Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Our Homeschool. Part II

Why We Homeschool

Having thought about homeschooling for over 15 years now, my list of reasons to homeschool is a long one.

#1. Learning as a Lifestyle. Family Life. Real Life. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the kitchen, car, dental office, library, museum, mountains. Reading. Asking questions. Being interested. Talking with people of different ages, professions, interests. More time for 'field trips' and travel. Not confined to a certain building, certain hours of the day, with an adult and a room full of same-aged peers. Children should see their parents learning, reading, and discovering along with them and on their own.

#2. Tailoring Education to Fit the Individual. All children are unique individuals. They learn different subjects at different paces. They are interested in different things. Ideally, my sons will be learning at their own speed in each subject. If they are at a '4th' grade level in reading, '1st' grade level in spelling, and '3rd' grade level in math, I can meet them where they are. If they need extra time to acquire mastery in phonics, we'll take that time. If they grasp a mathematical concept immediately, we won't spend 2 weeks on drill and review. No worrying about pushing ahead too quickly, or boring other students, or leaving my sons frustrated and lost, or lingering too long on a subject--leaving them bored to tears, or worse--sucking the love of learning right out of them. When we find a subject fascinating, let us spend the time delving in! When we find a subject that we don't care for, let us learn what we must and move on! If one of my sons is interested in, say, photography we'll buy or borrow books, get him equipment for his birthday, find an adult who loves and is knowledgeable in photography and schedule some time for them to be together, or find a class in which he can enroll. Science? How about classes at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry? I want them to master the basics and have time for their passions. I want them to love learning. My children's educations can be better tailored to suit their goals and equip them for their future.

#3. Owning Their Education. When learning happens 'on their own turf', when children have some control over what subjects they study, when there is time to really ask questions and discuss issues, when they are allowed input on where they study/how their daily schedule is arranged/how much time they need for specific subjects, when a love of learning has been developed, when education happens as a constant part of life...I believe children will have a greater feeling of ownership of their education. It is more personal and internalized. They are more likely to spend the rest of their life learning, instead of regarding education as something that happened to them for 12 (or more) years of their childhood.

#4. Flexibility. Homeschooling provides an amazing amount of flexibility to education in so many ways. When children become interested in a particular subject, they don't have to shut their books and move on when the bell rings. When they finish a lesson earlier than expected, they don't have to fill the next half hour with 'busy work.' If a child is sick, instead of missing a day of school, they might listen to a book on CD or follow the Latin lesson along with their siblings. Maybe they will sleep all day and continue lessons that evening. There will be no falling behind or scrambling to get the day's work from the teacher. Learning can happen anywhere: in the waiting room at the dentist's office, in the car, between events at a swim meet, or on vacation. The 'school year' can be spread out over a whole year with more frequent breaks, helping to eliminate burn-out or losing skills and knowledge over a long summer break. Family vacations can be had during off-season. We can take a week day to deal with life and add in school on Saturday. If we have fallen behind or need more time to dig in to a subject, we may add in a day here or there. If we are ahead, then we may relax a bit. In short, we will make homeschooling work for us, rather than striving to fit a 'perfect' box. During their high school years particularly, education can be flexible for work schedules, apprenticeships, college classes, travel, community service, volunteer opportunities, and extracurricular activities.

#5. Using our Time Wisely. One of my top reasons for homeschooling is the efficient use of our time. There are so many wonderful things with which to fill our days. More time can be spent on-task when there is no transportation time to and from school, no school assemblies, no roll call, no explanations/discipline/review for other students, no 'busy work,' no inappropriate socialization during study time, no 'filler' classes or subjects. When children are able to be on-task at their exact learning level with a 1:3 teacher/student ratio and with immediate personal feedback and discussion, much is accomplished in a short amount of time. This leaves hours of the day free for a full and well-rounded life, complete with down-time. As Greg Sherman writes in the essay, Ten Good Reasons to Homeschool (linked below):

Other people may rightfully disagree with our priorities, but my wife and I both feel that enjoying and performing music, playing in the outdoors, cooking, performing in the theater, learning ballet, and immersing ourselves in long and complicated games with siblings and friends is much more important than 99% of the math we were compelled to try and learn in school. I know that some people are capable of doing it all: school, music, theater, ballet, soccer, family. But not us.

I want my children to have the time for a fulfilling life, to pursue their passions. I don't think we would have the time without a homeschool environment.

#6. Integration of Knowledge and Subjects. Rarely in real life does one use a skill or 'subject' in isolation. The ideal educational environment would allow writing skills to be developed during history class, grammar skills developed during Latin, or a current events discussion during science.
To the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated. Astronomy (for example) isn't studied in isolation; it's learned along with the history of scientific discovery, which leads into the church's relationship to science and from there to the intricacies of medieval church history. The reading of the Odyssey leads the student into the consideration of Greek history, the nature of heroism, the development of the epic, and man's understanding of the divine. --Susan Wise Bauer, in her essay, What is Classical Education?

#7. Continuity. Homeschooling will allow for a seamless progression of skills and knowledge. It will allow my children to master a skill and then progress to the next level without lingering, and without gaps. We won't jump from one teaching style to another, one curriculum to another, or one set of expectations to another. I will know what material they have covered, and what needs to be presented, without having to assume that certain information or skills have been acquired. We will cover world history starting at the beginning, finishing at the end. We will not spend all of our time learning about the pilgrims again, and again, and again. We will not do a unit study on ocean life each year of grade school. Instead, we will start with Biology, move on to Earth Science, then Astronomy, Chemistry, and Physics. We will not read Charlotte's Web as our yearly read-aloud. (We read the book, listened to it on CD, and watched the movie when Levi was 4.) We will discover new books daily and revisit favorites often.

#8. No One Knows My Kids Like Their Own Parents. No other person wants more for them, is ready to sacrifice what we are willing to sacrifice for them. A teacher with 20-30 (or more) incoming students each year does not know what are my child's strengths, weaknesses, interests, learning style and personality. I hope to know when to challenge them, and when to hold back. As their parents, we have authority to discipline, authority to teach values and morals, and authority to guide our children in deciding their futures.

#9. Socialization. In my experience, children in recent times lose their innocence early and mature later, creating a 10-15 year (or longer) adolescence. My hope is to help my children retain their childhood innocence longer and encourage maturation. I want my kids to think for themselves without a herd mentality. Lots of free play time (particularly outdoors), time for imagination to let loose, quality children's literature, selective television, very little video games, more interaction with adults or families and less with large groups of same-aged peers, chores and responsibilities, serious participation in and ownership of family relationships, deep friendships, challenging academic studies (including Socratic dialogue and discussion), more time with their father, travel, personal development sports (swimming, tennis, martial arts...), music lessons, quality group experiences (books club, age-group swim team, debate team, band or orchestra...), apprenticeships, and specific training in life skills will all help serve my children as they enjoy childhood and develop into mature young adults.

#10. Rigorous Academics. I hope to provide my boys with a solid classical (or neo-classical) academic foundation. This will include an emphasis on the mastery of reading, writing, and math. We will study history chronologically and in great depth. We will read a thousand pieces of quality literature and end with a Great Books study in high school. The boys' dad (with a science degree and a masters in education) will oversee their science studies. We may use online tutorials, private tutors, or college classes for high school level science. The same applies to math. Our boys have started learning Spanish, will begin the study of Latin by the 3rd grade, and hopefully add in a 3rd foreign language by the 6th-9th grade. We will study logic and rhetoric. Music and art will be added in as much as possible, including a few years of piano and music theory. I'll be posting more about classical education later.

#11. Furthering My Own Education. I am incredibly full of anticipation, knowing that I will have the opportunity to learn along with my boys. There are so many gaps in my education, and I look forward with delight to the years ahead. Mental multivitamin says it best (as usual).

If you are interested, after surviving my lengthy explanations, in reading a wonderful article about a father's reasons for homeschooling, check out Ten Good Reasons to Homeschool by Greg Sherman, Ph.D.

Part I of the homeschooling discussion can be found here.

An interesting view from another angle, why someone shouldn't home educate, can be found here.

Some of my favorite inspirational books that encourage me (directly or indirectly) to homeschool:
Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos by Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D.
Feel free to leave comments if you have any questions!


Unknown said...

What an interesting post! I am not a homeschooler, because I truly believe that it's something you have to be 100% committed to and invested in, and we are not. My husband and I have our own reasons for our public school choice, but I really love some of your reasons, including the wise use of time. I try to take advantage of summers, and in spite of sending my daughter to school, she's a third grader who has not yet entered adolescence as many have.

(I'm not arguing, but agreeing with your concepts and sharing how I try to integrate them into our life).

Your email address is not in your profile, so email me and I will send you your questions for your interview meme.

Heidi said...

Thanks Jennifer! I'm not a militant homeschooler. :) I understand that it is a personal decision, that it isn't right for many people, that you can create some of that atmosphere even if your children attend public or private school, and that you have to be 100% committed for it to work well. :) I appreciate your comments.

I'll send off an email.

Mental multivitamin said...

Many thanks for link/nods.


Heidi said...

Not a problem. Grin.

heather said...

This is so well-written! I love it!

We are actually looking at having a close friend teach A next year for K. She will have 2 or 3 students and teach in her home.

I have struggled with this decision because i have waited 5 years to do K with him. But, this friend does quite a bit of teaching/tutoring, is comitted to the classical style that i insist on and lives within walking distance from our place. I am realizing that having her teach A's basics just means i can pour my time into other fun things.

I also think, that for our family, even though this is a different direction than i had planned on, it will be good. Having one in jr high next year-that i will still be homeschooling, a K, and a preschooler as well as a baby...I am warming to this new direction. That said, it is a HUGE priority to me to maintain many of the aspects you write about.

I get to grow in learning to be flexible and in making choices that are "outside the box"-for me anyway-when it serves the best interest of a child and our family.

Heidi said...


That sounds like an amazing opportunity. I don't think I would pass that up. Walking distance from your house? Wow! How many days/week or hours/day?

Especially for kindergarten when you have so much other stuff going on at home, this seems like a great deal. :) Email me when you get a chance. I'd love to hear more about it!

Relyn Lawson said...

I am a public school teacher and not the biggest homeschooling fan. I have to tell you that I appreciate this post so much. I think you are wise and correct. Not to mention, this is the most well-thought-out and best expressed list of reasons for homeschooling I have ever seen. I wish all children had parents as committed to their education as you obviously are.

Unknown said...

oh, oh, oh! Can I just say I am loving on you right now? =D Your list is so kindred to ours, and that article by Greg Sherman has been my all time favourite homeschool support lifeline for years. Thrilled to have found your blog.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog through a friend and will certainly be back to explore more! Have you read "For the Children's Sake" by Susan Schaeffer McCaully? It's not about "homeschooling" per se, but and learning in general. Love your photography as well!

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog today-and found this all very interesting. I had decided when I was about 11, that learning at home would be the way to go for my kids. This was just based on the fact that I thought I always learnt more on my own, and so did all the characters in the books I loved to read.

I mentioned this to my husband before we actually 'met' in real life-we met over the internet.

I've never read up on homeschooling, never analyzed it, I have not even looked at any curriculums, but all the reasons you stated would pretty much sum up how we feel about it. We aren't 'vigorous academics' by any stretch of the immagination-but other than that-I think that is the best summary of the wonders of home schooling I've ever read.

Laura at By the Bushel said...

Found your blog through 'in courage' and can tell you, I have been. Thanks for this post, have put your blog in my favorites to come back to and enjoy new posts.
Have a wonderful weekend- Laura

Kris said...

Hi Heidi,

Love your blog! I've been considering homeschooling for about a year now, but have not found the courage to dive in. I'm a stay-at-home mom of 3 boys (10, 8, and 4) and I've seen the affects a public school can have on my boys. They are at grade level, but I feel they are missing that love of learning you talk about. My 8 YO also has been diagnosed with ADHD, and that has been a major issue keeping me from this adventure. I'm not intimidated by the curriculum or the teaching aspect, I have a masters in science, but I'm unsure how my kids will react to the change from public to home school. Do you have any advise for me? Thanks so much for this great blog and your inspiration!

Kat Sklar said...

Hi Heidi,

I left Portland Public Schools at age 13 to do self-directed learning (largely inspired by The Teenage Liberation Handbook and the unschooling movement). My parents and I set goals for my learning every six months or so, but they let me figure out how to achieve those goals. I loved it. My high school years were awesome for all the reasons you list in your post - I had all the time I needed to explore my passions. When I decided to go to college via distance education so I would have more me time, my parents were equally supportive. I'm now 25 and a CPA, and find that my love of learning and well-nurtured curiosity are my best career assets. I love the details in your post about how thoughtful homeschooling can improve childhood, but also wanted to pipe up about the long term benefits. Homeschooling isn't just a choice about school and childhood - it's a choice that pays dividends every day for the rest of your kids' lives.

Monica said...

As I perspective homeschooler, thinking about why/why not to homeschool, I especially appreciated this post. I hope that you don't mind that I linked to your post...I thought it was too good not to share.

Alison said...

I found your blog through Heather T. and wanted to just say thank you.. I've been browsing around for about an hour now and will need to come back for more. :) My kids are similar ages to yours (7, 5, 3, 8 months) and I've appreciated all your suggestions. :) I admire people who are able to home school and still make time to blog--it helps so many others of us!

Mary Renee said...

Hi Heidi!
I found your blog by doing a search for the pros and cons of Classical Conversations. I'm loving all the great information I'm getting for homeschooling my daughter when she's old enough.

If you don't mind, could you explain the difference between Classical vs NeoClassical?
I'm currently reading The Well-Trained Mind, but if that is in the book, I either missed it or have yet to get to that part.


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