Attending the first local homeschool meeting of the year, we played a fun game of speed dating to get to know the newbies and allow the newbies to learn about other moms in the group. We began each three minute chat with basic questions like, “How many kids do you have?” and, “How long have you homeschooled?” and, “Why did you choose to homeschool?”
My Favorite Question
If time allowed, we followed up with a list of other questions we could pick and choose from. I felt like the grandma I am as each new gal gasped when I said I had homeschooled nearly twenty years. I believe I had the winning high number in that category. But the question that fascinated me most was the reason behind the homeschooling choice.
I loved seeing women’s eyes light up and smiles break out on their faces as they expressed a desire to spend more time with their kids. Then there were the moms who felt it was a calling by God. Then the moms who had made the list and checked it twice and decided, I’m sure through an algorithm, that homeschooling was best for her kids.
And then there are the moms who, with great expression and drama, conveyed the horrors of public school. They proceeded to tell me the most outrageous and extreme stories of things gone awry in the government-controlled systems.
Again, I’ve homeschooled nearly twenty years, and I couldn’t help but inwardly chuckle a little at these women. It almost seemed they needed to make the public school system as bad as possible to justify their reasoning for homeschooling.
Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I’ve homeschooled for a long time. But I didn’t homeschool because the public school system was the enemy. I must remember that nearly 98 percent of all Americans have been in a school system at some point in their lives. Based on the way these women talked, you would have thought we had a population in the United States of 95 percent sociopaths.
But here’s the thing, to each of these ladies’ surprise, when they asked why I chose to homeschool, I gently let them know that I had chosen to put my son into the public school system for this year. GASP!
That’s right, I did something I honestly never thought I would do. Not because I thought the public school system was the cause of all things wrong with humankind; rather, I truly enjoy being with my kids. But after much consideration, listing the pros and cons, my husband and I believed it best for our son to go to school.
Back to School?
When making the decision to homeschool, can I offer a few key items to consider that can help you determine if maybe, perhaps, it just might be possible that you should put Johnny or Susie back into school?
For every parent, it’s critical to evaluate your student’s needs to see if homeschooling is the right fit. This evaluation should go beyond the academic needs, it should include an analysis of your child’s development emotionally, academically, and physically, as well as gauge his/her maturity. Would your child benefit more through homeschooling or from being in school?
Another important area to evaluate, especially when kids hit the tween and teen years, is their interests. What hobbies, skills, or interests does your student have, and will you be able to facilitate what it takes to go to the next level?
In our case, our fifteen-year-old son, the baby of the family, showed signs of needing more than just Mommy to direct him. Yes, we probably could have done this through a tutorial, but after much deliberation, my husband and I agreed that the public school system would be a better fit. We wanted him to experience first-hand instruction from other adults, homework requirements, grades, responsibility, benefits, and consequences. Although we could teach these at home, this young man was having a very difficult time understanding the systems the world operates on, and school was the perfect training ground.
As well, our son expressed a great interest in ROTC, and our local school has an outstanding program. Not only did this allow for a rigid physical education program, which resulted in a young man being too tired to game at night (this was an unforeseen bonus), but it also has special teams that require certain grade levels that gave our son incentive to do better academically.
As parents, we also need to evaluate our own capacity to homeschool. This includes the stage of life we are in, changes in our home life, financial responsibilities, work obligations, health issues, and general homeschool burnout.
In our life, the previous year of homeschooling had not been very successful. We dealt with major health issues, a move, and a demanding work schedule. Couple that with a fourteen-year-old who spent more time trying to figure out how to get out of schoolwork than trying to do the work, and we knew one more year in this direction could greatly—and negatively—impact our relationship with him.
Let me encourage any mother who struggles with successful homeschooling, regardless of the reason. It’s okay to send your kids to school. At the end of the day, we all want the best for our children, and if the goal is a parent-directed education, then whether you choose public, private, or homeschool, you’ll have success if you make the effort to be involved and engaged.