Monday, August 11, 2014

Why I Homeschool

It's almost time for a "new" school year at our house.  I am excited and hopeful about the new year, as I always am at the beginning of a new school year.  There are nice and shiny new school supplies, lots of new curriculum materials, mounds of new books.  I've spent many hours pouring over the curriculum, outlining lessons, expanding them, and adding fun projects.  I've worked with others in our homeschool group to plan amazing classes and social events for the families in our group. 

Right now, everything is new and exciting and something to eagerly look forward to.  I want to hold on to that excitement and joy.  I don't want to loose sight of it amidst the day-to-day chore that homeschooling can become.  I want to be happy about homeschooling my children, and not feel that it is something I must suffer through for their greater good.  I want to have a good attitude, to be encouraging, energetic, enthusiastic, and fun!  You see, homeschooling does not come naturally to me.  I understand the benefits and I remain committed to it because of those benefits.  But it's not all rainbows and sunshine for me.  It's a struggle.  It's hard work - lots and lots of hard work.  Still, it would be so much easier if I happily embraced homeschooling and enjoyed it.  To help myself do that, I'm typing this blog post, which I can refer back to as often as I need to in order to remind myself why we homeschool - to remind myself of all the blessings, which far outweigh the struggles. 

This is why I homeschool:

  1. Time with my kids.  This is absolutely at the top of the list.  I get to spend lots of time with my kids.  I get to teach them and watch them learn new things.  I get to see them shine.  I get to talk to them and play with them.  I get to just be with them.  For hours.  And I get the good hours, when they are happiest and most attentive - not the few leftover hours after 8 hours of school when they are tired and cranky and have already given the best of themselves to others.  And as any parent will tell you, children grown up so fast.  It's not a clich√© - childhood speeds by too quickly.  I want to savor it and enjoy it - to be there for it.  My children are my greatest blessing, the best thing that God has given me, so I want to soak them up and love them and enjoy them as much as possible - and homeschooling allows me to do this.
  2. Travel opportunities.  This had to be 2nd on the list.  When it begins to feel like I have a little too much time with my kids and I long for peace and solitude and "me time," when the never-ending to-do's that homeschool entails weigh on me and I think how nice it would be to hand those responsibilities on to someone else (a school), I remind myself of the flexible schedule that homeschooling provides us and how we get to do fun things while others are sitting in a classroom - we get to travel while others are in school!  This fact makes me giddy!  I love that we can go on field trips and vacations and all kinds of fun places during the week - during "school" hours.  The thought of being constrained to going on family outings on weekends or taking a vacation during (gasp) summer break - with everyone else!  - is a horrifying thought, and it immediately makes me grateful to homeschool and committed to doing it forever!  :-) 
  3. Social reasons.  Interestingly, this is the thing that most non-homeschoolers comment about the most.  They rarely express academic concerns, but consistently worry about social opportunities.  Homeschooling is not what it used to be - a family confined to their home with limited exposure to other kids, doomed to be forever socially awkward.  These days, LOTS of people are homeschooling and there are numerous groups and organizations that offer homeschoolers the same experiences that school kids get.  There are homeschool co-op classes, homeschool sports teams, drama teams, debate teams, orchestras. There are homeschool proms and homeschool graduations.  Our homeschool group offers classes, clubs, planned play dates, field trips, parties, even an annual Field Day.  Social opportunities within the homeschool community are abundant, so never fear you well-meaning (or antagonistic) questioners of homeschooling.  Another of my "social" reasons for homeschooling is because it provides my kids opportunities to be around kids of all ages, as well as more time interacting with adults.  This exposure to and time spent with a variety of aged people is much more like real life than a classroom of all similar aged children.  And I think it makes them more compassionate towards other people, both young and old.  My last "social" reason for homeschooling is to avoid the dreadful social situations that occur in schools - the teasing, meanness, and bullying; the bad language; the drugs; the sex.  I even want to avoid the "minor" pressures of knowing all the popular music and t.v. shows, wearing the latest fashions, or having the newest gadget - whatever it takes to fit in with the other kids.  I want to protect my sweet little ones from these social pressures, at least while they are little ones - still young, sensitive, and impressionable.  I want to use these homeschooling years to instill strong character values in them before they go out into the world and face some of those social pressures.
  4. Academic Reasons.  The main reason we started homeschooling in the first place was for academic reasons (it's gone down in rank a bit because we've learned of so many more benefits - but academic success is still extremely important to us).  When Dawson was 3 years old knew most of what the schools taught in kindergarten, I knew there was no way I could send him there in 2 years time, when he would know even more.  In the years since, I've become even more convinced of the academic advantages of homeschooling.  Schools tend to take a cookie-cutter approach to education, a one-size-fits-all endeavor.  At home, we can individualize our children's education - breezing through things that are easy for them, spending more time on things that they are struggling with, expanding on topics that they are interested in and learning all that we can about them.  There are countless accounts of the poor academic performance of schools, and while this saddens me (I want our society to be an intelligent one), I find comfort in knowing that my children are getting a high quality academic education at home.  Also, I am extremely motivated to ensure that my children succeed academically (more so than any teacher would be) - so I'm the best person to teach them.  (Actually, their dad would be the best person to teach them because he is brilliant, but he has to work to support our homeschooling expenses, so I'm the next best substitute.)
  5. The great outdoors.  We are blessed to live in such an amazingly beautiful place!  I love that homeschooling allows us to spend time in the great outdoors.  We have P.E. outside every day (unless it's storming, of course).  We sometimes do our school work outside, or take our lunch outside (picnic!).  And we spend time playing outside - all while others are inside a classroom, surrounded by cement walls, often without even a window to look out (the thought makes me want to weep).  We regularly plan fun outdoor excursions and field trips.  We can spend lots of time outdoors because we homeschool - and I LOVE that! 
  6. Other homeschooling families.  Oh, the wonderful homeschooling families that we are blessed to know.  Amazing!  I am forever thankful that my kids are growing up with such sweet, thoughtful, smart, fun kids.  After the ability to travel when others are in school, the thought of our homeschooling friends keeps me forever committed to homeschooling. 
  7. Field Trips.  We get to go on lots of field trips - tons and tons.  With our super awesome homeschooling friends.  And we get to do it while others are still in school.  :-)  Also, as a family, we can take extended road trip field trips.  We can actually go out and see the things we read about in books.  Numerous fun and educational field trip are a definite plus to homeschooling. 
  8. Health.  Homeschooling is better for your health!  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  Kids in schools spend far too much time sitting in desks and too little time being active.  At our school at home, we focus on being healthy by being active.  We go outside to hike, bike, run, and play almost every single day.  Even when we are inside doing schoolwork, there is more freedom to move around.  We are not overly sedentary - we are literally active homeschoolers.
  9. Opportunity.  Homeschooling allows us to manage our own time, which results in more opportunities.  More opportunities to spend time pursuing our interests.  More opportunities to practice and improve a skill.  More opportunities to be of service to and help others.  When the kids are older, they will have more opportunities to work, to be an apprentice in a field they are interested in, to study for the SAT's, to travel, to do whatever.  Homeschooling does -  and will - provide more opportunities for my kids.

While all of these "reasons I homeschool" make homeschooling sound fantastic, I all too often forget about these benefits.  Like I said, homeschooling does not come easy to me.  I don't joyfully, unquestioningly embrace it with smiles and giggles.  I spend way too much time and energy lamenting about how hard it is.  Reflecting on this, I realize that my struggle with homeschooling all comes down to just 1 thing: selfishness.  I am often full of selfish thoughts and desires.  I want time to myself!!!  I want to pursue my own desires!  I want to finally run that marathon!  I want do more for the greater good and help more people!  I want a job!  Homeschooling seriously hampers (or completely inhibits) these things.  And I have a hard time letting them go.  I keep ruminating over all the things that I want for me (and how I would have time to do those things if only my kids were in school).  Oh, how I wish that I were less selfish.  Perhaps this is the year that my prayers will be answered and those selfish thoughts will stop intruding on my happy homeschool ideal!  I don't know how likely that is, but I know that I have many good reasons for homeschooling (I just wrote a novel about them!) and that I should spend more time enjoying it and counting the blessings it brings.  And now when I doubt or struggle, I can come back to this blog post and remind myself of how fortunate I am to be homeschooling my precious ones.

1 comment:

Rebecca Lewis said...

WHAT?!! You're not always happy and enthusiastic and full of sunshine?! Thanks for the encouraging post, Emily. I may also refer to it often as a reminder. Glad to be making this journey with you. Stay HAPPY!