I was recently asked by my friend Natalie at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns why I don’t homeschool my children.
I am a member of two different mothering message boards, both with active homeschooling forums. I’ve been “homeschooling-curious” for a long time, and I frequent those forums and other blogs to find out what kids are learning at home. I’m highly impressed with some of the things I see coming out of some of these homeschoolers: lovely, intricate lapbooks and detailed nature drawings and awesome science projects.
Yet, I never felt convicted that it was the right thing for me to do. My reasons are varied and have changed somewhat since I first considered educational options. I reserve the right at any time to change my mind about homeschooling, but for now, I am giving my children a public school education. I have taken the stance of evaluating each child’s needs year by year and assessing whether or not my their needs are being met. These are my reasons for not homeschooling my children:
1. I had a great experience in the public school system.
I loved learning. I loved the different teachers I had and what they brought to the table – some of them had such great personalities and were kind and were knowledgeable about their subjects. I was also inspired by their energy and enthusiasm for their subjects.
School became my safe-haven because my family life was really bad. My family dynamics were just debilitating for a young, bright, sensitive child like myself. At school, I had something to distract me from the difficulties of my life. I immersed myself in my studies and books. I was inspired to go into science because of the passion my science teachers had for the subject matter.
I loved sharing ideas and concepts with my teachers. Free speech wasn’t really welcome in my home, and nobody at home cared to know what I was learning about. But I thrived in school where I could share my ideas and interpretations about literature, social studies, history and do great science projects.
I got a thrill out of achieving in school. I loved getting good grades and I loved being quizzed. I went to the state science fair show with my 8th grade science project on rollercoaster physics (I still have that report). I was on the Scholastic Bowl team (an academic quiz competition) and I got the highest score for the biology test in the National Science Olympiad in high school.
I loved the attention I got from my teachers who liked to see me achieve good things. My teachers were great role models too. There were a few I wanted to be like.
2. My children need their own identities and space from each other and helped give me the chance to know my girls more intimately.
Being only 19 months apart, they were tripping over each other and getting into each other’s space. Sending my oldest away to school gave me the chance to focus on my two younger children. When my middle child went to preschool, my youngest got me all to herself and didn’t have to share me with her sisters.
Now, my two older children have their sets of friends. My oldest is getting a great reputation as a high achiever, and like me, absolutely has a bit of a competitive edge to her when it comes to academics. But, she also has a big heart for her friends, and loves to help make others feel comfortable – she often helps a set of twins who has special needs.
Quite honestly, mothering has come to me very difficultly. I have been working through a lot of my own childhood issues that well, damaged my attachment to my own children sometimes and rendered me deeply depressed and anxious (which didn’t help my middle daughter’s anxieties). Sending them to school was much preferable than keeping them home with a depressed mother. Currently though, I’m working through my own stuff.
3. Teachers helped them gain self-confidence. My oldest child was very shy. I wasn’t going to send her to preschool at all (knowing that I could teach her what she needed to know for preschool), until I realized that she was so shy, she couldn’t even make friends with the neighbor boy next door. I decided to give school a shot to see if it would help. I sent her with the intention of pulling her out if it didn’t seem to help. It did and she blossomed under the care of her teacher. She continued to develop confidence in herself in kindergarten and first grade. She loved her teachers and made some good friends and feels really good about herself and her school.
My middle daughter had a slightly different experience. It was in preschool that we discovered she had selective mutism, a severe form of social anxiety that caused her to be mute in certain social situations, like school. Only I didn’t really know what it was until her first year was almost over. I became increasingly worried, but until we had a name for it and a diagnosis in hand, I wasn’t sure exactly what we were going to do about it. Pulling her out and homeschooling certainly seemed like a natural choice. Yet all the literature stated that would delay her “recovery” (for lack of a better term for it).
4. Our school is amazingly accommodating and progressive.
They became our allies in helping my selectively mute daughter. Rather than re-tell the whole story, you can read about it in this post: Our daughter’s SM journey – the summary. The school was 100 percent willing to help us get what we needed for our daughter. This is incredibly rare I’m told, so I consider us very fortunate.
They do differentiate the curriculum. Both my second grade daughter and my kindergarten grade daughter took reading assessments and scored 2 grades above their level. They have pullout reading groups and the have accelerated reading programs and they don’t restrict the books the girls choose for accelerated reader (some schools limit what the children are allowed to read).
5. I prefer to supplement their education rather than be the main instructor of it.
While I love sharing my knowledge and learning along side my children, I didn’t want to be responsible for their whole education. Early on, I didn’t really get excited about the prospect of teaching them the basics of reading or math (in my day we didn’t use colorful manipulatives like what is out there now). But I did get excited when it came time to science. As a former scientist working in the field of medical genetics, my passion was in science.
As it so happened, when the kids started kindergarten, and I saw the Saxon math program and the manipulatives the young kids got to use, I started getting excited about math. All of a sudden, math got to be really fun and exciting for me and so my enthusiasm for math had tripled due to seeing what they do in school.
Now my oldest is a fluent reader, I have book discussions with her about what she reads. We take turns reading chapter books to each other – like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer and Charlotte’s Web and we discuss them together.
We study nature and do science experiments together and go to museums and discuss what we learn. We recently have been talking about the carpenter bees that have been visiting our morning glories and pollination.
So these are my reasons I choose not to homeschool. But I am very involved in their education, but in a supplemental role and it has been working out very well. My oldest daughter, checked out three books on Abraham Lincoln from the library yesterday, just because she was curious about him.
I trust my children’s school to meet enough of their needs. When they ask for more, I simply meet their needs at home and so far it’s been a really good plan. I plan to keep them in school until it no longer serves their needs. But so far, so good. No one is complaining and they are thriving. And ultimately, school hasn’t changed who they are. They are still loving, compassionate and kind children.