Ten Things This Homeschooling Mom Wants You To Know
Yesterday, I read 10 Things Homeschool Moms Wish You knew. I just happen to know the gal who opened up her heart and shared that little glimpse into her life. I saw that a number of people made comments that seemingly lumped all homeschoolers into the same box.
People took that small snapshot and drew their own conclusions not only about her life but other homeschooling families as well.
After reading her page, I found myself awake into the middle of the night pondering what I would want you to know. Imagine if you asked the students and parents in your own schools to each create this same type of list. As you can well imagine, that list will vary from person to person. Just so, my own list is likely a bit different and, for those not reading further, I'll sum up my list in two words - homeschooling works!
Do You Homeschool?
We are Pro-Choice
Our family believes the best education involves choice.
We haven't homeschooled from the get-go. Both of our children began homeschooling in second grade because of struggles in school. For my son, that struggle was socialization. My daughter struggled academically.
Our children help make the choice where to attend school from year to year. Would they like to go back to a traditional school, and if so, which school would they like to attend? My son went back to school for fourth and fifth grades. In sixth grade, he decided he just wanted to homeschool and, he has since then. My daughter, now a sixth grader, talks about homeschooling until high school. About 45 minutes away is a magnet school for the performing arts and my daughter loves to dance. Sigh, 45 minutes and that is without traffic! Not sure yet about that one but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it!
The choices in education are important ones and, for this homeschooling family, equally important that our kids know they have a say in that choice.That said, both kids had the same reaction when they started testing above grade level on standardized tests (more on that topic later). They both thought they should be able to skip a year or two of school but, nope, we're not THAT pro-choice.
I'm a very structured and academic sort. Academics are very important to us. While we have friends (both traditionally schooled and homeschooled) who don't have college on their radar, we do. Our job is to make sure they can get into a good college if they choose that route. Whether or not they go is up up to them.
My daughter has dyslexia. In school, they were losing her socially. They were losing her emotionally. They were losing her academically. This was TOTALLY unacceptable to me. I wrote an entire page on that story so if you are interested in reading more: Homeschooling a Child with Dyslexia
In a nutshell, she was failing tests. She was breaking down daily in tears and it only got worse when her IEP had her being removed from the classroom to take tests. She was in the lowest reading group and the bottom of the food chain in that group. School was painful. She felt singled out and was giving up. That is when we decided to homeschool her. I'll confess, I worried about teaching a child with dyslexia and worried more about a child who could push my buttons like no other. Ended up being a learning experience for us both and we both have grown by leaps and bounds.
Now, that same girl is in sixth grade. She's happy. She's confident. Academics? Oh yeah, she's got that in the bag. She'll tell you she's smart and, you know what, she is!
You're wondering about my son? He is a junior in high school. School bored him. He started Duel Enrollment at the local community college last semester and had straight As his first semester. A number of colleges and universities around the country have been 'inviting' him to visit their campuses.
If you hear homeschool and automatically picture your Aunt Bertha's next-door-neighbor's son's cousin who lounges around all day playing video games and drooling, you, my friend, know very little about homeschoolers. Many homeschoolers are going off to college, doing wonderfully academically and/or successfully entering the workplace.
We Are Over-Socialized
The BIGGEST Myth about homeschooling (and one that gets any homeschooling Mama's eyes a'rollin') is that thing about socialization. Let me just say up front, more often than not, homeschooled kids are over-socialized.
How can that be?
My kids have been in public school. They've been in private school. At each school, they've had maybe one or two close friends. That's pretty typical. During class time, teachers are telling the kids NOT to socialize. After school, homework, homework, homework!
Side note: Did you know that there is a study out of Stanford that shows increasing levels of homework are causing traditionally-schooled children to be less socialized, have more socialization problems and higher stress levels?
Last year, we were having a day. It happens. I threatened to toss my daughter back in school and she broke down in tears. Her concern? She'd miss having all her friends and, indeed, she has a lot more friends than if she just sat in the same classroom day after day with the same group of kids. The girl is my social butterfly. Just as you shouldn't put a butterfly in a cage, you just shouldn't stick this girl in the same classroom day after day. She's involved in so many different groups and has friends in each of them. She has friends in the neighborhood. Because she doesn't have 'homework', she has time to go hang out at her friends' houses and her friends are often over here before she heads off to dance. In school, she had one good friend and a couple casual friends. Now before she has a group of friends over, she has to whittle down the list so we don't have problems with the Fire Marshall. Well, it's not that bad but this girl does have a lot of friends and, the best part, they are great kids!
Sometimes I think that their social life is going to be the death of me. I'm exhausted!
We're Not Homeschooling for Religious Reasons
I know many non-homeschooling folk automatically think 'Religious Zealot' when they hear a family is homeschooling.
Our reasons for homeschooling had nothing to do with Religion.
Yes, we are a Christian family but we also have some wonderful Christian schools in our area. Indeed, I have many friends who are not homeschooling for 'religious' reasons either. Like us, some are homeschooling their children for academic reasons. Others are homeschooling their children for 'socialization' reasons (i.e bullying, too much homework and not enough time to enjoy life). Some homeschool their children because they enjoy traveling and their kids get an amazing education seeing the world. There are so many reasons a parent might choose to homeschool.
And, should a parent choose to homeschool for religious reasons, I understand that as well. Just keep in mind, that is only one reason among many.
Some of Us Like Tests
Now this gets a mite tetchy in the homeschool realm. I am a fan of standardized tests and I'll tell you why. Standardized tests allow me to see each year how my kids are doing. Yes, I have an idea just from the day to day interaction, but, let me tell you, sometimes I am surprised by the results. I might be worried about one area when, indeed they do wonderfully. It also allows me to see where we might want to put a bit more emphasis the next year.
Case in point, bringing up my daughter who has dyslexia, she was failing miserably at school. It hurt to watch. In fifth grade last year, she took her annual standardized test. Her lowest score was seventh grade level and her highest scores were in the eleventh grade level. Keeping in mind, average scores across the United States were in the fifth grade level, oh yeah, that's awesome. We're not alone. I've had friends worry so much about taking those tests but, once they do, they breathe a huge sigh of relief. Their kiddos are ahead of the game as many homeschoolers are. In fact, research keeps showing that homeschooled children tend to outperform their traditionally-schooled peers on tests.
My son scored 'Post High School' in all subjects by the seventh grade. He ended up taking the high school SAT through Duke TIP that year and got to attend a special state-wide ceremony for his scores.
In school, my daughter was scoring in a very low percentile range. We've changed that. If students in traditional school were all scoring high, I'd be more apt to say, "Sure, let's test all homeschooled kids," but, fact is, they're not. The average is fiftieth percentile with about half the kids scoring lower than average. You just can't hold homeschoolers to a higher standard than you are going to hold the local school.
So, no, I don't think tests are necessary. For us, tests just confirm we're doing great. We could skip the tests and still be doing just as great. I guess I just need a little more affirmation than most.
Just because a homeschooling parent might worry about how their kids are doing academically and think that their kids are behind (I'm guilty of that myself at times), doesn't make it so... a great segue into the next point:
We Are Our Own Worst Enemies
So, you think you're harder on homeschoolers than homeschoolers are? Yeah, I don't think so. I've talked with enough homeschooling Mamas to know, we are, sometimes, our worst enemies. My own kids are doing great academically and socially and yet I still question myself. I have days when I suspect I'm scarring them for life (and I've no doubt anti-homeschoolers who don't know me would agree). But, just because we think it doesn't make it so. We are just are own worst critics.
I remember when I began homeschooling my son when he was in second grade. I would actually go down to his old school and compare notes with the second grade teacher. I even chose the same curriculum they were using. I was so worried I would blow it. Turns out, we moved along at a faster clip than the class with his friends so I started modifying what we were doing. We ended up scrapping the science and did Astronomy for a year. The teacher was so impressed by what I put together, she did the same (for part of the year). By the end of that year, my son probably knew more about Astronomy than most high schoolers. That was the point where my thinking shifted and I realized that my son was indeed getting the best possible education he could have.
A tailor-made, one-on-one education? Hard to top that. So, yep, while we all have our days where we question why we are homeschooling, we just have to remember, we chose this route for a reason and, chances are good, our kids are doing great!
Not Much 'Home' in Homeschooling
Of course, the joke 'mongst homeschoolers is that we homeschool so we can stay in jammies all day. I'll admit, on days we're at home, we're all fans of the jammies. However, much of our homeschooling experience is outside the home. Even before my son was attending the local Community College, he was involved in classes with other kids. Both kids are involved in groups with other homeschoolers as well as groups with traditionally-schooled kids. My son is an Eagle Scout and every involved in the Scouting experience. He also acts with our local youth theater and another local drama troupe. My daughter dances most days of the week. We're not so much the co-op sort but they do take classes with other homeschooled kids often taught by homeschooling Mamas who were teachers.
Rabbit trail...have you ever noticed how many teachers and former teachers homeschool? Many of my friends have teaching certificates.
Again, I feel the segue...
A College Degree Means Little
When I say a college degree means little, I mean that a college degree is not necessary to be a successful homeschool teacher.
Believe you me, I'd like to believe my own education means more but I've met too many amazing homeschool families to think it matters.
I've had the opportunity to teach both in the military and while in graduate school. My undergraduate and graduate studies were in the sciences. Interestingly enough, one topic in which my kids generally take outside the home is science and not all of their science teachers have had degrees in the subject.
I just know too many families now whose mothers may not have attended college or have a two-year degree and those kids are doing great. Seen a number of them go off to college. Some of them choose a different, non-college-bound path and that is okay. Many traditionally-schooled kids do the same.
I've also had friends who teach in traditional schools and, with cuts, they've had to teach subjects which differ from their degrees. Turns out, they do what we do. They prepare for the class one lesson at a time.
Do you know that there are curricula out there that will walk you through step-by-step in what to say and how to teach? There are numbers you can call if you aren't sure how to present a topic. Let's not forget ALL the information out there on the web. You can find lessons is just about any topic under the sun and if you just have a subject in which you are uncomfortable teaching, you can find a video or online class with another teacher.
As much as I'd like to believe my college education has anything to do with my children's successes, I know better. Too many homeschooling families have proven to me that a degree matters little...in this area.
No, I can't do the splits. My daughter is the dancer and I leave the painful stretches to her. No, I'm talking flexibility in our schedules and flexibility in our curriculum.
There are school days when the beaches are calling our names. Other days, a family we know might text and say, "Hey, want to meet us at Disney?" We can do this. Great way to beat the crowds. We might end up doing school on days other kids have off just to make up for it but, isn't a 20-minute wait for Space Mountain worth it? Try to go to Disney during a school holiday and that line can easily be 90 minutes!
As for curriculum, last year we made the mistake of choosing a math book that Common Core aligned <<shudder>>. That was the most frustrating experience EVER. They turned what should have been a single lesson into six lessons and it ended up confusing my daughter to no end. Lots of tears and I wanted to throw that book through the window. Finally I tossed it and went with a very non-traditional math book. Huge shout out for Life of Fred (a math book in story form). By the end of the year, she understood fractions and decimals like nobody's business. Just out of curiosity, we went back and had her take the 'final' for that other curriculum. She aced it. She said it was too easy. On her standarized test, she scored a tenth grade level.
It's all about the flexibility. Take what you need and discard the rest.
Oh, You Can Try but We Won't Fit Into Your Box
You cannot fit homeschoolers into a nice, neat little box.
Every family is different.
What I can tell you, though, is that there are similarities with our traditionally-schooled peers. There will be kids who succeed. There will be kids who struggle. There will be kids who are college bound and others who are looking elsewhere. There will be kids that march to the beat of their own drum and kids that follow the crowd.
One advantage we have homeschooling, and one I've had a number of teacher friends bemoan in their own classrooms, we can tailor an education to fit each individual child. If our child is struggling in math, we can take them back a grade, just in that subject, and tutor them. When I first began to homeschool my daughter, I took her back to preschool phonics. We started at the beginning and worked our way up. Did a step that drastic help? Her lexile score in fifth grade was at a high school level and that is with dyslexia. The girl always has her nose in a book now. I couldn't be prouder and, had she stayed in school, our story, no doubt, would be very different.
You just can't fit homeschoolers into the same box. We're all different and we all make different choices. Going back to my first point, I am pro-choice. I will try not to generalize about your traditionally-schooled children. I believe that every child is different. You know your own children best. If traditional school is best for your children, I think that is great. If a more tailored, personalized education would suit your child's needs, I wish you the best!
My hope with this page is that I may have broken a few stereotypes. You get out of homeschooling what you put into it. Many of us have our children's best interests at heart and, for that reason, homeschooling works.