Monday, August 22, 2011

It Isn't Supposed to Be Easy

A few thoughts on homeschooling, from a perspective of having done this for awhile now:

1. It's not for everyone.

We have met many, many homeschooling families over the years. Often it's just a chance meeting at a large gathering, such as when Sea World hosts a "homeschool" event. There you get to see thousands of families in split-second tableaux. Such encounters always have me wondering why many of these families choose to homeschool. Is it rage against the machine? A sincere desire to instill family values (like — I swear I saw this — matching tattoos on their teenagers)? Shouldn't they look happier if they're pursuing a family dream?

Just watching parents dealing with their kids in public makes me ask one other, even more troubling question: Are there parents who school their kids at home out of fear that some authority figure is going to sic child welfare services on them because they are obviously lousy parents? Of course, perhaps we were just catching them on a bad day...

2. The decision of whether to homeschool is never an easy one, even if it was never really a question at all.

My sweetheart and I had decided to homeschool before we ever brought a child into the world. The fact that Mrs. Woody had been a public school teacher in her past life only cemented the obvious: the state of public education was changing at an alarming rate, and not in a good way. Reading between the lines of various reports and debates throughout the nation even fifteen or sixteen years ago, it was clear that if we wanted our children to learn solid fact, rather than socialized ephemera, we needed to do it ourselves. Besides, if we want our children to learn something other than solid fact, I much prefer it be based on a gospel I can support, rather than the gospel of the micro-managing labor unions that currently control public education today.

These reasons alone, however, were not sufficient to make our final decision to homeschool our daughters. They were the "why" of the equation. The "why" is hardly ever in doubt; it is the "how" that makes homeschooling such a difficult decision. "How" are we going to teach our daughters everything they need to know, and can we possibly do so without interference from (or even notice of) state and local authorities. Those are questions that must be researched carefully and thoroughly before committing yourselves and your children to such a venture.

When we talk to perspective homeschoolers, the questions we get are never "why." They are "how." And they are legion.

3. Homeschooling is a noble act, no matter what your friends, family, neighbors, and especially the government may think.

This of course assumes that you are meant to homeschool. Interestingly, living in California is actually quite a blessing when it comes to homeschooling. I will tell you this, however: the level of potential interference from an administrative perspective increases exponentially if you live in a part of the state that is considered "liberal" in its base politics. We have had the good fortune of living in two counties that are traditionally considered "conservative" in their base. School districts in these counties largely shrug their collective shoulders where homeschoolers are concerned, and some even attempt to open their doors and allow homeschoolers access to their resources.

At a state level, California makes it possible to homeschool largely under the radar. Legally there are no real obstacles to homeschooling in this state. Challenges are usually the result of some moral diarrhea being suffered by a local authority who simply cannot accept that public education is anything less than spectacularly wonderful for every child. We even had one candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction in our last election who could not for the life of him imagine any campus in California not being perfectly "safe" for our children. This candidate had obviously never visited any campus anywhere in East or South Central Los Angeles.

I know there are families in California who have had to defend themselves legally, but by rights (and by law) they should never have been prosecuted in the first place.

4. Homeschooling is fun! Eventually!

Make no mistake: homeschool is hard work. It requires hours of planning; constant modification based on what works or doesn't work; daily fine-tuning to make sure you're understanding all the nuances that your children are experiencing as they grow (and learn!). In the early stages, frustration mounts whenever an attempted curriculum fails to do the job. This isn't working! What am I doing wrong? (Legal notice: frustrations may include, but are not limited to, curriculum, lack of internet access on any particular day, the attitudes of children or spouse, interference from "concerned" but "well-meaning" extended family, Mondays, Fridays, "that time of the month," full moons, or the latest ant infestation in your kitchen.)

It isn't necessarily you. Even if it is, you may simply need to rethink things. If one curriculum isn't working, there's bound to be one that will. Just check to make sure the problem isn't the way in which the curriculum was applied. Some people need to have every aspect of their school day scheduled out to the nth degree. Others abhor scheduling of any kind and just let things happen as they will. Either way, expect to be in a state of constant change until both you and your student(s) hit your stride. Finding that rhythm that works in most cases is the hardest thing you'll ever do. Once you've accomplished that and found the materials that properly support that rhythm, the rest is easy.

And fun.


motherof8 said...

Great article on homeschooling. May I link to it on Facebook?

Woody said...