Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why Homeschool, Revisited

I always wondered at what point it would be appropriate for a blogger to repost from their archives. I don't want to be like the singer who compiles their greatest hits after releasing only two albums.

Again, it comes down to the fact that this is my blog. I'm trying to get a few things done this week (other than blog). I like to keep things hopping around here. I'd hate to let you all down.

All this to say, you're stuck with a post from the archives. One that is very important to me. One that took me forever to write. (I'm a very slow writer.) One that will take you forever to read, so you'll feel like you're really getting your money's worth. (Oh, yeah... it's free. Like I said, getting your money's worth. Grin.)

Without further ado:

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 loosing 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.

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:
Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Md Mate
Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos by Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D.

Feel free to leave comments if you have any questions!


Elise said...

Your reasons for homeschooling have a lot in common with the school I used to teach at here in Australia. The school's philosophy was based on teaching to the individual. As teachers we had to prepare lessons based on ability levels (as opposed to year level or age). As a rough guide, if you were teaching year 8 maths, you would need to prepare activities for at least 8 different abilty levels, year 9 meant catering for 9different abilty levels etc. We did not have a set text book per subject. Our role as teachers was to provide a range of stimulus material (literary, visual etc) for our students from a range of sources

Each term a theme was selected and then all of the core subjects had to fit in with the set theme, this made learning relevant. Teachers team taught. I taught history in the junior school and often would team teach with a science teacher. Therefore subject areas would be combined. We would use different thinking skill strategies to cater for different ability levels (de Bono's six hats and the Multiple Intelligences were two common ones). Students were also given a lot of choice as to how they would present tasks.

From a teacher's point of view it certainly was a lot more work, but the results were so rewarding and worth every minute you spent burning the midnight oil in order to prepare lessons and correct students work. Students seemed to excel and produce work of an amazing quality. Students at this school were taught to think outside the box. There was a strong emphasis on teaching about problem solving. The fact that students had so much choice, were challenged and interested in the task at hand also contributed to students achieving such good outcomes.

The beauty of individualising the curriculum is that you conference with individual students regularly.

If only more schools could get away from one text book for the whole class, offering one set task for everyone. It's a win-win situation for all parties involved when education is delivered in a way that caters to the individual.

As you can see I can prattle on about this. If you are at all interested, I would love to chat to you further about this. I would also be very interested in hearing about the resources you use. If I could be of any help to you I would love to share anything at all I can with you.

Sarah at SmallWorld said...

That was well worth reposting! I think our lists may be identical. I've had this on my mind a lot this past week as we prepare here for our annual Homeschooling 101. I had an interview with our local newspaper Monday and was explaining to him that he could ask 10 homeschoolers their Top 3 reasons for homeschooling and he'd likely get 20 different reasons right there. Funny that ours are so similar!

Mumsy said...

I have loved this post! I keep having to justify why I want to homeschool to my friends. They have some bizarre ideas about what homeschooling is. I'm going to direct them on over here because I totally agree with all of your reasons!

Heidi said...

E & T~ Wow! That sounds like an amazing school. What a job cut out for the teachers. It sounds unlike any school I know of around here. If we had one (within the budget, of course) I might consider sending my kids there after a few years... I wish there would be some major changes in our school system. That is one of the reasons I enjoyed the book Family Matters so much. As a school teacher, the author presents some great ideas for flexibility within the public schools. I'd love to chat sometime! My email is Thanks for the comment!

SmallWorld~ I feel honored that our lists are similar. :) It is so very true that there is a huge range in the reasons people choose to homeschool. And how they homeschool. And how long.... I think that is one of the big myths it would be nice to dispel about homeschooling. We may have one thing in common, but that's often where it ends. :) Kinda hard to lump us all together, LOL.

Cafe Johnsonia~ I think it is very hard for people to think outside the box when it comes to educating their children, but homeschooling is increasingly becoming a very viable choice. The resources, support, and additional choices (co-ops, online classes, dual enrollments at public schools or colleges...) are abundant. Feel free to send anyone this direction. :) I'd be glad to help!

Dreams of a Country Girl said...

great post -- it is like a classic novel, always needs to be revisited. Your words are wise beyond your years (all 21 of them, right?)

PandaMom said...

Too funny that you posted this! Just yesterday I visited it and read over it as I was typing up my own "Why" for hs. I am posting it tomorrow, but just laughed when I saw yours up today! ; )

5 Chicks and a Farmer said...

This is wonderful insight. Recently, I've been praying through all of this- homeschool vs. public school vs. private school.

Honestly, your reasoning makes so much more sense to me than the alternative view from the other angle you provided in the link.

I would love to know what a daily schedule looks like in your home. I'm not so great on schedules (except sleeping and napping) and I worry that I would hold my children back because of this. I have horrible self-discipline issues- of which I'm working through with the Lord too:).

Seriously, thanks for posting. I love reading insight from a mom who has been there. My oldest is 3 so we still have a little bit of time, but I know it will be here before we know it.


Anonymous said...

If you are interested in homeschooling, see the new book on "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better".

Sarah said...

Thanks for reposting this Heidi.
I'd read it in your archives when I was first directed to your blog by Shannon...but it was nice to read again.


Heidi said...

Country Girl~ 21, yeah. That's it. Actually, when I realize the tasks and responsibilities of raising 3 little boys that rest on my shoulders, I feel about 15. When I fall in bed at night, I feel about 65. :)

Panda-Mom~ That's too funny. I loved your reasons that you posted on your blog today. Nicely done!

Lyns~ Education choices for our children are biggies. I'm not a militant homeschooler... I know very well that it works well for some families and not others. But I also want people to know what a homeschooling family can look like, the reasons one might choose to homeschool, and the choices available.

I will be the very first to admit that I'm not a disciplined person. Some days I'm just downright lazy. I think one of the things in my favor is that we've known from the beginning that we would homeschool and have been able to work very slowly up to where we are now. And I have a loooong way to go still. :) So my biggest suggestion is to start small and early, then build slowly but surely.

I posted my hopeful routine in January, and I'm still working on it. Maybe I'll post a 'real' day's schedule sometime soon. :)

It scares me sometimes that people are looking to me for advice and recommendations, LOL. My oldest is only 6, and I have so much to learn and experience. I feel so inadequate most days. If you ever want to chat, though, feel free to email me at

Sarah~ Thanks!

Liz said...

Great post! I loved reading all your reasons and found myself focused on No. 2, and tailoring instruction to fit the child. My kids are SO different, and have different strengths and needs. A teacher friend has recommended Differentiating Reading Instruction for reading. Great strategies and tips, lesson plans, assessments, etc. Ahd the author will soon come out with a book on teaching reading, which I think will be really useful, too. (There are many lessons included.)

Just thought I'd share. It's a touch row we hoe, sometimes, and it's so good to read about other people's experiences.

Precision Quality Laser said...

I feel bad asking you all of these questions that I have... but I'm going to!
Do you worry about your children's education being accredited? You and I live in the same state, so I wondered what your take on it is.

Thanks for all of the wonderful advice and encouragement you have given!


Mrs. Q