Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Thoughts: Why I Homeschool My Kid

Initially I started homeschooling my eldest because I spent a year of watching a ridiculously social and extroverted child come home every day looking defeated and after asking the ubiquitous question "what did you do today?" his answer would be, "nothing". Really? That is the answer you get from a sixteen year old who is more interested in picking non-existent dirt out of his fingernails than having a "chat" with his mum. Not the answer you expect (or want) from a five year old who will happily go into minute detail on what happened to him on the way from his bedroom to the breakfast table. But that was the answer I was getting. Every. Day.

I have my own issues with the school system, and I would happily go on about them here, except that I find that most parents have the same issues. Kicking a dead horse really, no? A little while ago though, I found a blog written by a very nifty sounding gal who homeschools her daughter in NYC and what really made me keep reading her stuff was that she doesn't go on about what is wrong with the system she doesn't have her child enrolled in, but rather she talks about the positive reasons behind her decision to homeschool. I liked that her commitment is coming from a positive place and not a negative one because, while I started keeping Rowan at home so that he didn't have to endure what I saw as a pretty torturous existence at a daily ritual that nobody could justify, let alone his mom, my reasoning quickly turned into an extremely positive feeling about what we are doing. The ONLY difficulty we have with this way of doing things is that 50% of the people in our daily life can't for the bejeezus of themselves figure out WHY we are still doing it! And the fifty per cent who do understand are the other homeschooling families that we now hang out with.

One of the things that I read on Gazellig-girl was a list of reasons why she homeschools, and my list reads very similarly. So I decided to put mine here. Now when people ask me why, or when I will put him in school, or what am I going to do when my kid is the weird kid... I will send them to my blog.

Why *I* Homeschool My Kid:

So that he can decide for himself what it is he finds interesting or worth learning without being told that it is age/gender/species inapropriate from teachers or students.
So he can actively socialize with people of all ages, genders, styles and ways of being — kids, adults, toddlers, elderly people — not just a small group of kids almost exactly the same age and in ways deemed "appropriate" by a system that has made blanket policies to save themselves the hassle and judgment of a few people who think kids should behave like adults and not communicate naturally. 
So he can discover things he really likes and is genuinely interested in, without any obligation to like the things his classmates like (or run the risk of being excluded for liking something different).
So he can learn how to solve problems on his own — interpersonal or academic — without an adult constantly stepping in to tell him that he is doing it the "wrong" way or "too quickly" or "too slowly" etc... 
So he never loses a love of learning and understands that you never stop learning. Just because you finally earned an A on a subject, the subject does not become closed, learning is not finite. It is not about getting a better grade than the others, it is about the process of learning and the love of knowledge.
So he’ll never equate good grades = good/smart person; bad grades = bad/stupid person
So he will never think he is less of a person or not intelligent enough because he has inadvertently  been a victim of circumstance when somebody is given near-God status who is paid too little and fighting with their spouse or just plain has a personality conflict with him. 
So he can learn at his own pace, without waiting for kids to catch up to him or not grasping a concept because the time for that subject is over for the day.
So he is able to eat when he’s hungry and not when someone tells him to, and without racing to get through the lunch and eat as fast as possible before being herded up to get back to class again.
So he has the opportunity to see in real time that there are so many options in the world for what he wants to be at ten, at seventeen, at twenty-four, at thirty-seven... so he can see other families interact and decide for himself what works for him and what he aspires to. He doesn't have to use just our family as role models.
So he can ask as many questions as he wants without ever getting told to stop.
So he can learn more of the things he should know as an adult (how to shop and cook, how to write someone a letter, how to get help from someone who knows more than you) without having to spend time learning things he probably will never use (how to solve quadratic equations).
So he can see firsthand that "life" happens to adults the same way it happens to children. Your best friends move away or they decide they don't want to be your friend anymore; you have crappy days where the harder you try the worse things seem to get... and that it always does get better; sometimes the stranger on the bus is the coolest person you never knew was there... and that you deal with life and move on.
So his rights as a citizen don’t get trampled on just because he’s at school.
So he doesn't hear one thing at home and another at school when it comes to racism, bigotry, or general respect for other people... calling people down will not become a process of elimination to become the cool kid.
So we all have more time to spend with each other without any need to hurry to eat dinner and get him into bed ten minutes after we eat because he needs to get up early to get to school on time.
So our entire family is free from the time to get up, get ready to go, don’t forget your bag, did you remember your homework, did you study for that test, what permission slip? Hurry up walk faster, slow down your brother can't walk that fast.” stress that seems to encompass so much of school life.

But the most important reason by far is we homeschool because it works for us. It suits our lives and our personalities and the kind of life we want for ourselves.

Play rehearsal is at the local church, but I should mention maybe that we are not religious, in case it matters. Which it shouldn't :)

As far as socializing, whenever that question comes up, as it often does, I ask the person what it is that is offered in the schoolyard that he is not getting out of extracurricular activities provided by the play rehearsals, book club, art classes, swimming lessons, martial arts and play dates that he is a part of. He is still friends with many of the kids he went to daycare and kindergarten with and some others who are in school. So far, almost every single parent that we know who's kids are in school have had to deal with the school over some or many incidents with bullying, racism, exclusion (by both teachers and students) or stereotyping to the degree where it is breeding issues and/or undermining confidence in children who are younger than seven years old. The disturbing part is the reaction (or lack thereof) of the principals and teachers.

I am not saying that there are not days where Rowan has had to deal with some letdowns and hard knocks socially with the homeschooling group, but it is a part of growing up and learning social behaviors, and the general social graces of a group where there are many ages and backgrounds creating something together is a different and healthier dynamic in my opinion. It never reaches a point where there is no bouncing back. I watch the older kids in the group and I have full confidence that we are on the right path.

More than anything, I know my kids, and I know that homeschooling may not be right for the next in line, but I feel it is what is right for Rowan right now. I see a much happier and "in his own person" child who has gone back to telling me every detail of the dream he had the night before. Every. Single. Detail. :)

1 comment:

Susan said...

Yea! While I don't have kids, I always intended to homeschool if I did. One of the brightest, most confident, most beautiful, popular young gal in my 1st year of University was home-schooled all her life, along with her equally impressive sister, blowing the 'weird kid' BS out the window. Not to mention, the people who change and enhance the world are rarely the 'normal' kids.