Some questions about homeschoolers

Adso pointed me to this, so I’m responding to HWs requestion (that’s a typo, but it’s kind of a cool one, don’t you think?), “Homeschoolers, Help me.”

1. What was your motivation for homeschooling?

We started homeschooling because in 1st grade it became apparent that our oldest child was unhappy. We learned that she was several grade levels above her class (I mean, like junior high in some areas), and thus bored out of her mind and (maybe more importantly) feeling like she did not belong with the other kids, but her teacher insisted that she was not ready for any kind of differentiation or more challenging work. Evidence of her unreadiness: She was usually last to come in from recess and lunch, and was always slow to put her snow gear away and return to her seat. Anyway, we decided that our energies would be better spent on our child than on the teacher and administration.

Now, we homeschool because we enjoy it. I work from home, my husband works from home, we’re all musical and artsy and love foreign languages – we have a great time together. So the academic fit reason has faded into the background, and now I think more about the foreign languages and music stuff that we’d miss if we had to give 6 hours a day to school, not counting homework. (And I have a pretty low opinion of homework, especially for kids under 12.)

2. Don’t hate me for asking this. How to you handle socialization? What steps do you take to make sure your children are around other children and adults?

OK, I don’t hate you. But this question is so funny to me that I still can’t answer it properly! Before your children went to school did they see other children and adults? Well, it works the same way after they turn 5. Seriously, we have joined some groups so that the girls (I have 2) have a chance to see a regular group of kids on a regular basis. And we have joined some groups oriented towards gifted kids as well, although often it is the commiseration among parents of extremely gifted kids that benefits us most! Like PS (public school) children, my girls have gone to piano, dance, ice skating, soccer, art camp, sleepaway camp, horseback lessons, Sunday school, choir, play practice, etc. etc. etc. We now have to put in more effort to be sure we don’t do too much, which is pretty much the situation of all homeschoolers I know.

As far as diversity of people to socialize with, well, we do live in Minnesota, which is not the most diverse place ever, wherever you go to school. Most of our homeschool groups are very diverse religiously – Christians, atheists, pagans, Jews, etc. – and in family make-up – one parent, two-parent, mom and dad, mom and mom, mom and mom and a few on the side . . . (Actually that last only describes one family and I don’t know them personally, so maybe that doesn’t count for diversity.) I’m sure there are groups that are very strict about inviting people who have a very similar worldview, but obviously we are not in those, by choice.

Oh, and my two girls are great playmates with each other, when they are not fighting. I figure they offer each other pretty good practice at getting along with difficult people. 😉

3. Do you use the public school system for any part of your child’s routine? Some children here come to the school for band or chorus, or maybe for science class. Do you send your child to the public school to take advantage of any of their programs?

No I don’t. I would consider it, but since we find it easy to get overwhelmed with activities, it would have to be a pretty great opportunity to be worth driving to school for a short time several times a week.

4. Do your children begin and end school at the same time each day? Do they have a strict schedule, at least as far as waking up and reporting to the school area of your home?

Hmmmm, what I think is hard to understand – because after 2.5 years of homeschooling I am only starting to understand it – is that homeschool and traditional school really aren’t that similar. We have no “school area” of our home – we have a piano, we have a kitchen table, we have several computers scattered about. School is designed to accommodate several children in one classroom with one teacher, and much of the structure of both the building and the schedule reflects that. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing, it’s just totally different from homeschooling. I’m not trying to work with 25 students all at once, and it would seem really weird and forced to live as if we did.

4.a If not, when/how will you transition your children into following a more rigid schedule – awaking at the same time each day so that they can follow a routine outside of the home like for college and work?

This question does not apply to me or my husband – we’ve usually been able to set our own schedules, and we have worked hard to have the skills and credibility to do so. And really, what is more erratic than a college student’s schedule? I guess my view is that I will help my children learn to manage their time without bells, punch cards, etc. This is where business is moving anyway – performance/production oriented workdays, rather than putting in a set number of hours regardless of the work that needs to be done.

7. Where do you find your curriculum? Do you shop for it and order it? Do you create your own?

Everywhere; yes; and yes. Again, homeschool is really different from PS in this regard and comparisons are difficult to make. A good PS curriculum will help a teacher work in a classroom setting with 25 students of different abilities who have to meet particular goals, and demonstrate to a governing body that those goals are met. That’s not what I need from a curriculum. And for many things we don’t use any purchased curriculum; we just read or do and learn.

My oldest is really interested in foreign languages, and although I have studied several she is determined to be interested in those I have no familiarity with. This is a case where we do need to find some form of curriculum. We’ve used Rosetta Stone, we’re now using Chinese Pod in the “guided” format, and I think she’ll be starting high school German 101 via BYU this fall, along with an English class – the English class is more of an experiment. I was looking at finding a junior high that offered German, but shockingly most only offer Spanish, a few Spanish and French. And geez, sometimes junior high seems like such a cesspool to throw a 9yo in . . . .

8. Do you have any worries at all about teaching your teenagers the higher level math and sciences? I, for one, could not teach chemistry to my children but I could probably teach them calculus. Is this a concern for you?

I do think about this. I’m sure the answer is different for everyone. I work on the assumption that my kids will want to go to a really good college. I’m a former academic with a strong scholarly bent – I know some homeschoolers also question the value of college degrees, but I’m not there with them. I know plenty of A**hole academics, but I also know a lot of fabulous ones, and getting to have a semester or two of them helping you develop your mind is an awesome thing. I want to keep that door open for my kids.

So, yes, they will need solid college prep. Depending on their interests, our financial situations, and several other things, we may decide to do part-time school or full-time school at that point, we may look into distance learning classes, we may do co-op classes (where I live, there are options for these classes). The science is the only one that I am concerned about – for math, online/distance/CD-based programs can get the job done, but for science you need labs.

But I’m also pretty confident that we, like many other homeschoolers, can work this one out when the time comes. My kids currently attend science class at a co-op, and we supplement with a lot of books at home.

9. What bothers you the most about the reputation home schoolers have? What things do you hate to hear people say about you for your choice? I really hope you don’t say that it’s my previous post.

Hmmm, although I am Christian (Catholic), I do hate that right-wing fundamentalist creationist stereotype. Actually, to be more precise, the stereotype that homeschoolers who are right-wing fundamentalist creationists homeschool in order to keep their kids in the dark, keep them away from people who aren’t exactly like them, etc. Though I am a left-wing Catholic who accepts evolution as an explanation for the development of the earth’s creatures, I can imagine that you could be a conservative fundamentalist who does not accept evolution and still not be homeschooling with the express purpose of isolating your kids. It’s the isolationist assumption that really gets me.

10. Be honest, do you, at least in your mind sometimes, judge those of us who choose public school? Do you ever think we are making a bad choice for our children? Are you vocal about that disapproval?

Here’s what annoys me. I’m with a group of PSers who go on about a bad teacher, or about all the things they do to supplement at home, or about various things they are doing because PS isn’t cutting it for their kids in some area, and then they start with the “Why do you homeschool, I could never, why don’t you try this school,” and so on. For most of the conversation I’m listening with interest, the interest of a friend or acquaintance who cares about what is happening in your life, who finds educational issues interesting, who hopes that things will eventually turn out well for you. But once the questions turn to me — and to be clear, I mean the “what were/are you thinking” questions, not the politely curious questions — I get cranky and start thinking “You guys are not exactly an advertisement for how great it would be for me to send my kids back to school.”

So in general, no, I am not thinking that my PS-ing friends are making a bad choice, and I’m never thinking that they ought to start homeschooling. It’s like this: I love my husband, but it’s never occurred to me that any of my friends should have married him.

Am I vocal? Only a few friends know that getting my knitting bag out means “I’m staying the hell outta this conversation!”

I wish I had a link to the Pajama Diaries strip for today (Sunday, July 27th), which depicts four friends with four different lifestyles complaining about the lack of respect they get for either staying home with kids, working full-time, working part-time, or homeschooling. I can’t describe this in a funny way, but the final frame shows all of them thinking that they would *never* want the lives of the others. There’s a difference between supporting your friends’ choices and thinking their choices would be right for you — I’m not sure why this is so hard, but apparently it is. The only reason I would want any of my PS friends to start homeschooling is so we could hang out together during the day, starting with coffee and working our way towards a few margaritas. 😉

11. Is “home school” one word or two? I’ve seen it both ways. With spellcheck, it shows it as ONE word when used as a verb, but two words when used otherwise. Please enlighten me.

I prefer one word in all instances. Two words just looks funny.


Filed under Curriculum, Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Learning Styles, Music and Art, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Schoolday Doings, Socialization, Why Homeschool?

9 responses to “Some questions about homeschoolers

  1. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

    I knew the socialization question would bother some people and, frankly, it’s not something I dwell on a lot. But I think it is one of the first thing people think of when they hear the term “homeschool.”

    I can honestly say I rarely complain about my kids’ school or teachers. I deeply admire teachers and we have been blessed with many, many good ones for the last 12 years. But you are right, those parents who are unhappy with their own choices should stop judging others in their choices.

    Each homeschool family that we know personally is the fundamentalist Christian type who really are trying to keep their kids in a bubble and teach them that those of us on the outside are evil. They are extremely judgmental. After a recent “attack” by one, I wrote my previous post – aimed only at the families we know personally. That, in turn, caused me to write my questions so that I could try to learn more about the other side of the school debate and hopefully, learn that there are many homeschoolers out there who are not so extreme in their beliefs. I am indeed learning quite a bit.

    Thanks again for your time and input.

  2. Great post! They’re excellent questions, I’m tempted to answer them myself.

  3. HI there,

    I’m Annie from Northern California. I’m a homeschooling mom of three boys (22 mons, 5 yrs & 7 yrs) who appear to be gifted. I’m starting a blog at about enriched or gifted homeschooling, and my friend told me to look for similar blogs to meet new people.

    I just found your post, and I swear you could have written for our family – Catholic, professionals who work from home and homeschool for quality education. So nice to meet someone living such a similar life. I particularly loved the line about loving your husband but not thinking everyone should marry him. So true!

    The socialization question reminded me of a conversation I once had with a more experienced homeschool mom. She said that one day she was out with one of her sons when homeschooling came up and someone asked how he would learn things like standing in line. My friend remarked that the conversation occurred as they were standing in line at a bank.
    Unless you plan on locking the kids in the closet, socialization will happen with very little effort.

    Anyway, nice to meet you!

    — Annie

  4. What is it about me that I really never get these kinds of questions – the “What were/are you thinking?” questions? I’ve been homeschooling for years now and got myself all geared up to deal with the irritation of having that question tossed my way, and it’s just never happened.


  5. I loved Annie’s comment above — I appreciate irony wherever I can find it! 😉

    Thanks for a great post, Shaun!! I forgot to say how cool your HS studies are!

  6. schooldownthelane

    this quote is perfect!

    “It’s like this: I love my husband, but it’s never occurred to me that any of my friends should have married him.”

    -Jen 🙂

  7. These are great answers. I was nodding my head a lot, starting with your first one. We started because school wasn’t working but now, we just love how it works. I can’t imagine sending her to school now unless this stopped working so well.

  8. Heather Gray

    great post. Thanks for representing us homeschoolers so thoughtfully.

  9. adsoofmelk

    I’m amused — or is it bemused? — about the reasons for your DD being labeled “unready” for the reasons you suggested.

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