This is a follow-up to my post on the reasons that I WOULD home school. Again, I want to preface this by saying this comes completely from my own personal experience from childhood being home schooled for most of my education until high school. This is not a compilation based on research. This is also not a list based on my own experience being a home schooling mom. My son is not even three years old, so we have not yet entered the formal education realm. This really is just insight for other parents out there considering home school, or currently running their own home school.
1. With mom (or dad) being the teacher, that single role tends to dominate the entire parent/child relationship. Yes, parents are to be a vital source of teaching in every child’s life, whether the child is schooled at home or out. But if you are the one in charge of all the educational needs for your child, it can consume most of your interactions with your child for most of the day, the week, the year. You start the day focusing on school, you continue the day focusing on school and even into the evening there may be more school to attend to if you had a hard time getting the children to focus on their school. And you get behind. The flexibility of home school is really great, with the ability to do things non-school related during the week days. This can also be a curse. This means you have more school to accomplish in less time. Which means you either push the kids to do more in a day, do school on the weekends, or extend the school year into the summer. All options are a major drag, for both parent and child. I also remember that any time we went anywhere it always had to end up being an educational experience, or so I remember feeling that way as a child. While it is great to be able to expose children to all the learning available, when you are supposed to be on “spring break” in Florida, it is a total bummer as a child to have to schlep through educational tours of all the nearest historical sites when you just want to be swimming in the pool or playing on the beach.
2. Children reserve their absolute worst behavior for those they trust the most. This is probably the main reason I would personally not want to home school. Kids test out all their undesirable behaviors on their parents. If you are home schooling, there is so much more opportunity for conflict, power struggles and battles to have to wade through on a day to day basis. I remember a discussion with my Father-in-law about children’s behavior in relationship to their parents. He recalled the days in which they would take the kids on field trips (he was a math teacher), and several parents would come along to help. He said it never failed, the children whose parents were there always behaved the worst. As a child, I remember all the whining, complaining, foot-dragging and procrastination my Mother had to deal with. My Brother’s were truly a pain. 😉 There really were a lot of battles just to get through some very simple tasks and lessons. I personally don’t know that I have the patience to deal with those inevitable conflicts.
3. There is an expiration, or time limit, to its value. I personally did not want to be home schooled for the length of time that I was. Looking back on it now when I think about when the “right” time would have been to enter formal education outside the home, I think somewhere around sixth grade (or before) might have been the perfect time. I got restless. I got sick of being at home. I got tired of my Mom nagging me about my school work. I wanted to get out of the house. I wanted to see friends more. I just needed a change, and to experience life and the school years with my peers. I felt like I was missing out. Getting close to the teenage years, it is no secret that peers become a very important part of a young person’s life. Before that time, being at home didn’t feel prohibitive. Entering into those years, being at home felt very restrictive and prohibitive. I really believe this change needs to seriously be taken into account when deciding how long to home school. I also started to feel like more of an oddball among my peers, having such a drastically different life experience than they. And I started to resent being kept at home, which doesn’t work wonders for the parent/child relationship.
4. Parents need a break from their kids, and kids need a break from their parents. I sort of feel like this one doesn’t need any more explanation, but for the sake of supporting my premise, I will continue. Parents are busy. Parents have a lot of responsibilities to take care of outside of the daily care of their children. Children take a tremendous amount of time and attention. Having the children ALWAYS underfoot creates a bit of attention fatigue. Adult brains need a break from kid stuff, kid noise, kid demands. This break helps us to feel refreshed and energized to meet their needs, and helps stave off burn-out (and of course, gives us a chance to get something accomplished!). Children, in turn, need to be around others that do not interact with them the way their parents do. Sometimes other people can have more patience with our children than we can. Sometimes other people notice special things about our children that we don’t. And most importantly, sometimes other people let our children do things that we prohibit, but aren’t necessarily harmful (like, say, jumping off the swing at the playground, or screaming loudly while running around outside). I think it’s good for children to have the opportunity to feel a bit of autonomous freedom apart from the parent. Lastly, in my personal experience being home schooled, since my Mom didn’t get much of a break from us, that meant we had to go EVERYWHERE she needed to go to accomplish all the adult stuff that needed to be done. We rarely, if ever, had a babysitter (even though I know my oldest Sister thinks she raised my Brothers and I). So, the car needed to be fixed? We had to go. She had to stop at the bank? Post office? Drive all the way across the city to drop off a bill? We had to go. I feel like I half lived in the car as a child. To this day, if I am a passenger in a car, I have a hard time staying awake. It became almost automatic for me to fall asleep in the car, I spent so much time in it when I was young.
5. And of course, the big buzz-word: Socialization! Even though we got to participate in organized sports and took art classes and piano lessons outside the home, it just wasn’t quite the same as doing all those things at school with people that you already know. Every sports team we joined, usually we were meeting everyone on the team for the first time. At art classes it was usually the same kids, but everyone lived so scattered there was no way we were going to really develop friendships with these people. On field trips, we sometimes went with a home school group, but those were so few and far between we never really made friends with anyone. Not having a place that we went to regularly, that included peers in the vicinity we lived in was definitely a drawback. We certainly got opportunities to make friends. There were neighborhood kids, and as I mentioned in the first post, the three of us had close groups of friends from church, but let’s be honest. Kids that are home schooled do miss out on some of the fun parts about going to school, including the positive social side.
I am learning more and more about how home school has grown and changed since I was a kid, and I am liking what I see. There are co-ops now that kids can go to a few days every week, almost like going to school, to get all their assignments. Then they spend the rest of the week at home accomplishing their work. That sounds a little bit like the best of both worlds. There are certainly more pros and cons than I have covered in these two posts. Home schooling parents could certainly add their own two cents to both sides. I am certainly open to hearing some of your experiences, either as a home schooled person, or a parent that is doing or did home school. I am also open to hearing about some of the cool options you may have come across in your search for the “perfect” educational setting for your children. The scene is always changing and can be hard to keep up with! I am just glad a have a couple more years to make my decisions.