I’m not exactly signing on the with majority of my urban peers when I say I’m going to be homeschooling my children. Some people write it off as crazy; some people let me know how crazy they think it is. Trying to explain the whole story would take too much time. And, considering that my oldest child is not quite 4 years-old, I should not be considered an expert. But, I am happy to provide a few quick reasons why I am convinced that a home-based education is superior to the vast majority of modern schooling situations.
* It should be said that these statements represent ideology, not strict facts. Meaning, I believe they are true enough of the time, in enough situations, that they can be depended on to guide my decisions about my children’s education. I know that there are exceptions to every rule. I don’t need to be reminded of that.
1. Parents should be the primary influence in their children’s lives during the most influential time of their lives.
In our modern society, it is perfectly normal–no, usually expected–that parents birth their children, spend about two or three years with them, then ship them off to be cared for by someone else. But, is it really developmentally appropriate for a 3, 4, or 8 year-old for that matter, to spend more than half of his waking hours with practical strangers? Are they really better educated (or potty-trained) by professionals than they are are by their parents? Are they really better socialized in a room of 20 peers and one or two adults than they are in a multi-generational family unit or community? Should they really be learning communication skills, social grace, and philosophy from a bunch of other kids who probably watch too much tv and may very well have the worst parents on the planet? These are some of the questions that lead working moms to quit their jobs so they can stay home with their young children. And these are the questions that make career-minded women reconsider their own career paths and commit themselves, instead, to full-time motherhood and home education.
2. Modern schooling is a waste of time.
Ask the average homeschooling family how much time each day is spent on focused, formal education and you’ll get a variety of answers. But, none of them will even come close to the 6-8 hrs most children spend between school and homework each day. In a school situation where one teacher is responsible for keeping tabs on dozens of children, it should be expected that nothing will be efficient. “Busy work” alone should be the proof. If not that, then the fact that young children–kindergarten, first grade, etc.–are actually given homework from their teachers. But, when teachers are expected to divide themselves between so many children, what other choice do they have to keep track of everyone’s development? For especially gifted children, modern school gets more and more boring as they progress past their peers and spend all their time waiting to move on. For struggling children, there is simply not enough time or resources to spend on one child and, so, that struggling child will waste hours every day in confusion when they could be learning individually for better progress.
3. Children should learn in the context of the real–not hypothetical–world.
In the mind of many people, homeschooling families are stuck at home and isolated from society. But, the world of homeshooling is much more diverse than you’d expect. Many homeschooled children are not only exposed to the world around them on a regular basis, but the world around them is integrated into their education. Especially in an urban context, the world becomes the classroom. Museums, ethnic cultural hubs, music venues, interesting neighbors, a local economy, outdoor areas, etc. Instead of sitting in a desk all day, with stale air and limited natural light, homeschooling can offer more time outside and more time learning from the real world. Children can learn from first sources–professionals in any given field, for example. And they can gain insight in a multi-cultural and multi-generational context instead of in a simple teacher-multiple student situation that depends on textbooks as a resource for knowledge.
Like I said, it’s not really possible to go into much detail here about the logistics of curriculum or schedules–the “how to” of homeschooling. But, this at least outlines some basic reasoning for why homeschooling makes sense to me.
As a sidenote–the most frequent anti-homeschooling response I receive from skeptical adults is this: But, aren’t you worried about socialization? The answer to this is simple: no, I’m not worried. Why? Because I don’t think it’s healthy for my children to be socialized by their peers. Sure, my children may never be privy to the cultural references of their friends–certain cartoons, movies, or video games. And they may not have the same sense of humor as their peers or always wear the same clothes. And they may not always have the same idea of fun. But, this says nothing about their competence, their character, or the quality of their education. It is more important to me that my children are wise and secure than it is that they speak the language of popular culture. Wisdom and security do not come from peer socialization–they come from focused, intentional mentoring from responsible adults during which they learn the skills needed to engage properly with their peers. I am not afraid of popular culture and my children will spend plenty of time with other children. (I mean, I don’t want my children to be isolated freaks.) But, my children will be exposed to the rest of the world on my terms while they are young. Then, as they mature, they will be more competent to make their own decisions. And I will know their competency because I watched it develop, firsthand, as I spent hours upon hours educating them myself.
And another point: I am not naive. I know that homeschooling my children is going to be very difficult and that there will be times when I doubt my own ability and even the decision to try. I never said it was easy; I said it was best. Even though it will stretch me and, likely, make me crazy sometimes, I am convinced that it is a superior way to educate–especially in childhood and pre-adolescence–and is worth the time and effort. I still have a lot to learn and still have a lot of logistics to iron-out. But don’t just write me off as some idealist dimwit because sending your kid to be educated by someone else makes more sense to you.