"Why do you homeschool?"

Disclaimer: I read a few blogs on this topic to see how other homeschooling moms and dads have chosen to answer this oft-asked question, and some of my favorites were this one and this one.

The question must come up at least once a week, probably more if I were to actually keep some kind of tally. It usually starts in public, when an adult will ask one of my children, "How old are you?" (Like this is the most logical question to ask when meeting a new person. I'd be appalled if an adult I'd just been introduced to said to me, "Why hello there Heather, how old are you?") And she or he will answer, and the adult will then say, "Oh where do you go to school?" - or, if we are close to home - "Oh do you go to Newburgh Elementary School?" And my beaming child will then say, "Homeschool." Lucy has a tendency to say it with her eyes cast down, almost afraid, but Truman and Penny say it like, "Take that, sucka!" I'm aiming for something in between. Confidence + Humility is tough for them.

Whatever the situation and whatever the response, the person will usually offer one of three responses:
1. "Good for you! That's great."
2. "Oh I could NEVER do that! I love it when my kids go to school/I have no patience for that/I'm too dumb."
3. "Why do you homeschool?"

And that right there is the silver tuna, Marv. How do I answer that question? (or its variants, 'How do you like doing that?' or 'How's that going?') I suppose that when people ask me why we homeschool, they expect, perhaps want, to hear a laundry list of all the things that are wrong with the public school system, both nationally and locally. Well, I hate to disappoint them, but I will be the first tell you, I am ill-informed on what goes on in public schools. I have a degree in early childhood education, but the majority of my coursework was focused on ages three to five, with only a year spent working with infants and toddlers, and even less time spent on early elementary. I have never worked as a full-time employee in a public school, so I can only go by my own experience in the public school system, if what they want is a list of all the things I don't like about it. But that would be an inaccurate answer to their question anyway.

Why do we homeschool? First, I should say, let me tell you why we don't. We don't homeschool because the public schools are bad. We don't homeschool because we disagree with evolution, gay parenting, or anything else that is taught in public schools. We don't homeschool because we think our children will be shot on the playground or raped in the bathrooms. We don't homeschool out of fear. We don't homeschool to create tiny clones of ourselves and keep those closes untainted by anyone but mom or dad.

I think people sometimes expect those to be our reasons. Those are the things that public-schooling parents are ready to argue against.

So, why do we do it? My first answer is just, "We've always done it." From the birth of our first child, we were teaching her at home. The next two came, and our lives were pretty much the same. Nothing rigid or scheduled, just lots of time together. Many visits to city parks, the library for story time and puppet shows, and just crafts and painting at home. As the oldest reached kindergarten age, we started doing some more structured 'school time' each day, with reading lessons and a few workbooks, while the younger two slept. It has just been a natural progression from how we live our life anyway.

So the question might be, Why continue it? We homeschool our children first and foremost because we want what is best for them. We want them to have opportunities to be involved in things that interest them. We want them to be taught by people who care deeply for their well-being. And most of all, we just really enjoy their company! We miss them when they aren't here. They are funny, lively, and caring people. Every day that I get to teach them at home is a gift. I learn new things from them every day. I become a better person by being with them.

I do admit, once in awhile the idea of dropping them off into a public school for seven hours a day, five days a week, is incredibly appealing. I imagine all the things I could do. My kitchen could finally be clean. My laundry all neatly folded. I might even get out that weird iron thing and flatten out some of David's work shirts. I could nap. I could grocery shop alone. I could exercise at normal times of day, not 4:45 a.m.! But all the things I think of that appeal to me, are about what I would get out of that situation. I can't think of a single thing that my children would gain from that situation. It is a selfish desire. And all over the media, everywhere I turn I see women and men saying to mothers, "You have to put yourself first! If you don't put yourself first, you can't help anyone else! As women we put ourselves last but we have to put ourselves first!" That is what the world teaches us we need to do. We need to satisfy our own desires and wants and take the easier road.

No. I reject that idea. My children will only be children for a short time, but they will be mine forever. Childhood is the most marvelous time in a person's life. Every aspect of adulthood is dependent upon childhood, for better or for worse. I want theirs to be better. I want them to learn and to be happy, and to become confident and healthy. Sending them off to school would severely limit their freedoms. They would be put onto a schedule designed, not for a child's comfort, but for the best needs of the institution. They would have limited eating and toileting time. They would be taught what the school mandates they learn, not what interests them. They would have teachers who do not know them, and have only one year to get to know them, then move on to another the next year, who may have an entirely different philosophy and personality. It would not be what is best for them. It might be easiest for me, but I won't sacrifice my children for what is easy.

I don't think everyone should homeschool, but I think those who can, should. Not everyone can. Some really do lack the intellectual ability. Some struggle with anger or violence, and they should obviously not be around their children 24 hours a day. Some can't because of finances or work obligations. But many more can, and choose not to. I am grateful to live in a state with such easy homeschooling laws, where so many families can choose to teach their own children. I am grateful for my education that prepared me for this time in my life. I know I am not a perfect mother or a perfect teacher - far from it. But I know that I love them and that's the most important thing. I won't let them fail, and they won't let me fail. We're all in this together.

Comments

  1. Dang Gina. That is one awesome post. AMEN. Lol No, seriously, that was moving. So articulate. Really great. Thank you for your words.

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