This morning I typed up a whole page of thoughts on homeschooling, but I could not get blogger to work. It gave me too much time to consider what I wrote. Maybe I will post it; maybe not. Maybe I need to get to the point much faster and stop trying to explain my life and my choices.
Homeschooling is not for everybody. It has its successes, and it has its failures - like every education system. Whether you choose public school, private school, or homeschool, there will be real challenges. The secret to success for each system is good parenting with strong commitments.
We tried public school – believe me I wanted to make it work. We gave it our best shot (this is what I tried to write about earlier today). We eventually chose to homeschool. It turned out perfect for us. Once we made the decision and started to homeschool, people, friends, and family treated us as if we had lost our minds or were some sort of traitors to the public schools. One long time friend came up to me at the grocery store and said she had heard that we were homeschooling. I told her that was correct. She turned without a word and walked away from me. We got lots of odd comments and took a lot of flak on our decision. Sometimes I tried to explain or answer back. Sometimes I just let people be stupid and rude. The bottom line was that we made a choice that we thought was best for our children – key words being "our children". Everyone must make a choice in how best to raise and educate his or her children. Like I said before, good parenting and strong commitment are critical no matter what you choose.
We were at a business dinner with the big dogs of Allied Waste, the company Toby worked for, when one of the men said, "Lou, I hear you homeschool your children." I said, "Yes, I do." He said, "Well, you are a public school teacher. You are qualified to teach. My sister-in-law is not a qualified teacher. She should not be homeschooling her children. What do you think?" My husband probably cringed at this point not knowing what I might say and knowing I would rise to the challenge. I said, "Well, I think if you love your children, you can teach your children. If you cannot teach your children, you probably should not have had them in the first place." I still stick with this statement.
My sister-in-law who is an elementary teacher (and I love her dearly) said, "I could never teach my boys. I would probably kill them." Hmm, so you expect a stranger who does not love your children to be able to teach them? You don’t expect them to be obedient to you, their parent, but you expect them to obey their teachers?? Something is wrong with this picture. On the same subject, my brother said, "We want our kids to be normal." What? You think my kids are abby-normal? What he really meant, was that he wanted his kids to be cool, popular, socially-in kids who play sports and go to proms – after all, isn’t that what is most important in education? For some people it is.
Ah, the "social" problem – people brought it up all of time. "What about socialization?" has to be the biggest question addressed to us. Sometimes I was a smart aleck and said something like, "Yes, socialization is a problem. Schools are becoming more socialistic every day," or "That is exactly the reason we took them out of public school – the socialization!" How do you explain that homeschool allows you more free time than public school for socialization. By starting school at 8 am, we could be finished with all subjects by noon and finished with all our regular schoolbooks in March. We could visit anybody any time we wanted. We could go on family vacations. We could go to the bank, grocery store, or out to eat whenever we wanted. We could do special projects. We could participate in all sorts of activities such as 4H or Little League or Boy Scouts. In fact, we usually took Mondays as a ski day. I would say that homeschooled children were actually more socially intelligent than many public school kids, because they were use to interacting with the real world – not just classroom settings and kids their own age.
Another comment we often heard was, "Some people say they are homeschooling, but they really don’t." One lady followed this up with, "And their kids are two grade levels behind in their reading!" My reply was that if that were true, then they were right where most public school kids were – two grade levels behind. "But they should be held accountable!" Hmm, who holds PS kids accountable? When kids fall behind, do they fire teachers? Are kids taken away from their parents? PS students are given all sorts of achievement tests to measure their level of achievement. If a student is behind the norm, sometimes he is given remedial classes. Most of the time nothing is done especially if no one complains. If a student is above the norm, usually nothing is done either. So who is holding the PS system accountable. The PS systems are busy just trying to get their students to pass a basic skills exit test. Basic skills for Pete’s sake!!
It is hard for me to sound like I am not bashing public school. Maybe I am. I do think the whole PS system is a failure, but I do not know how to change things. I know I was not willing to sacrifice my children to try and change the system. Keep in mind that it takes commitment to be successful – especially in public school. Unfortunately, people just turn their kids over to others without question and hope for the best. Is that loving your children?