24 July 2009

Why we homeschool.

I actually never thought much of how our kids would be educated when they were little. The thought of them in school was so far away at the time that it wasn't even a consideration. I surely never thought that their education would be solely in our hands. And contrary to most first impressions of homeschoolers, we did not seek to educate at home for religious reasons.

When we moved to California, Rylie, my oldest, was only 4. She had been in a preschool class a couple of days a week in our former state of Missouri and she had enjoyed it very much. When we relocated it was summer and we embarked upon the journey of tracking down a preschool similar in structure and frequency. Our plans changed, however, when we learned that the cut off dates in CA were different than MO and that put her in kindergarten for that school year instead of the preschool that I thought she would be in.

I then looked into the K-class up the road from us in the local school district, only to find that Kindergarten was an all day class there. I did not want her in an all day school. A half day would be great, but all day was too much. I then started looking into private schools and found out that they were all day as well and the price was that of a young man's yearly salary. Something our family could not afford to do.

When telling my husband of our plight and complaining about the dwindling options, he asked me why we just didn't homeschool her. That thought had never occurred to me. I didn't even think of it as an option let alone to imagine me doing it. I mulled it over and decided that it would be doable and that the things she would be learning in the classroom she already knew. After checking with the law requirements for homeschoolers in CA and seeing how easy it was to do, I decided to give it a whirl.

And we have never looked back.

The biggest thing I hope people realize about homeschooling is that the options on how to do it and what to do are endless. They are different methods of homeschooling ranging from schooling exactly like your kids would receive in regular classroom to being very relaxed and unschooling (which has it's own broad range of ideas).

We "unschooled" for a while. We would go to the library, pick a topic and let the kids explore that topic with crafts, books and movies. Because the kids picked out what they were learning they enjoyed it and never viewed anything they did as school. God designed kids to be full of life, energy and inquisitiveness and they use that to explore their world right from their infancy.

Kids love to learn. Remember how they are always asking "why" and wanting to understand their world? Expounding on that desire by giving them opportunities and options creates in kids a strong desire to continue that self led learning process.

What happens as kids get older is that they are forced to learn what someone else decided they need to learn and when they need to learn it. Kids no longer have a say and no longer get to learn out of curiosity.

How many can remember what you learned in elementary school? Beside basic reading, writing and math, what can you recall? What was taught that was so important and needed 6 hours of classroom time a day? If you allow a child to learn what they are hungry and ready for, they will remember it, be able to use it and build on it. Remember cramming before a test just so you could pass the test? How much of that did you actually put into your memory banks?

An end result of undesired learning is a loss of the desire to learn at all.

This is our 9th year of homeschooling. While I will continue to h/s Rylie (her Freshman year) and Ian (first year of middle school) I will not homeschool Aidan this year. Due to the challenges of Liam and the amount of time I don't have anymore, we decided to send Aidan to a Montessori school (with her approval). If you read about it, you'll see how very close to homeschooling it is. Aidan is excited because she LOVES to learn (taught herself to read) and I have not been able to spend the time with her that she needs. The school only has 8 children (2 in each grade for K-3) and with a self led style with teacher oversight, I think Aidan will thrive.

I hope that out of everything, my children will have appreciated the chance we gave them to just be kids for as long as possible. To not have to grow up too fast. To not have to learn redundant, boring and trivial things. But most important is to learn how to nurture their own desires and talents.

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Sassy said...

Jennifer thank you so much for this post! My siblings and I were homeschooled and I loved it!! I always scored several grades higher than I actually was and did so well on my ACTs and pre-college testing that I was able to skip many basic and intro classes that some colleges require.

I know there is such a stigma about homeschoolers and it breaks my heart. I realize it doesn't work for everyone but I know from experience how a child can thrive in such a learning environment.

I have debating for quite some time now about homeschooling my kids. At one point I had made the decision to do so and then we started having issues with our son. I really started to doubt I could give him the education and help that he needs. I don't know if the state would continue to give him the therapy he needs if I homeschool. It's something I will have to look into.

You have me thinkin again. ;)


Dana said...

I came reluctantly to homeschooling, but wouldn't have it any other way now. It provides so much flexibility and the opportunity to really explore topics in depth and share learning together as a family.