On Homeschooling, Public School, and Weird Kids.
If you don't follow me on Instagram, or haven't chatted with me in person recently, guess what!? I'm homeschooling my 7-year-old daughter this year!
I KNOW. It's kind of a surprise to me, too! The timing, specifically (so sudden!),...not really that we're actually doing this because it's something that has always been on the 'list of possibilities' when it comes to my children's education. But now that it's actually happening, I'm excited. And nervous!
We started our morning routine (the 'light' version) at the beginning of last week, and have added a few things in starting this week with the intention of easing into things slowly. We are both really enjoying it already, and I can already see the benefits we were hoping to see...so far, so good!
Curious as to why? Or my thoughts on the whole idea of homeschooling? In random pieces and through a novel-length post??
Oh, GOOD. Read on!
1) We've committed to homeschooling just for grade two (for now, anyways). However, a longer-term commitment is completely possible if we fall in love with it and it works for our family.
Our 5-year-old boy is going into kindergarten this year and will be attending our local public school and that's all fine and dandy. As of now, my decisions in homeschooling will be considered on a child-by-child, year-to-year basis...doing what's best at the time for each kid (and our family at large) for that year. I'm passionate about my kids and their education, but I know circumstances and kids' needs change...and that I can still be passionate and supportive of their education without homeschooling. Y'know?
2) On that note, I am not anti public school. I know it gets a bad rap for being rigid and unyielding, accused of its most important goal being training people for the workforce on a conveyor belt instead of training people to be independent thinkers and leaders. I have a lot of thoughts on public schooling, the overarching one being that it is doing the best it can under the circumstances!
As with any large organization, there has to be order and organization or things fall apart. There has to be regulations and rules... and with that comes a need to conform in certain areas (like appropriate behaviour, for example) so that the learning can happen for everyone. When you're in charge of lots of people, especially young people who may not be able to monitor their own progress yet, there needs to be periodic assessment to make sure things are still working the way you want them to. These are not inherently bad things!
The negative stuff happens when we start relying on public schooling to DO EVERYTHING,
...or think it's the ONLY way to do things "right,"
...or forget that no one, even "experts" with lots of education, can force someone to learn. That part is totally up to the child/individual.
If we assume that the most important learning happens at home and in the community (teaching life skills, instilling values like hard work and responsibility, transmitting culture through family and social interaction, etc.),
AND we're not blaming schools when our children don't know how to dress themselves (eyeroll),
AND are willing to explore different ways to do things when the organization is not working for a particular child for whatever reason,
then it can do what it's supposed to: teach kids to read and write and do 'rithmatic and inspire them to pursue further learning in their areas of strength.
It's when we start wanting public school to do all the work for us when it comes to parenting and nurturing a future generation...(so we can relinquish the burden and responsibility? I don't even know)..that the big friction happens. Schools have to start saying, "uh, okay, so if you want us to do all of this, we need a longer school day, kids can't play so much, we need to aim at the middle ground for training ability, we have to focus on de-diversifying value/belief systems so we can actually teach it to the masses, and you have to stop whining when we start regarding ourselves as the experts and more important than the family system for preparing your child for the future...even though we don't love your kids like you do. Deal?"
So anyways, coming back to the topic at hand: my point is that public school (while it necessarily has its limitations) is not the enemy and I am not shunning it 'because homeschool is always the better option.'
2) Also, I'm not homeschooling at you. Promise. Like I said, I don't hate public school, and am not judging you.
I realize that I am coming from a place of privilege here:
I am not working full-time and we can afford to have me stay home to homeschool,
my husband is supportive,
I am living in a country where I can teach my children in my native language,
I have access to amazing resources to make it a positive experience (hopefully? Ha!),
and my mental and emotional health are currently in a place where I feel like I can handle the extra work just fine (also hopefully?).
I get it. So if I'm talking about homeschooling, it's not because I'm secretly trying to convince you to do it, too. PROMISE. So don't feel obligated to tell me all of the reasons you think it would be a horrible idea for your family, unless you want to, in which case I'm happy to listen! I just don't want you to feel like you need to defend your choices to me because I am secretly judging you for your public schooling choices. Haha!
3) She will have a rich social life.
Despite it becoming SO much better over the years, homeschooling can still elicit concerned comments about socialization. I mean, I roll my eyes a little internally, BUT! I get what everyone is asking, and it is a legitimate concern!
One part of it is the real question: will your kid turn out weird?? I love how Oliver DeMille handles that question in his book "A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a generation of leaders for the twenty-first century," so I'm just going to quote him:
"What people usually mean is, 'Will they seem normal and well-adjusted, or backward and strange?' In most cases, that depends on the parents. If parents are so-called 'backward and strange,' chances are their kids will be also---even if they are in public school. In fact, such children will likely be less 'normal' when they reach early adulthood, given the teasing and rejection they are almost sure to feel in school. At least in home school, their self-image is validated and they have a strong chance of getting a good education without their love of learning being destroyed by an artificial social and class structure which dominates the hallways and locker rooms and classrooms. So, those who struggle socially may be better off in a homeschool..."
So if my kids are a little "off" for any homeschooling they might experience, it's actually because I'm a little strange and taught them all I know about it, okay? Ha!
Also, if this (my kids turning out weird) is someone's major and urgent concern when discussing homeschooling with me, panic creeping into their voice, I usually get the feeling that it's because of "that one homeschooling family they knew" way back when and their own fear/trauma of not fitting in projected onto the situation...which doesn't usually need anything except me just listening empathetically and reassuring them.
But I also get that it's not just about turning out weird (which is not really the worst thing in the world anyway, right? Everyone has their own special kind of weird, some are just more comfortable with their weirdness showing than others....but I digress, haha...), it's also about making friends and enjoying those meaningful friendships. It's providing them lots of different situations (with people of all ages...) so they have opportunities to develop and reinforce social skills, and so on and so forth.
Good news! We have friends that also homeschool with kids the same ages as our daughter. She will occasionally be involved in gymnastics class and other sports/learning groups/specialty classes, and she will have opportunities to connect with other homeschooling families through different social events. Also, we like our family friends and play lots with other families in general. Also, also: we are a pretty big family anyways and she gets plenty of interaction with her parents and siblings...and also cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. But the best part of homeschooling? Time away from all that socializing if you need it! It's nice to have friends that you see daily, but it's also nice to have that space and a break sometimes.
4) I have my teaching degree, major in elementary education and minor in special education. I also have certification as an educational assistant and plenty of experience teaching individuals and small groups in piano lessons and tutoring. BUT all that education isn't really necessary to inspire someone to love learning and to know how to learn, especially at this age. In other words, you can have your teaching degree and be a terrible teacher...and have zero degrees and still inspire kids to learn with passion and strive for excellence. Amiright?? I really believe that.
So...we'll stick close to the same curriculum as the public school for this year since it's kind of a "trial" year (and therefore make it easier to slide back into grade three if that's the best fit for next year), but there are SO many ways to learn out there! It's pretty incredible, and the flexibility is one of the things I love about the idea of homeschooling. I also feel that if I can model a passion and love for learning new things all the time, it will be contagious...and that has almost nothing to do with my fancy degree and certificate.
As a side note, I'm actually LOVE-ing the chance to flex my curriculum-scrutinizing and lesson-planning muscles. It's also a lot of fun to dive back into educational psychology as I consider how to approach her education this year. Seriously, SO FUN. #educationnerd
4) She just needs this. My daughter is one of those "dream" students that is self-motivated and directed, well-liked by peers, and eager to please. But the flip side is that she can also be obsessed with excelling and regularly putting high value on what other people think of her (teachers and friends). Last year, she came home from school wound SO tightly from trying to meet everyone's expectations that it took hours for her to stop lashing out and growling at everyone here at home. And by then it was bedtime and time to start the whole thing over again. Ugh. I figured this year we would just try different strategies for chilling out after school (dedicated art/quiet time seemed to help a bit last year). However, the past couple weeks of summer I just couldn't shake the feeling that this was her year to take a time-out. She was beginning to be increasingly anxious about school starting and SUPER grouchy. I finally prayed about it and just knew it was what we needed to do for her, despite all my secret dreams of having two kids at school and only two kids here at home. Ha! Hubby and I chatted and we both agreed that this would be a good year to keep her close and feeling loved unconditionally, encouraging her to strengthen her character and find validation from within while enjoying the space and peace of a simplified schedule. Now to stay focused on that goal...(definitely harder than it seems).
I am already seeing her slowly relax and take deeper breaths, metaphorically. She is starting to resume being more loving to her siblings and less defiant with her parents, more eager to help around the house and playing with more lightheartedness (not so much intensity, y'know?). Yesterday she was grumpy with me about something and threatened to "not do homeschool anymore," but instead of threatening to go back to school-school she said, "I'm going to go to someone else's house to go to school!" Haha! It was a sign to me that she is feeling good about this change.
Well, there you have it. You can follow along our homeschool journey this year with occasional snapshots (literally) on Instagram, and I'll update here as well when I'm able. It's an exciting year and I'm looking forward to sharing and chatting about it!