This summer has been a summer of huge changes for us. We’ve not only decided to sell our home and move, but we’ve decided to homeschool both of our kids as well. This was not a decision made lightly. In fact, as parents, this has been the biggest decision we have ever made. We have talked about it for years as an option, but have never really looked at it seriously. The move–and all the chaos surrounding it–made us look at homeschooling seriously. Once we started reading, we realized just how important of a decision this really was.
First and foremost I want to share with you what aren’t the reasons why we are homeschooling: We aren’t upset with the local schools. In fact, we had two great schools for both of our kids. Schools they love and teachers who loved them. To be frank, JD was not at all excited by the idea of homeschooling because he loved his teachers so much. We aren’t homeschooling for religious reasons. We don’t feel the need to teach them history or science (or even English, for that matter) from a Christian perspective. We have taught them faith and the practical practice of it without needing to rewrite the textbooks. In fact, we believe learning both points of view makes for excellent critical thinking skills.
We are homeschooling for some very solid reasons. First, because it makes sense as we move school districts. We aren’t going to be moved before the school year starts in the new district, and we didn’t want to move the kids from one school to the other during the school year. We began looking at homeschooling for that reason, to give them some continuity during this year of transitions. Second, both of our kids learn differently from other children. Both LittleMissSunshine and JD are visual learners, which means they often struggle in the traditional classroom setting. Homeschooling is allowing us to meet their individual learning styles so that they thrive and learn in their way. (That is not a gripe at the schools–they have too many kids in one classroom and teachers have to meet the needs of the class as a whole.) Third, both of our kids are moving at a different pace from the traditional grade system. JD is gifted, which means in some subjects he is working several grades ahead, while in others he might be grade-level or right above it. He has been bored in school for years, despite their best efforts. He will often come home and read our old college textbooks to satisfy his voracious curiosity! He is technically eighth grade this year, but homeschooling means that he has been able to choose most of his classes–which includes tenth grade geometry, two high school level history courses, US Government and more. He is taking three eighth grade level classes at our local homeschool co-op as well, so he will have a chance to take each subject at the level he is at. LittleMissSunshine is a totally different case. She struggles with dyslexia and working memory issues, and has struggled the past few years with self-esteem issues because of that. She is a very bright girl, who when taught the right way grasps concepts quickly and can remember them. But she needs more time in math and reading, while moving ahead in science and social studies. She needs a space where she can move at her own pace and develop confidence in how smart she really is. Fourth, I’ve struggled for years with the scheduling of the school day and how much homework comes with it. Starting school at 7:30 AM is insane, no matter what the reasoning is. Then coming home and spending another two hours (or more!) on homework is just more insanity. When are kids supposed to be kids? It felt like the educational system as a whole was set up to create busy little worker bees–and you know how I feel about our culture’s addiction to being busy! I love that we are able to cover the same material–more even, in many cases–in less than half the time of a traditional school day. My kids can wake up at a reasonable hour, cover all four core classes, plus two electives and some exercise, every day–and still be done well before their friends are out of school. Fifth–and really, this is the most important reason for us–is that homeschooling allows us to develop two self-motivated, independent learners. Learners who love to learn for learning’s sake. Who do so on their own, not because someone is standing over them demanding it. Who go deep into the material because they’re interested in it. Kids who not only know the basic facts about the Civil War, but who explore the political parties and their motivations behind them. JD is taking a literature course that is exploring mythology in popular literature. He has taken that a step further and begun to explore how mythology is used in video games, and the cultures that mythology is tied to. LittleMissSunshine is learning the geography of the states, while exploring deeper into why some states are better for raising horses than others. This is what is most important to us–kids who are engaged with learning and the world around them.
We did a lot of digging into research and results before coming to our conclusions. My husband works for a university, so of course one of our first concerns was how do homeschoolers fare in college? We were surprised to see that research has shown that not only do they do well in college, they actually outperform their public school peers in almost every measurement. Homeschoolers interact socially with people of all age demographics and do well socially in the mixed ages at college. Homeschoolers use a mainly self-directed learning process, so moving into the college world of self-directed study is nothing new to them. It is completely normal. Many homeschoolers begin taking college classes in high school using the dual enrollment system, so they are completely comfortable with the college classroom. I’ve also noticed that many of the homeschool co-ops are set up in a very college-like atmosphere, so again, kids are used to the teaching style long before they ever set foot on a college campus. They score higher on tests like the ACT and SAT as well. In fact, homeschoolers do so well in college that major universities like Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern have all created online homeschools in the hopes of drawing some of that talent later in life to their own campuses. MIT, Harvard, Yale, Duke and many others all openly welcome homeschoolers on their campus, with some even providing their coursework online, for free. There is a wealth of resources out there for us, from the top schools in the country!
We found great resources for curriculum as well. Both kids love Compass Odyssey in their school classrooms so we were thrilled to find that it is actually a full K-12 curriculum available to homeschoolers via Time4Learning.com. It allows us to chose their grade level in each subject, and is a combination of video games mixed with video tutorials. It keeps track of attendence, grades and progress for us. If the state ever comes a-calling, we have paperwork to show them. We’ve also subscribed to Discovery Education videos, which gives us access to literally thousands and thousands of educational videos and curriculum to supplement what they’re learning. We’ve joined a local homeschool co-op that is providing us with weekly science, history and language classes. I’m using my skills to teach them Spanish in fun ways every day. And we’re utilizing great apps on the iPad and iPod for learning everything from state capitals to civil war facts to beginner programming lessons. It really is amazing the resources available for learning!
And still, knowing all of that, we struggled with this decision. We had good schools for our kids. What if we screw it up? How can you take your kids out of something that is already doing well and say “Hey, I think I can do better?” I’m not exactly known for my organizational skills. How am I going to keep two also ADHD kids on track? When am I going to have alone time again? It has been a scary decision. VERY scary. This is our kids’ futures we are messing with here. Who are we to say we are going to be better at it than those with masters degrees? But with a lot of prayer and a good deal of research, we are convinced that this is the right decision for both of our kids. We’ve been blessed–God has brought us enormous resources and great friends who have held our hand all the way through this process! I’m pleased to say that we are about to finish our third week of homeschool, and even with some good old fashioned chaos thrown in by house showings in the middle of the day, everything is going really well. LittleMissSunshine is really engaging with her schoolwork and is eager to start her day every morning. JD is adjusting to the requirments of high school-level work, and has asked to help teach his sister some of her history homework. Both of them are beginning to engage with learning throughout the day, and loving the freedom that homeschooling is giving them. I know it won’t always be like this, but for now, we are enjoying it.
Do you homeschool? I would love to hear your tips and advice!