I have friends from Europe who see what I am doing with my children, schooling them at home. They are supportive, friendly, and slightly perplexed as to why anyone would do such a thing.
Firstly, this is a tricky topic for me, because the last thing I want to do is alienate my many friends whose children attend brick and mortar schools here in the US. I think that having free education available to all the children of our country is an important principle. Child labor laws and mandatory elementary education are responsible for the creation of childhood as we know it, as a season separated from the cares and occasional ugliness of the adult world. Universal literacy is an admirable goal and all education serves to enlighten human minds and create better citizens.
I’m not going to enter into a debate in this post about teacher’s unions, the Common Core, standardized tests, No Child Left Behind, public vs. private vs. charter schools or any of the other stuff that more informed people than me have opinions on.
Here is why I school at home.
1. Teacher to student ratio. My school has the best teacher to student ratio I have ever seen. Class size tops out at 2. Students get individualized attention, specialized curriculum, and move at their own pace.
2. Enrichment. My school takes more than 1 field trip every week. It’s easy and affordable to take my school of 2 students to museums, zoos, libraries, the theater, operas, State parks….you name it! We also do art, science, Latin, Italian (see European friends, referenced above) piano, swim, soccer, Lego clubs, book clubs and anything and everything that catches our fancy.
3. Cost. No matter how much I spend on the above enrichment acivities, it will never exceed the cost of a decent private school in Boston.
4. Time. We finish all our “school” work before lunch and have the afternoon for enrichment, life skills (kids do laundry,) silent sustained reading, and pursuit of hobbies. My oldest loves to make things out of recycling, to my chagrin. It goes a bit agains my minimalist approach to have toilet paper roll animals saved all over the house.
5. Family identity. I want to have quality AND quantity time with my kids. From the excellent book, “Hold on to your Kids” I remember being struck by how what has become normal, aka. having your children sent away to spend the majority of their time with same age peers is not natural. It is more natural to have children identify with their family and get their unconditional love and acceptance there.
Culture, until recently, was always handed down vertically, from generation to generation. For millennia, wrote Joseph Campbell, “the youth have been educated and the aged rendered wise” through the study, experience and understanding of traditional cultural forms. Adults played a critical role in the transmission of culture, taking what they received from their own parents and passing it down to their children. However, the culture our children are being introduced to is much less likely to be the culture of their parents than that of their peers. Children are generating their own culture, very distinct from that of their parents and, in some ways, also very alien. Instead of culture being passed down vertically, it is being transmitted horizontally within the younger generation.- Hold on to Your Kids
6. Travel. We love to travel as a family and without the restrictions of a school schedule we can take advantage of the off season to go to Disney World, Aruba, Europe, or wherever else we can get enough miles to go to. Our reference for traveling while poor is http://www.travelisfree.com. Travel allows history and geography to come alive for the kids and is integral to our goals in educating children with a global perspective.
7. Rest and Downtime. We don’t have to wake up early and scramble to get to school. We don’t have to push the kids to complete their homework in the afternoon. When we have an off day, we do “Bed School,” or take a day off to read, rest, explore outside or make art. Everyone needs a mental health day on occasion, especially little growing bodies and minds.
8. Individualized Curriculum; When something isn’t working, we can change. We can change in the middle of the year, in the middle of a workbook. When we don’t understand something, we can stop and look it up, learn more, spend more time with it. There is no need to keep moving forward for the rest of the class. That being said, we can move forward faster when things are not progressing quickly enough. Several times I put away entire workbooks because a quick spot check showed Sophia already knew the spelling words or math concepts inside. No need to waste months being bored by repetitive work.
A constant element of enjoyment must be mingled with our studies, so that we think of learning as a game rather than a form of drudgery, for no activity can be continued for long if it does not to some extent afford pleasure to the participant. –Erasmus
9. Going to School in America is like gambling. This is where I may make some people upset. Whatever your life circumstances, we all do the best we can for our children. Please don’t think I’m judging you by the following. Some schools are good. Some are bad. Some teachers are good. Some are not so good. Schools and teachers are under incredible stresses not relating to how to educate my child. These stresses are financial, managerial , political and more. This means I just don’t know what kind of experience my children might have every time they change grade, or teacher, or school (as happens frequently with our wandering family.) They may have a child that disrupts math class every day. Or a bully that crushes their budding self expression in art.
I have my bad days, but every day I love my kids and they are my first priority. This is the best gift I can give them. Memories of their childhood and learning together will be a lovely memory for me. That’s why I homeschool.
Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me. –Alice Walker
Why do you homeschool? Or not? Please feel free to share in the comments.