A few years ago when I was throwing around the idea of homeschooling my daughter, I had a discussion with a friend of mine over coffee and goldfish crackers while our kids played with wooden trains. I explained that one of my fears about teaching my child at home was that she might grow up to be “strange” and “awkward”, to which my friend remarked, “Oh, so you were homeschooled?"
It was a reasonable assumption. After all, I’m an introverted artist and writer living rurally with extended family and plenty of bizarre thoughts floating around in my head.
Basically, I’m a weirdo.
But no, I wasn’t homeschooled. I was educated in the public school system. That’s right Mrs. Warnica, what I am today is all on you.
Fast-forward a big bunch of months. My daughter is a bright, outgoing extrovert getting ready to start Grade 2.
I’ve learned a few things over the last number of years and I wanted to share with you eight reasons I’m not homeschooling my kid.
According to the media, the world is a scary place, not fit for children. But the truth is, most people are good and aren’t out to do damage. I don’t want to raise a child who is afraid to step outside the door. Unless there are bears in the yard.
When I was young, my parents would occasionally drop me off at Sunday school while they went to the coffee shop. They both grew up in incredibly strict and oppressive homes and as a result, did not want to raise me to be fearful of a God who may or may not exist. I’m by no means an atheist but I’m also not a traditional “believer”. As a parent, I’ve read the odd bible story to my daughter and we talk a lot about right and wrong. But we are not churchgoers, nor do I feel as though I need to protect her from the beliefs and ideas of others. That’s just backwards thinking. And besides, it’s sinful.
Lots of people are really upset with the public school system and I get that. There’s much that can be improved. But, there are a lot of good things happening too. The system may not be perfect, but really, what is? (Dark chocolate with sea salt).
I’ve let my kid climb up the slides at the playground on more than one occasion. At least, that’s what she tells me - after the fact - because during, I’m usually at the other end of the field, enjoying chitchat with friends. Sure I worry about my daughter and – because of her food allergy – I’ve hovered at more than a few birthday parties. But, I would never keep my kid out of school in order to control her every movement or thought.
I want my daughter to be happy, well adjusted and content. I don’t want her to win every spelling bee, play piano like Mozart and knit her own bathing suits. You know those happy-go-lucky kids who spend all day studying with aspirations to enroll in college at age 13? Yeah, me neither.
We don’t keep chickens on our property and there is no goat in our yard. Our chores are more “quick, clean the house, company’s coming” and less, “let’s muck out the barn”. We don’t even have a barn. But we do have a tractor.
Schoolteachers kick ass. As someone who has worked within the system and witnessed it from the inside out, I know the intense effort that goes into educating a group of twenty-two 8 year olds. I have close friends who are educators and they are extremely skilled at what they do and no, I do not want their job.
I don’t think my child should only be exposed to a small, controlled group of individuals. The world is much bigger than that and learning social skills is imperative to figuring out how to navigate your way through life. And airports.
But, here’s the thing. My kid - the one who is getting ready to start grade 2 - has never attended school.
Now I'll share with you eight reasons I am homeschooling my kid.
We have all the time in the world to explore interests at any hour of the day, any day of the week, not just weekends and weekdays between the hours of 4pm and 7pm. Studying the diet of the proboscis monkey at 8:30pm? Of course! Going to the dentist at 11am? Yep!
My daughter is well rested, except for the summer months when she swims, attends camps and rises and falls with the sun. But, if she needs to sleep in after a late night of reciting Shakespeare (just kidding, sometimes we just stay up late), she can. And I’ve never had to chase down a school bus or do an early morning drop off in my old, green flannel pajamas. You're welcome.
Most mornings, we have a leisurely well-balanced breakfast. Sometimes, we eat cupcakes. Lunch is usually nutritious and occasionally even hot. Still, my daughter rarely has to gulp down cereal in a mad rush out the door and she doesn’t need to suffer through soggy sandwiches midday. As an added bonus, I don’t have to come up with creative school lunches that fit in teeny tiny bento boxes, cute as they are.
My kid is extracting every ounce of enjoyment from her childhood. She watches ants carry their food, she scoops tadpoles out of ponds and she pretends to be a dog when the mood strikes her. Of course being in school wouldn’t prevent her from being a kid but as you can imagine, twenty-two second graders deciding to engage in spontaneous play during a math lesson is the stuff riots are made of.
Because we aren’t stuck to school breaks and holidays, we can hit the road – sometimes for weeks or months at a time - whenever it’s convenient for the entire family, which usually means cheaper flights and cheaper accommodations. Not to mention a ton of learning experiences along the way. Also: No line-ups at holiday attractions.
If there is one thing homeschooling has taught me (and it took a while), it’s that when teaching (or learning) a certain skill is a struggle, it’s time to back off. For a while. Every child learns at his or her own pace. Parents know it. Teachers know it. But, in the system, kids are mostly required to keep pace with their peers, which can be stressful for those who are “lagging” behind. My kid reads like a trooper -- everything from science encyclopedias and chapter books to early readers and comics. But, she didn’t learn to read at the same time as her friends. In fact, she was almost a full year behind. In school, she would likely have been assigned an assistant and (though the school's intentions would have been pure) I would have had to try to convince her that she wasn’t strange or awkward.
My child doesn’t do yoga and we don’t have daily meditation. But we do have peace. She and I don’t engage in homework struggles, I don’t battle with her school and bullying doesn’t have a chance to escalate because it is either handled as it happens (basketball practices bring out the worst in 6 year olds, ammiright?) or, it is dealt with by my daughter - on her own - without fear of being sent to the principal’s office.
Between weekly homeschool get-togethers, afterschool sports and science clubs, marine biology labs at the local aquarium, French classes with a retired public school teacher, endless summer camps and playtime with the kids - including her best friend - who live on our street, my daughter has a busier social calendar than I ever did at her age. And, because she isn’t in a classroom all day, she has an opportunity to converse with folks of different ages. Even OLD people.
Will I homeschool my kid forever? Maybe. Maybe not. As in, the day she begs me to go to school is the very day I will drive to town and enroll her.
But – as of right now – it works for us.
Homeschooling might not work for you. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong, or weird about that.
Bus Image: FreeImages.com/Holger Selover-Stephan
Kids Image: Freeimages.com/filip george
Chalkboard image: Freeimages.com/Piotr Lewandowski