There are a few things that homeschooling parents hear all time…how do your kids socialize, how can you teach your child without a teaching degree, how will they learn about the “real world”, etc. These assumptions aren’t true, but people still assume they are. Although I can’t speak for everyone, here is what homeschooling is like for my family, and other homeschoolers we know.
Many people still think of homeschoolers as people who keep their kids home to shelter them from the outside world, not allowing them to experience the “real world”. While this may be true of a few, in many ways, homeschooled children experience more of real life than their peers in school. They are not any more likely to be weird than public schooled kids, or at least homeschooling doesn’t make them weird. Since it is still an unusual choice to homeschool, in some ways, families who choose to homeschool are outside the norm, but not necessarily in a bad way. It is ironic that people are so concerned that homeschoolers won’t socialize, but in school they try to prevent the kids from socializing so they can focus on their schoolwork.
Kids that are homeschooled get to experience the world every day. Instead of spending the day in the restricted school environment, where they see the same things every day, homeschooled kids get to experience real life. My kids went with me last week to visit my cousin in the hospital. They spent the day watching the construction equipment working on the road and the crane lifting supplies to the roof of a building under construction. They learned how to navigate a parking garage, and a hospital. They saw my cousin working with her therapists on her range of motion. We spent the drive discussing multiplication and space.
They got to interact with nurses, hospital security personnel, and our server at lunch. While we don’t go somewhere new every day, they do get to go along to many places they would miss out on if they were in school. They can go on an impromptu parts run with my husband for the farm, or we can go spend the day with my grandma. They may not spend all day with kids their own age, but they play with their cousins at our weekly Sunday dinner, and the other kids in our church group. My oldest is only 5, so they aren’t involved in a lot of activities yet, but as they get older, there are music lessons, 4-H, sports, Boy/Girl Scouts, and homeschool groups that they can join if they are interested. Many older students also do some sort of job shadowing or paid employment in a field they are interested in to get some experience.
Whenever my grandma comes over, she asks me how many hours a day we work on schoolwork. Well, that depends. Do we count the dry erase board and stacks of paper my oldest takes everywhere so he can write down his stories and math problems, or the toy computer that my oldest used to teach my 3 year old his letters while we were in the car? When you are doing school at home, there isn’t an artificial boundary between learning and the rest of your life. Some days we do a set of lessons from the books we have for various subjects, some days we spend all day discussing space and finding out the answer to questions my 5 year old has. What is the order of the dwarf planets? How many times bigger is the sun than the earth?
For people who have trouble with some of the subjects, there are plenty of options. There are homeschooling groups that get together and parents teach classes on subjects they are particularly familiar with. There are private lessons given by someone with knowledge of the subject. There are online programs, and at home programs that give very clear, step-by-step information. Whatever the subject is that you have difficulty with; there is a way to teach it to your child. I personally enjoy learning new things with my kids, or reviewing things I used to know, but haven’t used in a while. I recently found a program that covers the great books of Western culture and I have been using it myself, since my kids are nowhere near high school age yet. I never read the Aeneid in school, but I can now, and it has the added benefit of showing my kids how important it is to continue to educate yourself, far beyond the period when it is mandatory.
To me, the greatest benefit of homeschooling is that my kids are retaining their joy of learning. They do not spend their days taking standardized tests, or learning how to take standardized tests, or learning information they only need to know because it is on standardized tests. They get to stay up late to look at the stars. They get to go fishing in the creek behind our house, and speculate on what kind of animals made the holes in the creek bank. They can learn how to plant a tree, and water it and watch it grow. They get to be kids longer and not spend time worrying about what the other kids think of their outfit. Finding joy in your life should be something more people try to do, not something to try to eliminate in an effort to get kids ready for real life. Shouldn’t we all want to find joy in our lives, and make real life a positive thing to look forward to?
Further Reading (click to view on Amazon.com):
The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling by Rachel Gathercole
The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings
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