Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why we homeschool: the positives

Someone pointed out the other day that most people express why they homeschool in terms of negatives: things they don't like about public school that they are trying to avoid (the bad or completely lacking socialization--as in school that don't do recess and don't let kids talk, even during lunch; the lacking curriculum for gifted kids; the bullying; the undue stress on kids that makes them melt down when they come home; the inflexibility in so many ways; the increasing lack of a rounded, liberal education including the arts and creative problem solving; etc). "We homeschool because we wanted to avoid _____".

Few people talk about why they homeschool in terms of what they gain--the positives of homeschooling.  "We homeschool because we gain _____".

So here's my list of positives. These are positive things we have that could be due to other reasons than homeschooling, but we've noticed they consistently appear in homeschooling families, so I guess it has something to do with homeschooling.

* Our home is very peaceful. We have very little fighting, very little "intensity" (even with my intense kids!). We have fewer meltdowns than I hear reported from other families.  I rarely see a temper tantrum, even from my toddlers. (These do happen, but not very often.).  This is not to say we don't do wild and crazy and loud (oh my gosh--it's LOUD around here). But I hear far more happy sounds throughout the day than angry, frustrated, or sad sounds.  And I hear this from other homeschool families, too. It's a good way to lower all the stress and pressure down a few notches, so the home starts to feel like a calm, happy, peaceful sanctuary  rather than ground zero, the eye of everyone's storms.

* My kids are good friends. Even ones who have personalities that grate on each other sometimes. They've had to learn how to get along because there is no escaping. I've heard this happens in military families, too, because the kids have to rely on each other for their day-to-day interactions and play. (They do have other friends, too.)

* I have never once heard one of my kids say, "I hate you." I imagine this will come as I get more tweens and teens. I certainly remember saying that to my mom and then being mortified that I had. But I haven't heard it yet. I think this is because homeschool moms and kids are forced to learn to communicate with each other. Homeschool parents tend to see their kids as people with thoughts and opinions and ideas--all valid. And homeschool kids tend to see parents as a resource, a coach, a partner, a helper, a parent rather than a mean boss, a prison warden, a slave driver. It turns out that it's really hard for one party to impose their ironclad will on everyone else when you're homeschooling. Some families manage it, but a lot end up in this relaxed, balanced state where everyone communicates, negotiates, and adapts. I, personally, rarely find disrespectful homeschooling children--no eye-rolling, no snide comments in a half-whisper. And I rarely find disrespectful homeschooling parents--they treat their kids with respect.

* We have zero begging for stupid but trendy things. Nobody asks for the latest jeans or the latest toys or the latest candies. The kids evaluate things based on the merits, their own likes/dislikes, the value of it.  They do not comprehend why you would buy something simply because someone else has it, or want something simply because someone else does. This is not because they are isolated--they go to school with other homeschoolers once a week; they go to scouts, activity days, library activities, homeschool group activities, Boulder county open space activities,'s just a different culture.

* There is very little social stress. Homeschoolers don't seem to play "mean girls" games. They are adept at interacting happily with children of all ages (I've seen the 8th graders play kindly and happily with the kindergartners, for example) and adults.

* My kids love school. They love learning. They don't associate learning with huge amounts of stress.

* The kids are free to develop their interests and talents, and are comfortable talking about those things. There is no shame in being an artist or not being an athlete, so they spend a lot of time enjoying exploring different areas and gifts, developing their likes, dislikes, interests, talents without pressure to "be the best" or compare themselves to other people. I imagine this will get worse when the kids are teenagers, but for now, it's nice. (I remember having to learn how to tune in to what I actually like, instead of what I feel like I should like; hopefully my kids don't have to go through that). The kids identify talents from some internal drive rather than from some comparison with other children in which they came out on top.

* I can communicate with my children. We can talk. We like to be together. We have lots of fun memories. My kids actually like to show me what they're working on and tell me what they're thinking about.

* We get to do lots of fun things together.

* Since I prefer "free-range" and "slow" parenting, homeschooling is a natural choice because it makes those things much easier.

* We willingly self-identify as a family and have a strong family culture.

* I am free to keep my fibro under control so I am functional. This is a big, big deal to me and to the kids. Not fair to give them a handicapped mom because I am under too much pressure to live so that we fit into someone else's schedule!

* We are remarkably healthy. Not only are we not constantly exposed to every little germ that kids get, we get to sleep enough every single day, we get to eat what I feel is best for our family and when our bodies are hungry, we get plenty of time outside in the sunshine, we get to exercise when and how we like.

* We don't have to be crowded, usually. We get to go to the library when it's mostly empty. We get to go to the park when it's mostly empty. We get to go to the museum when it's mostly empty. We can play on the MacDonald's playplace when it's mostly empty. We can go grocery shopping late at night, when the store is mostly empty. We can schedule doctor and dentist appointments whenever we want.

* Homeschooling is cheap! We don't have to buy nice "school clothes" or uniforms. We don't have to provide lunches and snacks. Nobody needs a cell phone because I can just call out the back door when I need them, and they can come crying to me when they need me. We don't have to pay activity fees, locker fees, student fees, district fees, etc. We don't have to pay mandatory field trip fees. With the internet around, we don't even have to pay for curriculum.

* It's nice to be able to incorporate our beliefs into our educations, so we can easily show how all truth belongs to God, or answer hard questions brought up by a literature assignment with a scripture, etc.

* All my kids get to learn as fast or slow as they like, at the hours when their brains are most alert (Caleb, for example, prefers to do his schooling right before bed, where Anda likes to do it first thing when she wakes up), using the learning materials that most appeal to them (books, computers, hands-on projects, etc). There is some waiting for other kids as they have to share time and resources and mom's attention, but not nearly as much waiting for other kids as they would if there were 30 people doing the same thing at the same time with one teacher.

* Homeschooled kids are, on the whole, well-behaved (mine and others). Homeschoolers, on the whole, seem to have high moral standards. Even among the teenagers, there's no swearing, no underwear showing (girls or guys), no tolerance for bullying. I have not heard of any homeschool teenagers getting in to fistfights with each other. Ever. (I have heard them getting into fights with non-homeschooled bullies, though....). I might be wrong, but I think that the kids and teens are generally honest, generally inclined to obey the law, generally  not rebellious. I have yet to meet a rude homeschooled kid--even the teenagers. It's a nice world to raise my kids in!

*It's really nice for me to find myself in a community of people who have stay-at-home parents (usually moms, but not always) as the norm instead of the weird exception. It's nice for  me to find myself in a community of people who have more than the average kids (you don't homeschool if you don't like kids, and if you have a stay-at-home mom, which is almost necessary for homeschooling, you are free to have more than 2 kids because you don't have to go back to work right away with them or pay for child care). I might still be an outlier with 7, but not by as much as in the "regular" community. It's also nice to be in a community of women who are generally intelligent, generally value education and are educated, generally like to talk ideas more than gossip. It's nice to be in a community of penny pinchers (one wage-earner per family, plus more kids than average). It's nice to be in a community where the good of the child is among the most important values. It's nice to be in a community where it's okay to not conform, and where parents support each other in raising "weird" kids (because, you know, a lot of us homeschool because we have a kid we adore who, for one reason or another, would have been destroyed by "the system"). Homeschoolers are really family-focused people, and it's nice to be in a community of people who are all about strengthening families, even while tolerating the differences among families and people. They don't define HOW to have a strong family--they're just totally in favor of helping everyone have a strong family (that might just be Colorado homeschoolers--it's a very Colorado way of seeing the world).

I'll probably think of more things. I think I can summarize it, though: one day I looked at a bunch of regular public school kids together. The next, I went to the homeschooling one-day-a-week-school and looked at a bunch of homeschool kids together. It was night and day, and I knew I wanted my kids to be like those homeschooled kids. And I realized there's no way to get that other than to homeschool. So here we are, loving life with our children and benefitting from all the positives of homeschooling.

Note: I realize there are immense positives to other forms of schooling, too, and that public schooled kids do usually turn into wonderful, happy adults, too. You have to do what's right for your family, whatever that may be--public, private, home, virtual charter, or a blend of all of them (there are, in fact, families who send some to public and some homeschool...the world is a much more flexible place than it seems to be). 

There are also negatives to homeschooling, and I will readily admit that. For example, homeschoolers tend to have messier houses because there is no time during any day when Mom can clean up without someone behind her un-cleaning. And mom never gets to that point where there are hours during the day with fewer people there (or nobody there) where she can do her own thing. It's a huge commitment of time and attention. Plus it's still socially unacceptable. People label you "weird" if you homeschool, and there's no way around that. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is any choice you make has positives and negatives. Do what's best for your family and deal with the repercussions.

1 comment:

Linda said...

My "we homeschool because" list is different than yours. I gain different things but I appreciate the fact that you mentioned what we gain as homeschoolers, not what we are homeschooling to avoid. I think it is a different way of looking at things, and one I need to think about more often. I gain the ability to tailor-make my daughter's curriculum, (we use Time4Learning) and I gain time with my only child, time that flies by much too fast. I gain peace of mind, knowing where she is, who she is with, what she is being exposed to. Thank you so much for helping me focus on all the things we gain! Happy homeschooling!