I was home schooled as a child from the very start until 10th grade. I had friends, I promise you. I was able to socialize with others on a normal level on a regular basis. My Mom didn’t make my clothes. I didn’t wear my hair in braids down to my butt. None of the women in our house wore jumpers. We didn’t live in a remote area out in the woods on a farm. We had a modest house in the city. I am from a family of five kids, though, so there’s a good stereotype for you to ponder. I have never in my adult life been asked if I was home schooled as a child, as if this sort of thing is obvious in a person that was once home schooled. In fact, many react with surprise when I tell them I was home schooled. I think I should be taking this as a compliment? Some do believe all sorts of odd things about children that are/were home schooled, but that usually comes from ignorance. Trust me I have received my fair share of snarky comments from those that believe themselves to be humorous and superior to someone like me. I’m okay with it, though. They don’t really know what they are talking about, or even what they missed out on by being sent to school.
When I went to school for 11th and 12th grade, I attended both my local high school for one or two classes and a nearby community college for the rest of my required education to graduate. When I graduated from high school, I was able to transfer two years of general education credits into my University as they counted for both high school and college. It was pretty awesome. I saved a lot of time and money by accomplishing that and I would like to thank my home schooling Mom for making me smart enough to do it.
I also have a unique perspective coming from a large family where the first two children were traditionally schooled (went to private school) and the last three of us were home schooled. My brothers and I ended up following similar paths throughout our childhoods and our lives that differed from my sisters, and I think some of that can be attributed to the way we were schooled.
These are the reasons I would home school:
- I am convinced the sense of safety and security that home school provides in those very early years of development plays a major positive role in building a child’s sense of worth and self-confidence. By far the number one reason I would home school is environment. I care a great deal about the environment my child lives in on a day to day basis. I am concerned about the stress young children face when put in large groups of peers with limited adult supervision. The pressures they feel to fit in, to wear the right clothes, or to hide physical differences can very negatively gnaw away at a young child’s growing sense of personal value. School can feel like a battle ground with so many variables to contest with, from unfriendly teachers to the recess bullies. That is a lot of stress placed on such little, impressionable people. Now of course I want my child to be around kids his age, to interact with and SOCIALIZE (the big buzz word in opposition to the home school movement) outside the home. He is just past two years old and loves being around other kids. He even has his favorite friends he gets very excited to see. We don’t lock ourselves up in our house all day long, just like my Mom didn’t lock us all up when I was a kid to protect us from the big, bad world. There’s also more opportunity for siblings to develop a closer bond with each other, than if they spend the majority of their days apart. My home schooled brothers and I were much closer in relationship to each other than my older, traditionally schooled, sisters were with each other. I think most of that reality can be attributed to our journeying together more closely on a day to day basis.
- The flexibility home school affords provides for a far richer educational experience than any other schooling option available.When we would study the history and geography of other countries, we got to find (and eat at!) a local restaurant that served foods from that country. We purposefully tried to order foods off their menu that were classic and traditional to that culture’s history. We observed and discussed the décor of the restaurant if it appeared to replicate any of the architecture and design we learned about in our history books. When studying the history of Minnesota (my home State), we took a two week camping trip all across the State, visiting historical sites and participating in various demonstrations held at those locations. We went to actual places where fur trading took place, learned how Native American’s harvested wild rice and built canoes. We tasted traditional wild tea and tried our hand at making a fire with flint and animal fur. We walked across the headwaters of the Mississippi river and climbed up an enormous fire tower that park rangers use to keep watch for forest fires. We took a road trip across the country to Washington D.C. and surrounding area, stopping at every historical site possible. Everywhere we went was an opportunity to learn. Every historical site or State or National park we passed got visited by us. And last but not least, we could always do things when the rest of the population was not. Vacations? Easy. Go when it is NOT spring break or a major holiday. As a child the value of this flexibility was lost on me, but now as an adult, it is very enticing.
- There were many more opportunities for play and creative expression throughout the day that just cannot happen in group and classroom environments. A lot of our lessons involved creative involvement and interaction with each other and crafty-type learning formats and tools. If we were working on a project together, many times we were free to continue to build or explore or work together on something that caught our interest much longer than we would have been able to do in a classroom. Kids learn a great deal through play and movement and interaction and it is tough to get enough of that on a regular basis in a traditional school setting. Additionally, it is very hard for young children to sit still for long periods of time. The beauty of home school is you don’t have to punish the kids for being squirmy, or label them negatively when their high energy interferes with the lesson plan. If we were antsy and having a hard time focusing, my Mom would just set us loose to get our energy out. We got these great play breaks in between studying different subjects. I think that kind of freedom to play regularly can be a very important part of a child’s life in the early years when it comes to learning, and maybe even help prevent a lot of the dread many children have towards schooling.
- We got one-on-one attention. The importance of having a trusted source for the one-on-one attention needed in learning must not be underestimated. I never hesitated to ask a question. I was never fearful of what my peers thought of me. I wasn’t leery of my math teacher or afraid of my science teacher. I was able to get the help I needed, always. I didn’t need a tutor or extra help outside the classroom due to lack of time and attention from the teacher. I never felt completely lost or overwhelmed by any one subject. In the areas that I struggled, we were able to take more time until I got it, or even to repeat it the following year without the fear of peer ridicule. On the subjects I excelled at, we flew through the material and would advance through to the next grade level if time and comprehension permitted. My learning pace was more customized to my learning style and individual abilities and gifts. Last, but not least, since my Mom was my teacher, she always knew how to help. I feel that sometimes parents are at a disadvantage in helping their children with their homework, not having been to the class or knowing all that is required. Several years ago my nine year old neighbor used to visit me regularly and bring her homework to me for help. There were a lot projects she was required to do that I was clueless on how to help. I just didn’t understand what the teacher expected and what the finished product was supposed to look like and accomplish.
- There are many opportunities for instilling your personal values and worldview, as well as fostering spiritual development and character building. Woven throughout our days were moments spent reading the Bible, praying for those who were sick or in need and learning valuable character traits by reading stories from these great books called Character Sketches that used nature to illustrate valuable and admirable qualities. I still to this day remember sitting and listening to these stories with wonder, my thoughts provoked to contemplate the larger lessons of life and the meaning to be found in our days and interactions with others. My brothers and I were also very involved in the youth programs at our church and always looked forward to opportunities to be with our friends and participate in the various trips and activities. Being at home most of the day lent itself to having a lot more energy and enthusiasm for these social events. This ended up shaping a lot of our priorities and friendships around those that had similar values and beliefs, and all three of us grew up with strong core groups of friends that were “good kids.” All three of us also ended up pursuing our higher degrees at religiously-based Universities.
I have yet to decide whether or not I will personally home school my child. There are certainly cons to home schooling, both for the parents and the children. But that’s for a future post.