginning to talk about it with other people who are not homeschoolers. I had mentioned to my mother-in-law that we might homeschool, and then the other day I told her our plans. She clearly pictures us sitting down for a few hours a day and doing lessons. I don't! And she is concerned about them "learning what they need to know" -- in other words, what the school teaches in each grade. At church playgroup today it came up too. The other mothers there are fairly supportive, but also share the view that schools teach what kids need to know, and that especially at the high school level, school, or at least teaching, are definitely needed.

I don't share that view. One of the main reasons for homeschooling is to let my kids see the world and find their own place in it. I think school fails miserably at that. I was good at school, and so I went to graduate school. I didn't learn much in 18 years of "education" that made me good at life -- I feel like I'm just getting the hang of that now, at almost 38. I feel like I finally have a feeling what I'd like to do when I grow up. My husband is currently trying to figure out how to alter his career trajectory -- he wants to combine his job with his hobby and make money doing it. I would like my kids to be able to figure out what they like and be able to pursue it, so that maybe they can know how they want to shape their life before they hit their mid-30's. Maybe I can't do it, but I can't believe I'll do a worse job of guiding them towards a vocation than the schools do. People do not all need to know the same things, and the life of a school-age kid should allow time to pursue special interests independently. That's crucial, I think, to finding a fulfilling career.

Of course, my oldest is five, and I don't imagine he'll be finding a career anytime soon. But I do see him figuring out what he needs to learn, and then figuring out how to learn it. He's working on addition, and he makes up games that require addition. He's working on writing, so he writes signs and notes. The other day completely of his own volition, he labled lots of household items (I walked over the "stairs," and "rug" labels for a few days!). I have great hopes for the unschooling approach. I hope I can keep from triggering his reflexive "no" with my suggestions!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Starting to live with the decision

We didn't go to kindergarten registration today, and I mentioned to Parker that we will be homeschooling. Now I'm starting to settle in to the decision. I need to feel firm about it, because if Parker feels me waver, he'll push and push. I feel almost hungover today -- my temper has been too close to the surface, and I feel tired like I do after a bad headache. I feel like I'm grieving a bit. I would like to remember this indecision, because as I become more sure of my decision, I may become less tolerant of the other choices people make.

I have had some good suggestions about one-line answers when people ask why we homeschool, my favorite is "I like the flexibility."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How to school, that is the question

I'm really struggling with whether or not to homeschool. In fact, I got out of bed to write because I'm worrying about it so much. Tomorrow is kindergarten registration, and I'm skipping it. I feel anxious about it, which is almost certainly about me, and not about my son. I hate the way school wastes so much of kids time, I hate the rules, the authority. I'm worried that I'm making the decision based on my feelings, not his. I didn't realize I felt so negatively about school, but all I can think of is getting into power struggles with the school. Before I gave birth, I imagined getting in a power struggle with the hospital. I avoided that by having birth center and home births. I don't regret that choice, maybe that's a clue for me. I don't even know that much about our public school – I'm not sure what I would have to do to find out more about the kindergarten program. Also part of the equation – I've run into people who have their children in public school and almost wish they were homeschooling. The people I know who homeschooled and then put their kids into school have usually had lifestyle reasons, not educational reasons for doing so.

My husband is on board, but sometimes I worry that he’s not on the same boat. He pictures me in front of a blackboard every day, and I don’t! But I think we’ll be able to work that out.

So here are some pros and cons of homeschooling:


  • Preserve the sibling relationships – My kids play together a lot, and school would take them away from each other and create the idea that kids should mainly play with other kids their own age. I already see that in my oldest, although I can’t be sure that it’s because of preschool.
  • Help them figure out what they want to do in life – this is a big one. My husband is just figuring out what he wants to do “when he grows up.” I would like to give my kids the tools to figure this out before they have a family to support – it’s difficult to make a change then. I’m not sure that it was school that prevented us from finding our path, but I don’t think that school helps, because it expects everyone to be good at the same set of skills and know the same set of knowledge. In the end, people do different things, and need different knowledge and skills.
  • Less wasted time, more time for things they love – school wastes a lot of time. You have to wait for the teacher, for other kids, for the “right” time to think about math, or writing, or history.
  • Time flexibility, not constrained by daily and yearly school schedule
  • Family first – again, sibling relationships, not constrained by school schedule, able to take day trips and longer trips on our own schedule and not fight the school break hordes.
  • Scheduled time to engage with each child – I don’t always engage positively with my five-year old, and my hope is that by homeschooling I will be sure to do so everyday.
  • Avoid conflict with school district (?) – I’m not positive about this one. I’m not sure what kind of relationship we’ll need with them to homeschool.


  • He doesn’t get attached to a class of kids – this is one of my biggest cons. However, I can work around it by finding other groups – our homeschooling group, for instance. Also, we can meet kids from in town by playing soccer or another sport.
  • He may not learn the same set of information as other kids.
  • Possible mommy burnout – this is my husband’s biggest worry.
  • Less time to myself – this is probably a given, although as kids get older I can have more time to myself. I can also arrange to exchange kids with other parents (playdates).
  • Other adults to learn from – I will be sure to make this part of my to do list.

I still hope to persuade Parker. The beginning of school is still over five months away, and I’m hoping to use that time to get more involved with our homeschool group so that he identifies more with it. Right now he identifies with his preschool friends, all of whom are going to kindergarten (as far as I know). I feel like I’m making a life or death decision for him, and I don’t feel qualified!

I'm still looking for a quick answer to "why are you homeschooling" that doesn't put down anyone's choice of traditional schooling. I've had enough trouble deciding what I want, I have no need to put down anyone else's decision.

I don’t feel like I’m writing well, and may add to this list as time goes on. I want it to read when I wonder why I’m homeschooling!