I haven’t really talked much yet about one important part of my life. Homeschooling. Parenting choices make for one of those conversational topics that are best avoided, like politics and religion. Just bring up breastfeeding at a baby shower and you’ll see what I mean. You may as well toss meat to hungry wolves. Of course, that makes it great fodder for blogging, right?
Kinesis builds marble run
The life of a homeschool family may be slightly unusual. Since we are in the midst of moving and packing, I must admit that we have gone into summer schedule a bit early. Lots of Nova specials on Netflix, and other things we can thrust upon our children while we pack. We’ve been studying the Civil War, so today they started watching the first episode of the Ken Burns series. Kinesis was assigned to draw a picture based on the episode, Entropy to find one interesting topic and research it further. In reality, Kinesis drew a quick picture of Lincoln, then started a wrestling match with his brother which went downhill from there, so they will have to watch it again tomorrow. The road to wisdom is difficult and cruel.
When you admit that you homeschool, there are some frequent responses, range from the positive, (“Wow! That’s awesome! I wish I could teach my kids, but it must be so hard!”) to the questioning, (“How do you handle testing? Will your kids go to college? What about socialization?”) to the outright hostile, (“You don’t even have a teaching credential, and you are going to remove your children from public society?”) Folks who don’t homeschool often don’t know much about it, or think they do, or don’t realize quite how diverse a community it is. So while I know it’s been done before, I’m going to give you my top ten list of common misapprehensions about homeschooling.
1. All homeschoolers are unsocialized geeks. This is completely untrue. I know plenty of well-adjusted young people who were homeschooled. One common trait is that because they spend much of their time with adults, either with their parents or out in the world rather than isolated in a particular peer group, they tend to relate in more mature fashion than many of their peers. There are many studies that support this thesis. http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a746434208 My kids, however, are unsocialized geeks. This has nothing to do with homeschooling. They would be geeks in school, just like Flash and me.
2. All homeschoolers are brilliant. Homeschool kids come in all ability levels, just like all kids. There are indications that most homeschooled children test better than their brick-and-mortar schooled friends. I would argue that having a very small teacher-student ratio is a large part of this. If every public school teacher could sit down individually with just a few children instead of 30, those kids would learn faster too. Our children, of course, are indeed brilliant. Usually. Most of the time. Often.
3. Homeschoolers are all fundamentalist, science-hating neo-con crazies who want to keep their kids away from the liberal homosexual agenda. Many conservative Christians do indeed homeschool. But there are plenty, I would posit a majority, who like us just want to do the best for their kids educationally. We are very science-friendly, my kids know about evolution (even watched the three-part Nova special this week), and religion has very little to do with why we chose to homeschool. They may or may not choose a different path–Entropy decided for a while that he wanted to be a high school teacher from watching Glee.
Entropy meets author Patrick Rothfuss
4. Homeschooing is so hard, my family could never do it. Well, yeah, if you have that attitude, sure. But lots of things are hard–training for marathons, raising kids, mastering Expert level on Rock Band. People do those things all the time. Seriously, there are so many resources out there that homeschooling is no longer unusual. You can buy curriculum, find things online, join local groups, or even go the public-school homeschool route.
5. Homeschooling is easy, your kids just lie around and play video games while you ignore them all day, right? Um, no. That’s called child abuse, not homeschooling. My kids only lie around and play video games after we attempt to beat some knowledge into them. Kidding!
6. Homeschoolers don’t support public education. While there are those who choose to homeschool because they are opposed to public schools on principle, we are not those people. We always vote for school bonds, and think that public schools are not only necessary but that they should be given the best resources possible. We simply don’t think that they are the best choice for OUR children at THIS time. I mean, I may never sail into the Port of Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to build, or that my family doesn’t benefit from the increased commerce it supports. A well-educated population is good for everyone. We’re doing our part, and are glad for them to do theirs. Go public school teachers!
7. Homeschooling takes place at home. Sometimes. But the big secret that homeschooling families try to keep quiet is: everything is less crowded during the week. Malls. Disneyland. You can tote your books to the beach on a Wednesday, and not have to fight for towel space. I’m particularly fond of Starbucks as a venue for school. Free wi-fi, snacks available, and plenty of caffeine to keep me motivated.
8. There is one homeschool curriculum that everyone follows. Not true. I would guess that homeschoolers in general are better educated about a variety of forms of pedagogy than any other population, including teachers who tend to be trained in one approach that meets standards. That means that there are unschoolers who follow child-led learning, school-at-homers who follow the state standard and use textbooks, and classical homeschoolers who enter into the great conversation with historical sources and great books. We are sort of reformed-neo-classical ourselves. We teach Latin, read great literature, and make sure our kids have a healthy dose of geek culture as well.
9. Moms homeschool, dads work. Uh, yeah. Well, talk to Flash about that. Stay at home schooling dads are certainly a minority, but they do exist. I’m married to one. I do the planning, he does implementation. It works for us.
10. Homeschooling is for everyone. Nope. Just like any other lifestyle choice, it works for some and not for others. We love it, and I can wax rhapsodic about the benefits of homeschooling. Sorry, friends IRL, it is just so much a part of our life I can’t help the occasional outburst. We somehow seem to do well spending almost all our time together as a family, learning together, laughing together. (OK, this is intended as sarcasm, as I can hear my Kinesis and Entropy arguing in the other room. “Don’t throw your shirt at me!” “You hurt my leg! I’ll never walk again!” )
It’s the life we choose. I like that my children are familiar with Beowulf, and Greek mythology, can sing the Large Hadron Collider rap and don’t know that Gilbert and Sullivan are not cool. I have a kitchen cabinet full of chemistry equipment (all safely labeled, you know). We can play games and watch TV and go on trips, and it’s all educational, and it’s all part of life. Even our upcoming trip cross-country will be a great opportunity for learning, as well as fun. It is work. It is hard. But if we didn’t love it so much, we wouldn’t do it.