In response to a recent article on Pennsylvania relaxing its strict homeschooling regulations, the New York Times asked the question, “Would you want to be homeschooled?” The Times also asked, “Do you think this type of education can prepare children for the “real world?” Not surprisingly, the responses were largely against homeschooling, with many commentators stating that children who are homeschooled miss out on interacting with other children, and that such interaction is necessary to prepare for the “real world.”
I’ve been homeschooling my children (ages 10, 8, and 3) since September. Like many of the commenters on the New York Times, I too was concerned about my kids missing out on interaction with other kids and the social aspect of public school. That fear was quickly squelched. My kids play with other kids on the block almost daily and all of my kids are involved in extracurricular activities such as soccer, basketball, Tae Kwon Do, music lessons, and the local Boys and Girls Club, in addition to all of our church activities. Plus, they take part in a homeschool co-op on Fridays with 40 other kids. It turns out that Public School is not the only place where a child can learn how to interact with others. I doubt anyone would mistake my kids for being anti-social or inept at conversing.
My wife and I decided to homeschool our children this year for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons we chose to do so was the flexibility that homeschooling provides. Because of our flexible schedule, we have been able to travel through Europe and explore our wonderful city. We have several more trips planned over the next months, none of which we could do if we weren’t homeschooling.
There are other benefits to homeschooling. We had noticed that our children’s innate love of learning was being replaced by frustration, fatigue, and dread. The source? Overemphasis on standardized testing and increased homework demands. Our oldest was in school from 8:00 until 4:30 each day, and would have a stack of assignments to complete when he came home. Some nights, we didn’t finish the homework until an hour after bedtime. On those nights, my son would complain, “But I didn’t even have a chance to play today!” He has a life time to learn, but childhood is fleeting.
With homeschooling, all our school work is done by the afternoon, leaving the rest of the day to play, go to a museum, participate in sports, practice piano and ukulele (my daughter’s instrument of choice) or pretty much do whatever we want. And guess what we’ve discovered? When they are playing, when they are exploring, when they are being creative, when they are making music, they are learning! Learning consists of so much more than classroom instruction, but there was no room in our lives for other types of learning before we started homeschooling.
There are things we miss about public school. Our children had the opportunity to learn from people, both peers and teachers, who came from very different backgrounds and had different world views and experiences. (While my children are still able to do that, we have to be more intentional about creating opportunities for that to happen.) In a classroom of 33, children learn that they are not the only people that matter and that they are usually not the most important person in the room – we all need that reminder sometimes! We loved the community involvement that comes from being part of public school. We believe that public school is an important part of the social contract that creates equal opportunity in this country – we wondered if we were being selfish in withdrawing from that social contract. But on balance, homeschooling was the right decision for us at this time in our family’s life.
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone and I admit there are moments when I wonder if we’ve made the right decision. But I am passing on to my children real world experiences that they will not get in a typical school setting. Along with their normal studies, my kids are learning firsthand how to take care of an automobile, how to manage a bank account, how to cook a healthy meal, what it means to have a strong work ethic, and even how the stock market works. You really do not get more “real” than those things.
If you ask my children if they like being homeschooled, they’ll tell you “Yes.” Their reason – they get to do things that other kids do not.
Oh, and one more plus. On Monday, when Ohio State plays Oregon for the National Championship, this house full of Buckeye fans will not need to worry about needing to get up early and go to school the next day. We can sleep in if we want. Now what kid wouldn’t want to stay up late with their parents from time to time to watch something so momentous?
Now to finish out my plans for school tomorrow. Hmm, I wonder if I can fit in a trip to the Museum of Natural History, the zoo, or the Marvel Science Exhibit.
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