Friday, April 27, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Our Decision to Homeschool Next Year

"It was a fine time for me. I was learning to fence, fight—anything anyone would teach me."

I was never, ever going to homeschool. Understand, I loved the idea of it, and I have never (as an adult, that is) been skeptical of the practice, even when I believed it wasn't for me. I have always defended my homeschooling friends against the antiquated and disproven ideas about a lack of "socialization" and parents being "unqualified" to teach their children.

Seriously, if you want to evoke a quick eyeroll, tell a homeschool parent that you're concerned about their child's socialization. Hilarious.

So yeah, while I've always been open-minded (or maybe just informed?) about the practice, I did not believe it was right for me. And because the world revolves around me and what's best for me, me, me, that was that. We couldn't afford private school, so public school was our obvious route. And it has been for four years now.

And it's been awful.

See, when I imagined homeschooling vs. public schooling in our family, I always pictured the ease of sending Spazz off to a nice, brick-and-mortar institution where she'd do some good learnin', make some friends, and we'd continue her education at home through homework and basic daily life. I never expected her education to begin and end at the classroom door, but I also had no intention of shouldering it alone. After all, I went to public school, and I turned out...well, I turned out.

I believe a child can get a good education almost anywhere. I really do. If the parents work in collaboration with the school, many children thrive just fine in a traditional school setting. No matter how you slice it, parental involvement is key. What matters is that the best choice for the family and for the child is made, and no one can make that choice except the family itself.

But here's the thing. We all know that every child is different and has different needs. I'm not going to spend an hour detailing the process Husband and I have undergone to reach this decision for our family, because frankly it's been exhausting and I could do an entire blog series on it. But the catalysts came down to 1.) our waning faith in the way things are being taught/the current educational climate and emphasis on testing vs. critical thinking and 2.) Spazz's daily tears about the ongoing bullying and lack of response she's endured for four years (despite our active engagement with the teachers and the administration. Yay, socialization!).

But the teachers have 20+ other kids to take care of, Jen! You can't expect [fill in the blank].

Actually, I can expect my daughter to be protected. But you're right—with 20+ other kids to take care of, that's not always possible, as teachers are human and not infallible. So I'm stepping in to protect my child. It all works out nicely that way. And let me make one thing clear—I am VERY pro-teacher. I think teaching is one of the most challenging, frustrating, under-appreciated professions in the world. This is not a rage against teachers. It's a response to a badly broken system.

Hey, look! It's science, y'all!
At my daughter's school, science, art, music, physical education, and library are "extra" classes. They attend each once per week for around an hour. While I will concede that an hour per week is probably fine in library since they are reading in class (and at home, in Spazzy's case), the other four classes seems far more important than they're getting credit for. I know that in the context of the current national attitude in public schools, our kids are lucky to have the arts at all. I just don't agree that these classes should be seen as "extra" or "supplemental".

We're all smart people here, so I'm not going to link you to six dozen articles and studies that assert the importance of music, art, and physical education in creating a whole person. We all know this, and if you don't, here's Google. I was very surprised to find that science was not included in the daily curriculum, but then I live less than an hour from the Creation Museum, so I guess it shouldn't surprise me.

Spazzy is in third grade this year, and her classroom has been evacuated—literally—three times because of violent, dangerous behavior by three different boys in the class. When I say violent, I mean a broken chalkboard, broken window, broken DESK, desks being tossed over, scissors being thrown, etc. Violent, angry outbursts by three different kids in her class on three separate occasions. And those are just the ones in the actual classroom. Two of these kids have been removed from the lunchroom by force after becoming out of control, and then there are the daily bad behaviors.

One of these violent boys happens to be the bully who has been harassing Spazz since kindergarten. I do not feel that my child is safe in that school, and I don't believe things will necessarily be better at another school. We don't live in the shady part of town here. It's older, it's not the ritzy area, but it's not dirty or gang-ridden. Kids with serious emotional and mental problems can be found anywhere, and this is not the way I want my children to be "socialized".

In a nutshell, based on our daughter's needs and our desires for her, public school is no longer the right fit for our family. So we're going to try homeschooling for the fall semester and re-evaluate before over the holidays.

So yes, in answer to your question: I am fully confident that I am qualified to teach my daughter. It will be a learning curve, no doubt, but I'm committed to doing what's best for my child, and at this time, Husband and I believe that this is it. There will be bad days. There will be fantastic days. You know—just like with anything that's worth doing.

I know this sounds a little bit defensive and angry. That's because it is. I see the looks on people's faces when you say the word "homeschool". People imagine weird, anti-social kids who dress according to a religious code and don't know how to talk to people. I know them well—I went to (public) school with a few of them.


  1. You're going to be a star, Jen. :) Spazz is very lucky to have strong advocates for parents, and let me tell you. Like me, you may at some point reach your limit to how much of the anti-homeschool rhetoric (and misinformed ranting) you'll let in. At a certain point, you'll have heard all 3 arguments in 75 different ways, and it will cease to bother you because the reality is that nobody has all the answers. If public schools were the best thing for everybody, alternatives wouldn't exist. So I finally got to the point where I can earnestly let it roll off. I think the quote I heard yesterday was "the more you know, the less what other people think matters to you." And at this point, I know enough homeschool families to know that so much of the arguments are just plain wrong and based on fear, defensiveness, a rare anecdotal piece of "evidence", and stereotyping. I finally got tired of feeling like I'm more than happy to respect others' education decisions, but it was the rare duck that gave our choice equal respect. So I stopped worrying about it. I'm neurotic, so I assume you'll get there much quicker. :D

    Anyway, I'm excited to read about how everything goes for you guys! Can't wait to share the fun.

  2. I think you're right, Sarah. I think I'm being a bit per-emptively up-in-arms, too, which is probably not fair, but it's real and I own it. So I think it's probably wise to try to steer clear when I have control over what I see or hear so that the stuff I can't control has less opportunity to snowball.