Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So, should I keep homeschooling next year?

As we round the corner of this school year, Bess' kindergarten year, this question is looming in my mind: do I keep homeschooling next year? Right now, I’m very much inclined to say yes.


Though we’ve had our bumps, this has been a good year as far as Bess’ academics goes. She’s learning to read and powering through her math. She’s been introduced to Spanish and to science experiments. She’s had an outside P.E. class she loves and is learning a lot of Bible stories. She’s even memorized some poetry and is learning to draw.


So, academically, I am thrilled with homeschooling. And when I look ahead to the Well-Trained Mind plan for the first grade year, I get a little giddy. Honest and true, this is how children should be educated. I love, love, love the four year history-science cycle. I love the idea that we will be doing so much reading. I think that Gamgee will be interested in a lot of the reading too (all my kids love being read to), and even the twins might enjoy some of it, especially the life science stuff.


I don’t think the public schools are going to teach my kids as well. In the subjects they do offer, like math and reading, I don’t think their methods are as good. And then there’s the subjects they don’t offer! Spanish, music, religion . . . possibly also grammar. So, academically, I’m all in favor of homeschooling.


Where does it possibly fall down? Well, in socialization, of course. And I get the standard response: that everyone is socialized, and you just choose who your child is socialized by: a horde of children their own age, or their parents. I understand that. But I also understand that it’s important that children learn to deal with the world while they’re still children, while they have their parents’ support in helping them solve the problems they encounter outside of the home.  And I don’t want my kids to get out of the house without learning to how to handle the boring people, the creepy people, the neurotic people, etc. 


But . . . I’m not convinced that public schooling is the only way to learn that. One big way you learn those skills, frankly, isn’t at school, but at your first job. And I expect my kids to get a job in high school, at least. But is that too late?


Also, I expect they’ll do various lessons or sports – martial arts, or art lessons, or music lessons, or who knows what else. The idea would be not that we shield them from interaction outside their family circle, but that we let them do it in smaller doses when they’re little (sports, etc.) and larger and larger doses as they get older (a job, community college classes, etc.). I’m not sure that’s unworkable. I’ve seen a couple families do it really well.


What I like about homeschooling at least a little bit longer is that it gives us a few more years to give them a really solid grounding in our own beliefs and (good) family dynamics. Lets them solidify who they are before they’re dumped into the mix. 


And here’s the other thing . . . the mix they’d be dumped into is different than the one I was dumped into. When I went to K-3, it was in northern Canada. It was very conservative, and largely supported the moral structure my parents held to. (Not entirely. There was, for instance, the pervading attitude in my elementary school that girls weren’t as good as boys.) And the schedule was different. I got to come home for lunch every day. It wasn’t eight straight hours at six years old. I don’t think that first grade in Southern California is equivalent. I should ask my brother though. He went to K-3 down here, though that was, eh, almost twenty years ago. Times change. Used to be that the girlfriend/boyfriend stuff hit in sixth grade. I’m hearing as early as second now. No thanks.


So . . . I’m still leaning towards homeschooling next year, because I like the academic aspect so much. But I don’t want to underestimate the social aspect, because there’s no use in having a brilliant child who can’t deal with life.


But I also don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking “sink or swim!” Sometimes the answer is to get a really solid foundation before you attempt the hard task. You don’t just go run a marathon (unless you want the result the first marathon runner got). You start a training program and slowly build up your endurance, so that when race day comes, you’re ready, you’re capable. And if we homeschool the whole way (or even just a bit further), I think that’s the image I want to hold in my mind. I’m not homeschooling my kids to keep them home, I’m homeschooling them to let them go.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell


becca said...

Jess, it sounds like you're doing it for all the right reasons. We have some dear friends who've pretty much convinced us this is the best way to educate - not by arguments, but by the example of their children who are 11, 9, 3 and 6 months. They are spectacularly educated (in some subjects better than much older children), but because of their involvement in sports and other outside activities are very good at handling social situations. It helps that they run around with the neighborhood kids in the afternoons and on weekends, but overall it's because of how their parents have chosen to educate them. I just hope we have the luxury of following their example.

Amber said...

The socialization thing is such a pain - especially if you live in the boonies and don't want to spend your life in the car. It is something I'm trying to figure out too. I have to admit though that I'm glad that my kids don't socialize like the public school kids we see at faith formation. All the gossip, the who-likes-who, the inattentiveness and even complete ignoring of others who are a bit different... (and this is 2nd graders here!!) thanks, I'll pass. I much prefer my polite, kind, willing to talk to and help anyone child who doesn't really blend in well to that!

I feel a little sorry for her at times at faith formation because of how rude some of the other kids are to her, but I wouldn't want to make her like them solely so that she could fit in better.

I'm thinking about joining a public homeschooling charter school (ugh, ick, ugh) next year though, not for academic reasons or the payola, but so we could go to the classes they have on Wednesday. It would throw a wrench in our schedule and I'm not sure how it would go with our other schoolwork, but I think it would be good for her to get to take some extra-curricular classes with some other kids. And hopefully they'll be a little more polite and less boy crazy than the kids at faith formation.

An added thought that just occurred to me - I think that being around a variety of older people, especially the elderly, could perhaps be the best sort of training for how to act with kindness and politeness. They at least generally model good behavior themselves while also not always being entirely *ahem* exciting to the younger set. I'll have to think about this more, but I think this might be an important point. After all, I'm really not interested in teaching my daughter how to get a long with a bunch of self-absorbed 2nd graders, I'm trying to help her cope well in the adult world (who is largely self-absorbed as well, come to think of it)

OK, I'll stop now. :-)

Amy said...

I'll be your biggest cheerleader for homeschooling because I know the benefits first hand!

You have things very well thought out so I really have nothing to add...except homework given in the public schools. The kids I know are totally bogged down with homework from a very early age. Busy work really.

Kiera scored very high (probably her God-given gifts) on her college entrance exams but if I hadn't homeschooled her all the way who knows if she would have been able to nurture her writing as she has.

Something to think about!

Jessica said...

Becca, thanks for the comment. I think I got pulled into homeschooling the same way. I watch my mom's best friend do it and I LOVE her kids. I hope mine turn out like them. I hope you have the luxury of following your friends' example too. :)

Amber, thanks for sharing your experience. I appreciate that you don't just dismiss the socialization question: I think there's a reason it's the question homeschoolers get asked most frequently. And I have the feeling that how I answer it is going to change as my kids grow.

Amy, I'm glad to hear your daughter has found that homeschooling has allowed her to nurture her writing. It's a great counterexample for me, because I actually had the opposite experience growing up: I wrote stories all day long at public school, because the classes weren't hard to keep up with. So I looked like I was furiously taking notes, but actually I was chronically the adventures of an intergalactic space princess. :)

Sandy said...

We've been homeschooling for 14 years and my kids have met, and learned to get along with, their share of boring, creepy and neurotic people. Most of them at church. :)

alpineflower said...

Haven't visited your blog in a long time, but wanted to weigh in on the homeschooling thing - there's a cute clip on Youtube about the difference between "homeschoolers" and kids who are "homeschooled". It's funny, but also right on - I was homeschooled for 1st through 8th grades (on a farm for some of that - oh, the socialization horrors!) without negative repercussions later on. Here's the clip: Hooray for homeschooling!