May 8, 2006

Homeschooling: A Hippie Exclusive?

With Pixie's recent surge in comprehension and rapid learning, I've been entertaining the notion of some kind of homeschooling in her future. The satisfaction I derive from teaching her is immense and it makes me sad to think that I'll miss out on a lot of that once she packs off to school at age 5. Granted, she's only 1 1/2 so this is quite a projection into the future, but I'm not convinced that traditional public school is the only way to go. Homeschooling has come very far in the past few decades and there many resources available to provide an excellent, custom tailored education with the added benefit of maintaining the parent/child relationship of trust and mentorship. Parents seem more and more willing to hand over aspects of their children's education to public schools but it seems to cross line of responsible parenting at times. I am nothing if not a lazy parent and so the easy way would be to put my children in public schools at age 5 and be reclaim my days. But easy in this case may not be the best way to develop kids' full potential so I'm curious.

It seems like the most common ammunition critics use against homeschooling is that the kids will be "weird." Parents fear their children may not fit in or have difficulty adjusting to life post-homeschool. For those homeschooled children who's parents keep them home because of their fear the world or mistrust of society, this is probably true. Early homeschoolers may have fit more into this category but the stereotype has persisted even though this is no longer the case in most instances. If parents are reclusive and mistrustful, the children will probably be as well. But the more common reason parents choose to homeschool is to provide a custom, quality education as well as more supervision over the social interactions that their children do have while integrating their values and principles which often are tiptoed around in public schools. These parents appreciate the value of "socializing" their children and take advantage of the many opportunities to do so through extracurricular activities such as sports, music, church and regular activities with other homeschooled children. There is consistent proof that homeschooling produces outstanding academic achievement, fewer behavioral problems, healthy relationships with family and above-average performance in the students' communities and careers once reaching adulthood (see NHERI study results).

There endless options for homeschooling. You could:
1) Go the extreme route and create your own curriculum, have no involvement with public schools and be the only teacher
2) Buy a curriculum from a homeschool organization with a full teaching plan and materials included
3) Go through your local schools and arrange with them to teach their exact curriculum at home with periodic visits from teachers to your home
4) Only homeschool your child in select subjects while having them also attend public school on a limited schedule.

I had always secretly looked forward to Pixie reaching elementary school age so I could pack her off each day for 8 hours and have more time to concentrate on any other babies or myself. But now I'm not so sure that is what will be best for us. Who knows if I'll end up homeschooling or not, but I'm definitely a big fan of any parent brave enough to kick the system and take their child's education into their own hands. It's a huge leap of faith, but seems to produce happier kids and parents in the long run.

Here are a few interesting places on the web with homeschooling information:
The National Home Education Research Institute
Academic Statistics on Homeschooling
A Great Homeschooling Blog
Homeschooling Basics (101)


kelsey said...

I think about homeschooling too, an even bigger projection into the future for me since lentil is negative 3 months old. i don't know if i'd be up for a full 12 years of it, but one time i heard about a study that concluded something to the effect: children are best off in the home with their mother/father until 8 years of age, and even with moderate homeschooling until that point, they can enter the public school system and catch right up. I have no source and no better description of the study's conclusion, but it resonated with me when i heard it, and since then I've thought it would be nice to homeschool until 8 years old and then pack them off.

Of course, these are all opinions I've formed without having children, so we'll see.

amanda said...

ahhh. All moms with one darling child who is eager to learn and please are naturally drawn to the idea of homeschooling. I seriously considered it because I loved the teaching time I had with chelsea in her first 3 years of life when she was an only child. Now with 4 kids, there is no way I would even think about it unless there was a real problem at school. I can't even get my kids to make their beds and practice the piano every day, so the chances of being able to teach them everything that they should know would be impossible, and the discipline that it would require makes me exhausted just writing about it.

I don't feel bad about not having the energy for it though. My kids are the kind that learn and behave better for a teacher. And I still try to "home school" by having lots of fun, learning activities at home and leaving all of the boring but necessary stuff to their school.

I have been mostly pleased with my children's public education, but they have been lucky enough to have outstanding teachers. There are other options though, like private schools, and Montessori school, which goes up through 8th grade (pricey though--$485 per month here for elementary school).

I am not saying that it can't be done. I am sure that lots of other people could be successful with it. Just not me, and I'm fine with that.

Adrienne said...

My no-child-having two cents is that traditional school is valuable for more than just the book education. I was a happy, eager-to-learn little freak (given the choice between going to Six Flags or to the museums in Ft. Worth, I always picked the museums) but I don't think my parents ever considered home schooling if only for the fact that I was an only child. My butt was in Montessori by 3 and man, by the time I was in kindergarten not only could I read and add I could share, not hit the other kids, etc. Which, yeah, I guess my parents could have taught me that at home, but without other kids to apply it to? I'm not sure I would have gotten it.ww

Basic Black with Pearls said...

As a dog, I really can't be relied upon to provide the most respectable advice, but here is my two cents worth anyway. If my pups lived in a great neighborhood with a good school with good teachers, allowing for the occasional bad apple, I would put them in public schools. But they don't allow dogs in school unelss attached to a blind person, so my dreams go unfulfilled. Having a challenging intellectual environment has always been a plus with me, and I think a pup exposed to others' opposing views is a good thing, if it's countered with the mother dog (I didn't use the "b" word, knowing it has perjorative connotations to you humanoids-why is that!?) is on the ball and ready to fling the rhetorical biscuit at the appropriate times. But if she's only thinking about her own super-tough Kong or can't see beyond her own tug- tug, then home school might be a safer option. But then again, who would want to stick a pup with a myopic mother like that? Who? Arf! Arf!

Though I am but a dog, though a lovely Black Labrador whom everyone at the dog park thinks is quite svelte and lovely, I feel safe in predicting your home-school enthusiasm will take it's rightful place right alongside your "Ooh, let's potty train our one year old" idea. Arf!

Catherine said...

For me you see the whole appeal of homeschooling would be to provide a more natural and healthy eduacation model. Many homeshcoolers don't think the "do the same thing, but at home" style has much merit. I will probably be in some sort of coop when the kids are a bit older that involves my own little community of laid back rhythm type people who aren't as concerned with "intelligence" as satisfaction and full immersion in life sciences. Now who sounds like the hippy?

Basic Black with Pearls said...

Did I make myself clear? Let me put it in human speak, as if I were, the the Edtor.

If you as a parent are able to stay up with what's going on in the world your child will surely live in, and provide a healthy ongoing communication and feedback on the issues, your child will be safe in public school as long as the environment is physically safe. If this isn't the case, as in a school where kids who go to the lavatories risk getting beaten up or worse, I would jerk them out faster than anything.

People who try to hide from the world will have a hard time making it in the world. We should be out there in the world without being "of" the world. So be of good cheer, buy a house in a safe 'hood, or be ready for a super home schooling experience.

BTW, it's not as hard as you think; plenty of moms with lots of kids have pulled it off and they seem quite relaxed about it.

PS Catherine, I'd rather be a hippie than hippy.

cannon said...

Wow you opened up a can with this home school debate.

My opinion is that if you only have one or two kids, it probably is a better EDUCATION to do it yourself...public schools have to dumb it down to the lowest common denominator. But schools do add a lot of other things besides just the academics, as other comments here have said.

But the main reason you can't homeschool is this: I believe that people who are smart, successful, and good looking should reproduce a lot. (I have four kids..he he he) So you are going to be doing a TON of home school already, including every summer and the first 4 years of life. Unless you are superwoman and have wonderwoman working for you, you have to get those older kids off to school so you can do the really important teaching with those 2 and 3 year olds. Trust me they need it, love it, and it is fulfilling for you.

Now if for some reason you are on the China plan (1 kid) then you could home school, but in that case the kid really is going to need the interaction...

Anyway there's my two cents.

drainey said...

Ah, Sarah, you have found a subject on which EVERYone has an opinion.

That's one reason right there not to homeschool, --you'd be getting two cents from everyone you meet for the rest of your life!

All the homeschool moms I have known personally fit neatly into two categories: control freaks and way-lax types. The control freaks don't want their kids affected by anyone but them, and the way-lax types have the broadest definition of education imaginable. Making cookies is math, playing with bugs is science, jumping on the couch is PE. Probably there are some moderates out there, but I haven't met any.

Whatever you do though, Penelope is the best kid and probably pretty un-mess-up-able if you know what I mean. Maybe we'll see her soon?