Our friends and family had strong reactions when we told them about our decision to homeschool this year. It’s impossible to take it personally. People have strong assumptions and opinions about education in general, and homeschooling/homeschoolers in particular. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with us,
Nothing I could summarize in an elevator pitch is likely to change most people’s mind, particularly the naysayers. But I can summarize their objections.
Reaction #1 to Our Decision to Homeschool. Bullet Points of Doom.
- You’re nuts
- You’re biting off more than you can chew
- Your kids are going to be functional idiots with massive knowledge gaps
- Your kids are going to antisocial weirdos
- They won’t ever get into college
- You will never be able to work, while homeschooling your kids
- Your kids are not going to get enough physical activity
- I would never… *
Why People Don’t Understand Our Decision to Homeschool:
Homeschooling is associated with religion, with “issues” and with alternative beliefs and lifestyles. Our family doesn’t fall into any of these common categories.
Our kids have no learning issues, other than being incredibly bright and underserved at both public and private schools that necessarily cater to the average learner. They have no social or emotional or medical problems that prevent them from flourishing in a regular classroom, aside from the usual tendencies of bright kids and dreamers to get a little bored.
They aren’t particularly jock-ish but this hasn’t stopped them from forming friendships in the past or being generally active.
And we have no religious agenda that we are pushing in our home, or want to include as a part of our daily education.
If anything, we fall into a smaller homeschool niche – the “worldschoolers” who want the freedom to explore and teach their kids more than common core curriculum has to offer. Our desire to have the freedom to travel is something people seem to understand, and accept. It’s a part of why we made our decision to homeschool, but only one part.
Why We Made Our Decision to Homeschool:
We’ve been fighting our disappointment with local public education options for over a decade. With our teenaged daughters and again with our sons, we’ve tried both regular and chartered public schools where our kids were assigned numbers to use instead of their names. We stood by feeling helpless while they were bookshelved in classrooms with up to 40 kids, occasionally with great teachers but more often with poor to mediocre ones whose overcrowded classrooms were a burden too great to bear.
These were years we heard things from teachers like “X is such a delight to have in my class, I never have to teach X. In fact X helps me explain lessons to the other kids quite often!”
Poor X. Starting and ending the school year in the exact same place because they so conveniently did not need to be instructed or challenged.
Before We Made Our Decision to Homeschool:
Private school was slightly better for a few years, and served our sons well in elementary school. But then the politics of wealth, privilege and a somewhat toxic parent culture kicked in at the Newport Beach area school we were at.
“Success” driven marketing messages at parent info nights made us cringe. We couldn’t help but notice the preferential treatment the wealthier kids enjoyed – the blind eye turned for bad behavior, excuses made. Our kids were tolerated. One son was oddly prized for his ability to raise the group average on standardized test scores. His winning personality, kindness and creativity took a back seat. It made us extremely uncomfortable.**
These were no longer our people.
Surprising Things I Learned When We Made Our Decision to Homeschool:
Since investigating our homeschool curriculum I have learned that many of the “exclusive” and “cutting edge” opportunities for online learning that my kids enjoyed at the private school, are also available to homeschoolers for between $20-$40 a year.
In addition to the exact same curriculum that was already being administered at the private school, we’ve found incredible online and locally taught classes that meet all the core guidelines for their education and then some.
Courses are available complete curriculum solutions, or you can shop a’la carte and craft a custom curriculum, as we have. This has allowed us to select the exact level our kids are at for each subject. We’ve been able to pick the right teaching format for their learning style and to select the most interesting subject matter to achieve both state and personal learning goals.
Surprise! You don’t HAVE to study Missions in 5th grade, if Missions are not your thing. And all that fancy stuff you get in private school is also available in homeschool. For cheap. Or FREE.
Yes, free. The state has a budget for our kids to learn. Our homeschool manages that budget. So instead of us shelling out money for curriculum that may or may not work for our kids, we are now able to use allocated funds to obtain the same or better products. Also exciting, we are able to allocate state funds to music, art and PE classes. This means we can spend on things like guitar lessons and fencing, which in the past have come out of pocket.
We’ve backed our battered minivan out of the BMW filled lot, without a single glance in the rearview. Our GPS is recalculating…
What It’s Been Like Since We Made the Decision to Homeschool:
It’s been a challenging journey. We spent the summer investigating homeschool charters and researching classes and curriculum. I spoke to friends and got a ton of advice. Hundreds of hours of research. Still we are newbies.
I am desperately afraid of all the things cautioned by the negative voices. They echo in my head.
My days remain full of challenges. Homeschool is like running a business. Schedules and timelines, spreadsheets and approved vendors. The pressure is stressful. The workload impacts my routine. But so did sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway for nearly 2 hours round trip, twice a day for drop off and pick up. Two round trips = four hours of driving on days when there was an assembly. Private school put thousands of miles on my car and gave me road rage. I don’t miss the 405.
I’m also no longer dreading the parent politics of classroom volunteer hours and fundraiser donations. I’ll take the spreadsheets and curriculum research over the third grade cupcake wars.
I’ve traded time away from my desk, doing something I don’t particularly enjoy, for time spent taking my kids hiking, or to a museum, or doing science experiments in my kitchen. This is an “additional work” diversion that I much prefer.
We Made Our Decision to Homeschool Years Ago, We Just Did Not Know it At the Time:
When I went thru our family library to sort supplies I was amazed! We already owned over 100 books on science and experiments, logic and creative writing, history, literature and culture. We’ve been collecting this stuff since before we became parents.
Our closets were also already bursting with games, puzzles, art project supplies and STEM learning kits. We just didn’t have enough time to use it all.
Finally this year, we are winning.
Positive Reactions to Our Decision to Homeschool:
Now that I’ve gotten the negative out of the way, I’ll share the other 50% of the responses. These are the comments that lift me:
- They’re going to do great
- They will soar, able to learn at their own pace and shoot ahead.
- It’s so wonderful that you will be able to travel and go places.
- I can see that – it makes sense for you guys
- Your kids are so lucky
#8 is the tell. Most people speak from their own place of fear, and with a general lack of knowledge about how to bake an education cake. They can’t tell you what their kid needs to learn in 4th grade, what 21st century skills are, and whether their kids are actually getting it. Most parents are busy and burdened and don’t want to think about it. They prefer a one stop shop, and I don’t blame them. I might too, if I believed one existed. Educating kids is hard work.
**In all fairness to the school, it’s hard to make a community that is dedicated to the simple joy of learning, into a commercial success. Glossy brochure worthy facilities and top notch test scores and rankings are costly. Wealthy parents paying top dollar demand ROI and measurable “results”. Unfortunately, I believe kids pay the price.