It never fails – the very first question I am asked when I tell people – homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike – that I homeschool my children is always “What made you decide to homeschool?” The next question from homeschoolers is “What curriculum do you use?” but that’s another story.
The answer to the first question is complex and is not short, sweet, or to the point. My husband and I have three children – ages eight, six, and four. We have homeschooled since our oldest was in preschool – he is now in third grade. Our children have never attended a “regular” school.
I do not have a Bachelor’s Degree in Education – although I know someone who does! I don’t have formal training in “How to Teach Your Kids.” In Illinois, the laws are very friendly to homeschoolers. Basically, anyone who wants to can educate their child at home. There is good and bad in the Illinois laws. All of the homeschoolers I know care deeply about their children and the education their children receive. They, like myself, work very hard to maintain a good education taught by loving parents in a safe environment. They prepare for the school days and they are always on the lookout for educational opportunities for their children.
Now, on the flip side of that, are the homeschoolers who give the rest of us a bad name. The ones whom most of you reading this have run into. You know – the squeaky wheel gets the grease, or the bad homeschoolers get the headlines. And those encounters have shaped your opinion on homeschooling as a whole. The parents whose children can barely read or write, are unruly, rude and disrespectful (beyond the norm of a typical child). It appears as though the parents never correct the children, never direct them, never do anything with them that would appear to be home education or even simple parenting.
I am not trying to disparage these parents. Parenting is a tough job. All home educators would agree – there are “off” days where schooling is just not working. The kids are wound pretty tight. They are literally bouncing off the walls and swinging from the ceilings. Mom (or Dad) are exhausted/worried/frustrated/whatever and school is just not working. They throw up their hands and say “Let’s go get some ice cream and play outside the rest of the day! We’ll pick this back up tomorrow!” It happens to all of us. But, there are parents who take this to an extreme.
The homeschoolers that I know are diligent and serious about educating their children. Most of them, like myself, are Christians and see home schooling as a calling or directive from God rather than simply an educational choice. For our family, homeschooling is the best choice – although we give our children the option of going to school, but they have always chosen to continue homeschooling. We all enjoy it and we began simply because we were concerned about the directions public schools were going with regards to academics and safety.
When it came down to it, my husband and I asked ourselves “Who will love our children while educating them?” The answer was a no-brainer: Their parents – us. There are wonderful, loving and caring people working in public schools today who are under appreciated. I believe their calling from God was to teach and touch kids lives in the public schools. I have the utmost respect for those teachers and staff who undertake such a task. It’s a difficult job. But for our family, we have chosen a different route.
I have heard from critics that I am unqualified to homeschool my children because I do not have the necessary training from an accredited university. Who taught my children to walk, talk, eat, dress themselves, say “thank you,” “please” and “excuse me” and use the toilet? Yours truly!
My personal philosophy of home education is simply this: Learning is 24/7 – not something that is stuffed into a Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. box. I believe that my children learn from every experience and situation they encounter – whether it is buying groceries (math, critical thinking, reading, following directions, observation), helping a family member (service), doing chores (responsibility), reading a book (reading, vocabulary, concentration, comprehension), playing a game with siblings (social skills, logic, critical thinking, responsibility, math, reading, cooperation), baking cookies (math, reading, following directions, cooperation).
Even though we have a set – but flexible – schedule for our schooling, we work hard to take our family’s learning out of the classroom and into our daily lives. So if you ever meet me and ask the million dollar question “Why did you begin homeschooling?” – be prepared for my answer – it may be more than you bargained for!