I never thought I would homeschool my children. Understandably, I followed what I knew. As a child, I had fond memories of my elementary school years. My mom frequently volunteered in my class, and I was prepared to follow in her footsteps. However, when my oldest started kindergarten, I didn't find it as easy to get involved as I had hoped. For one, teachers didn’t want me to bring my toddler along to class.
At the same time that I was struggling to find a way to stay connected to my son's school, his extra-curricular activities were absorbing an inordinate amount of time. He was a competitive gymnast, and by age ten, his coach wanted him in the gym twenty-five hours a week. I would pick him up from school, he’d eat a quick snack, and then we’d be off to the gym for a four-hour workout. Something had to give.
The summer after my son's third grade year, we decided to homeschool. I figured that we wouldn't ever see him if we didn't. The funny thing is that he only continued his competitive gymnastics for that first year we homeschooled. Then we dropped the sport and continued homeschooling. I'm so thankful we did.
There are three main reasons that we chose to continue this journey of homeschooling even once the original reasons were moot: my children are guided by mentors not managers, they're influenced by parents not peers, and they're directed by curiosity not Common Core.
1. Guided by Mentors not by Managers
As a homeschooling parent, I get the opportunity to mentor my children throughout their education. This means that I can design a curriculum plan to both enhance their strengths and shore up their weaknesses. The education I can offer my child is a specialized, customized course of study that they get to participate in developing as they grow. If my kids were still in public school, they would only get directed attention if they were uniquely gifted or continually struggling.
It isn't the teachers' fault. They are managing sometimes up to 35 kids at a time. Once they hit third or fourth grade, students are rotating classrooms, so their teacher might be managing two to three times as many students. They just don't have the time or resources to mentor all of the kids that pass through their classes.
2. Influenced by Parents not by Peers
Because my children are with me nearly all day, I get the opportunity to have the greatest influence over their life. I consider this a pretty high honor, but it's not an easy task! Knowing that they're always watching, I have found that homeschooling has called me to a higher standard of living. I love that they make me better as I strive to give them the best education I can.
When my son was in public school, my time for instilling our family's values was limited by the sheer number of hours spent away from home. As students move from one teacher to the next and one grade level to the next, one thing remains constant—their peers. It's natural for them to bond in a way that makes a peer the most important relationship in a child's life. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, a peer simply can't prepare someone their own age for adulthood like an adult can, especially an adult like a parent who has a huge love for that child.
3. Directed by Curiosity not by Common Core
Curiosity is the foundation of what drives the culture of education in our home. Fostering curiosity means that my kids will be the ones initiating the in depth searching for more information and deeper understanding. When you cultivate this type of environment, learning becomes like breathing—effortless. It happens all the time, everywhere you go.
In the modern educational system, there is a list of things that every child needs to know. When you force feed information, the result is detrimental to any future enjoyment of learning. The system often yields the opposite of the intended result—apathy. If a student just doesn't care, they will never seek out more. This is not the education I want for my children.
But What About the Few?
I know there are those few cases of schools that defy the odds. They produce incredible young men and women who are model citizens and contribute incredible things to our society. If you're lucky enough to find such a situation, that is wonderful.
As for me and my family, we are thrilled that we get to partake of this educational adventure together. I now realize as my son enters his junior year of high school that these days we have with our children are few. I want to spend all the time I can mentoring him into becoming his best. I love that I still have influence over him and that we've cultivated a relationship that will continue long after he leaves my home. Above all, I love that I have helped protect and nurture his curiosity so that he will continue to learn long after the days of my "making him do his math" have ended.
While your reasons for homeschooling or continuing to homeschool may be similar than mine, the reality is that all of our scenarios are unique. We should step off of the industrialized, one-size-fits-all view of education, and return to the art of teaching, which requires guidance, influence, and direction. Embrace the adventure and the rewards of the journey will be greater than you could have ever imagined.
About the Author
Betsy Strauss is a wife to a deep thinker and a homeschooling mom of three kids. When she stumbled into homeschooling, she thought it would just look like public school at home. Thankfully, she quickly learned that using a one-room schoolhouse model of teaching was a great way to unify the family, and enrich family life without going crazy! She shares her encouragement on Family Style Schooling Blog.