Friday, August 31, 2007

About "Homeschooling Information You Don't Hear About"

A recent entry posted on "Flixya" was called "Homeschooling Information You Don't Hear About." As might be expected, the author assumed that the only information people hear about homeschooling is positive - quite a strange assumption considering how much criticism is levelled at homeschooling. Nevertheless, I did find the "information" mentioned interesting and, compared to many negative articles about homeschooling, relatively fair. Here are some of the most significant points, along with my thoughts about each.
The previous information about home schooling is what is so often published to try to sway you to home school your children, but are they being up front and honest, telling you everything that you need to know? Of course, many of you already know that the answer to that question is no. You need to be aware of the bad things that come along with home schooling, so that you can make the best decision for both you and your child.

While I can't argue that it's best to make an informed decision, considering both positives and negatives, I'm not convinced that those who support homeschooling are failing to be "up front and honest" or are not "telling you everything that you need to know." In most cases, parents considering homeschooling seem to be well aware of the downside of homeschooling, particularly the issues mentioned by the author. Still, let's give this person the benefit of the doubt.
You need to remember that your child’s academic success or failure will weigh solely on your shoulders, so if you slip, if you don’t assign homework, or if you don’t make him do his homework, or settle down long enough to learn, then you are to blame. You have to be certain that your child stays on the same academic level as his peers, and if he isn’t do whatever it takes to get and keep him there.


This is a very significant point. However, the assumption here is that it's difficult to "be certain that your child stays on the same academic level as his peers." In truth, there are few homeschoolers who don't accomplish at least that much. In many cases simply turning off the TV and video games and allowing the child to explore his or her world will allow that child to stay at the public school's academic level. Adding an hour or so of reading aloud to the child and some time interacting over grocery shopping or baking can provide what most children need in terms of math, science, and history during the first 4 to 6 years of their education. CAN you do more? Of course! Do you NEED to do more to keep your child up with their peers? Probably not.


On the other hand, homeschooling does require that parents make deliberate choices about whether kids need to "keep up with" their peers or not. It also does require that parents do whatever it takes to get the child to the parents' own minimum expectations. For us, that means I insist on reading and math, no matter how my children protest. Other families may establish other minimum goals, but the accomplishment of those goals obviously lies entirely on the determination of the parent and the student.
One of the good and possibly bad parts of home schooling is that you get to spend almost all of your time together with your children. This is good in that you develop a closer relationship, and you know what is going on, without having to rely on someone else to nurture and teach your child. The bad part of this is that when your child is having a bad day, or you are having a bad day, you can’t take him to school, go somewhere and relax, and then pick him up later. You have to deal with the tantrums and bad behavior all on your own, so you need to make sure that you have enough patience to do so.


This is one of the biggest things that keeps parents from choosing to homeschool. "Oh, I don't have the patience for that," is what I hear from so many, as if I, the homeschooling mother, had some sort of supernatural patience. In truth, it takes no more patience to homeschool than it does to live with a preschooler. Sure, there are many difficult moments; there are also many highly rewarding moments that help make it worth the cost. See my post on "Homeschooling Secrets" for more on the incredible rewards and benefits of homeschooling.


You also need to remember that teaching your child will become your full time job. Your husband will become the sole source of your family’s income, and you will have to learn how to cut corners to stretch your budget as far as possible. If you can’t live on that budget, or if it will cause undue stress and strain on your marriage, then home schooling may not be the best route to take at this time.

This is not entirely true. Homeschooling does not take up every spare minute of a parent's time. Yes, you may have to give up a full-time job in order to homeschool. But there are many hidden sources of savings in homeschooling, including the lower cost of clothing (both for Mom and for kids), significantly lower meal costs (since you eat out less and use fewer convenience foods), and generally lower transportation costs. Often parents are surprised to discover how much less it costs to live when one parent is home much of the time. In addition, there are many homeschooling parents who work at least part time. I work two part-time jobs (a total of about 15 hours/week) and bring in about $700/month to our home, almost entirely tax-free. And many of my friends work when Dad is home; some even work full-time and arrange homeschooling around that. The budget issue need not be a "deal-breaker" for homeschooling.
You can’t be a pushover for your child; you have to make him do his lessons and his homework, no matter how much he tries to convince you otherwise. No one loves your child like his parents, but you have to be strong enough to make him do the things that are best for him, even if he doesn’t realize it at the time.

Here I can't argue. Unless you're going to "unschool" and let your child run his or her own day, there are going to be times you will have to make your child do what is best for him or her. To me, that is well rewarded by the incredible joy of seeing my children learning, growing, and prospering, and knowing I've been a part of that.

Never underestimate the pride and the thrill you will experience when your child turns to you and says, "I did it! I read the whole book!," or when you hear someone else compliment you on how gentle your pre-teen is with younger children. Those rewards make all the difficulties worth it. And I think THAT'S the homeschooling information you don't hear about!

5 comments:

Kimmer said...

A LOT of this could apply to ALL parents, not just homeschooling parents.

My child's academic success or failure rests on my shoulders. Even if my child were in public school, I'd feel that way. I'd have teachers to help me along the way and do most of the daily work/planning, but as it is, I have people who help out already. We just joined a co-op, and my parents & in-laws help with lessons when I work during the day. In the end, though, my husband and I are the ones who are responsible for our kids.

As for keeping up with their school peers, I really hope that that is the least I can do.

As for the money, yes, I am bringing in a lot less money these days, and sometimes, that can be stressful. But I don't have to deal with the stress of fundraisers, "the right clothes," and other expenses that school kids seem more likely to incur. I do still work, but my schedule has to be more flexible.

"You can’t be a pushover for your child." And if I send my kids to public school, I can let them run all over me? Obviously, I have more disciplining to do over the course of the day, but it's just an extension of the rest of our lives.

Interesting that they don't bring up the classic "socialization" argument. One of the things that has concerned me is that my kids get less group work, which can be valuable.

I think this article makes some good points, but it has an obvious bias.

Marcy Muser said...

Kimmer,

That's a really good point! The challenges of homeschooling are pretty much the same as the challenges of parenting. The major difference is that homeschooling parents don't hand off their responsibility to someone else during the day.

I agree - it was nice to read an article that DOESN'T bring up socialization. I personally think that less socialization is better for kids. Children are not usually the best people to teach others how to socialize; most people learn adult socialization skills from adults, not from kids. Socialization with other kids, without significant adult guidance, tends to teach kids such desirable skills as bad language, rudeness, selfishness, bullying, low self-esteem, and so on.

As for group work, I do think some interaction in group settings is helpful. You'll probably find the co-op you've joined to be a positive thing in that regard. My kids have been involved in a one-day-a-week enrichment program for 5 years; they look forward to it, they get to do some group work, and I find it provides many opportunities to discuss and practice socialization skills. The difference with this approach is: 1)it doesn't affect their academics, and 2) it's only once a week, so most of their socialization learning is from the dad and me.

Thanks for the insight!

Melinda S. said...

Kimmer, I was thinking of exactly the same things--even if you can send your kids to school for awhile and get a break, you still have to make sure to follow through on disciplinary issues, etc. The big difference I see is that with public school, you think you can let it slip a little (but your kids really know). With homeschooling, you know it's up to you.

Marcy Muser said...

Melinda,

You are so right about "letting it slip." Of course we as homeschooling parents also sometimes think we can let it slip, but I think the problems become obvious a lot faster when you're homeschooling. A problem that might take weeks to get bad enough to handle for a parent whose kids go to school can become serious to a homeschooling parent within a few days or a week.

I appreciate your comment!

Shawna said...

**One of the good and possibly bad parts of home schooling is that you get to spend almost all of your time together with your children. This is good in that you develop a closer relationship, and you know what is going on, without having to rely on someone else to nurture and teach your child. The bad part of this is that when your child is having a bad day, or you are having a bad day, you can’t take him to school, go somewhere and relax, and then pick him up later. You have to deal with the tantrums and bad behavior all on your own, so you need to make sure that you have enough patience to do so.


This is one of the biggest things that keeps parents from choosing to homeschool. "Oh, I don't have the patience for that," is what I hear from so many, as if I, the homeschooling mother, had some sort of supernatural patience. In truth, it takes no more patience to homeschool than it does to live with a preschooler.**

This hit home for me as a new homeschooler. I am enjoying building a stronger relationship with my child and yes, I do mis those moments when I could send him off and not deal with his moods or fits or attitudes when he was having them...but we are working through that and it brings us closer.

But I do have to say that it is does take more patience to be home all day with a school aged child than a preschooler...at least my school aged child v my 6 other children as preschoolers :-)