I homeschooled several children all the way into college, back when people thought you were seriously crazy for doing it. So, I have some background for what I’m writing today. And I want to get this out now, because millions of parents are presently considering options they never expected to face.
Please pass this along to anyone who may need it.
The Problems With Home Schooling
When I say homeschool is easier than you think, I really mean it, but there are complications and caveats involved. So, let’s start with the problems and get them out of the way.
First of all, there will be days that suck. The kids won’t listen, will be difficult, or will just be obtuse. Expect it. Either you’ll come home from work to your spouse telling you to forget the experiment and find some other place to send them… any other place; or perhaps you’ll be that spouse. It happens. No experienced person ever said that raising kids was painless. That said, nearly all such parents get over the day’s mayhem, and decide to continue the experiment.
Secondly, there’s an underlying problem that tends to drive many others, including the one above: You arrange your homeschooling so that other people can’t criticize you. Below I’ll explain why.
After that are the kinds of problems you’ve already considered: Things like two incomes being required in the modern world and figuring out how to reschedule the work lives of two parents. These are significant problems, but they can be worked out if you take the education of your children as an imperative and arrange your other affairs around it. I’m not promising this will be easy, but please believe me that it’s worth it. Educating your child is rewarding and meaningful.
You are likely to remember these years as your hardest but your best. When you’re 90 years old, do you want to remember the giant screen TVs you had in every room, or the fine people that you – with blood, sweat and tears – molded, filled and sent into the world?
The Big Problem
As I noted above, a terribly common and large problem is arranging your efforts to keep people from criticizing you. I’m telling you to forget that. Let them criticize; let them whisper about you and make fun of you. You don’t want such people in your life anyway. What you must do is arrange your efforts around the results you want.
Your goal is well educated children: Children who can think clearly; who can read, write and do arithmetic well; who are blessings upon Earth; who have confidence in their own abilities. And I’m telling you that doing this, with all the caveats noted above, is easier than you probably think. Please consider:
You do not need to start at 9:00 AM. Start when all involved are ready to start. The clock is not God, and you’re dealing with complicated little beings. (As well as your very complicated self.)
You do not need to spend 5 hours per day. In fact, you may not need to spend even 2 hours per day. One hour of quality learning, every day, is a lot of learning. Government schools – factory-model schools – are hideously inefficient, and children simply cannot maintain unidirectional concentration for hours on end… and more than that, they shouldn’t.
Still, routine can be your friend. Will power is required to set up habits, but once set, willpower and cajoling are no longer required. And so you may find doing school between breakfast and lunch to be a great model. Get it set up early and run with it. You can certainly make exceptions, but a routine helps make the journey a lot smoother.
Be adaptable. Once the learning habit is established, be open to temporary adaptations. At one point in my homeschooling career, we looked out our window to notice a deep trench being dug through a nearby park… a park I knew to contain debris from the 1871 Chicago Fire. And so we dropped everything and spent three days digging in a trench, uncovering artifacts of the 1860s. This is one of the great advantages of homeschooling: you can follow the surprise opportunities that arise. It’s especially important for the older kids.
Adapt your lessons to each child. Like the clock, the curriculum is not God. Each child is different, and each will respond to each subject and lesson differently. That’s okay; more than that, it’s good. You, the homeschooling parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, or whatever) are very directly observing this child; so, decide what you think will be best for him or her. Will you be wrong sometimes? Of course you will, but you’ll also be able to adapt instantly. The ability to tailor lessons to each child is a central advantage of homeschooling. Use it.
The Unexpected Benefits
Before I close, I’d like you to know some of the benefits of homeschooling you may not be expecting:
You’ll forge closer relationships with your children. Not only will you know each other better, and will have a larger number of personal and intimate conversations, but you’ll have more shared experiences.
Your children will learn how to learn. That is, they’ll develop confidence in their ability to read, examine and grasp concepts by themselves. They’ll tend to become self-driven learners.
Your children will not see much of an adult-child divide. They’ll consider themselves full beings, jumping into conversations with adults. They’ll tend to be bolder than they would as products of factory-style schooling.
Once you see some results, your confidence in your own abilities will grow. Accordingly, the set of options you see in life will expand.
All of That Said…
All of this said, I’m obviously an enthusiastic proponent of homeschooling. But I’m also an experienced advocate, and I told you the bad bits first. 🙂