Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why I Homeschool

Every year, about this time, I feel some level of homeschool burnout. I'm tired of being a drill sergeant, I'm fed up with lack of performance and discipline--in myself as well as the kids--and part of me is ready to throw in the towel. We press doggedly on though, and every year we get through this time--which incidentally, always coincides with Lent--and things always look up with warmer weather and the end of the school year nearing.

So it's a good time of year to remind myself...

Why I Homeschool

(Note: This list is totally biased in favor of homeschooling. I don't want to sound judgmental to anyone who doesn't homeschool; in fact, my oldest has been in public school for five years, because of his special needs. But I do wish to encourage myself and other homeschoolers, sometimes by contrast with the realities of institutionalized schooling.)

1) I truly enjoy it. I like teaching, I like reading aloud, I like helping make connections of all the things they're learning. I like learning alongside them.

2) I like making my own schedule. Sometimes I entertain thoughts of putting my kids in school, if not for the remainder of this school year, then maybe next year. Then I remember the endless mornings of hurry, hurry, rush, rush, get out the door, take your lunch, where's that paper I'm supposed to sign?--and the evenings filled with homework--and I think of how much I love the flexibility of homeschooling, allowing ME to set our family's priorities. Also I'm a much nicer, more relaxed mom without so many daily deadlines in my life.

3) I love my children growing up together. My kids are together 24/7, and though there is plenty of friction at our house, there is also lots of love and fun among siblings. Not only do they play together, they teach one another and they learn from one another. I can't imagine our family with all four of my older kids in school all day!

4) Home is their "real world." I remember, as a publically-schooled child, feeling like my real life was at school with my same-age classmates--home was just a place to spend the night and do my homework. I love it that my kids' "real world" is peopled with siblings, other families, our older next-door neighbors, and church and theater friends of all ages. (It's so true, I've found, that you can easily recognize homeschooled kids by how comfortable they are in talking to adults and babies.)

5) My kids have a "real world" view of home life too. It isn't Mom's job to take care of the house and all the errands while they're off at school--we do it all together. They're getting a real-world education in housework, yardwork and time management that should serve them well all their lives.

6) I'm the adult that they talk to. Just by the amount of time we spend together, I get the chance to teach a Christian perspective on every topic that comes up, truly fulfilling the Deuteronomy 6 mandate, whether I'm intentional about it or not. Besides a Christian perspective on life, I also get to teach them character, values and common sense--Proverbs-type wisdom, I hope--that will shape the kind of adults they become. It's a scary responsibility, since I'm not always the most wonderful model, but I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job, on a daily basis, than me or my husband.

7) I like to sleep in. No apologies. I've always been a night owl--I remember laying in bed at night as a teenager, watching the numbers flip over on my clock radio as it got later and later, knowing that the bus would be right on time the next morning, despite my insomnia. I lived in a constant state of sleep deprivation during high school! Now, my teenage daughter's the same way. But I know this:

During adolescence, the body's circadian rhythm (sort of like an internal biological clock) is reset, telling a teen to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning. This change in the circadian rhythm seems to be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night in teens than it is for kids and adults, making it harder for teens to fall asleep. (full article here)

So we're on a later schedule than I'd like, but maybe my daughter won't have some of the health problems that I developed during high school (like chronic headaches and IBS). There's no healer like sleep! And as an adult, sleeping in when I need to is a major part of my anti-headache strategy.

7) We have time for extras like children's theater. We just could not pull it off if our kids were in school all day and bringing homework home every night. (Some call me crazy as it is, but I'm not that crazy.) Plus I can count rehearsals as classes in music, speech, drama and PE (you should have seen Bantam11 sweating after the Wickersham Brothers practiced their very physical "Monkey Around" dance 10-12 times in a row last week). Oh, and I can count it as socialization too, if anyone asks!

8) Speaking of socialization, I get to pick their friends, to some degree, by choosing what activities we will and won't be involved with. I definitely can limit the influence of the wrong friends, something I couldn't do if my kids were in school with them day in and day out.

9) I can make them read books. Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling bad about skipping a book or two in the Sonlight Curriculum, since we got behind a couple of times this year. I overheard a privately-schooled girl we know, boasting to her friends that she had not read a single book this year, in sixth grade! My son that's been in public school for five years has been required to read only a few books each year, though fortunately he reads for pleasure all the time. So when I think of how many books my kids have read this year, even skipping a couple, I am delighted! I remember nothing from the textbooks I know I read as a publically-schooled child; but I sure remember the books I devoured.

10) I feel God's blessing on our homeschooling. I am not one to say that all Christians must homeschool. I feel that putting our son with Asperger's Syndrome in public school was a wise, God-led decision, as was the year we put Bantam11 in public school for second grade. But whenever we have prayed about putting any of our other children in school, we have not felt the same peace. Then I think of all the practical realities why I prefer homeschooling (see points 2-9)--and I feel so blessed to be leading this lifestyle! It really is a rich and wonderful way for them to grow up.


Kathryn Judson said...

This is the second "Why we homeschool" post/article I've read this morning. See also Sally Thomas writes from a Catholic perspective, but I think you get to some of the same places. (I love her bit about "I suppose they didn’t ask how we expected our children to be “socialized” because there the children were, in front of everyone, doing their best impersonations of socialized people.":)

Linds said...

All I can say is that if I had children now, I would seriously be considering homeschooling too. As a teacher in a state school here, I cannot begin to tell you what I see every day. Part of me really regrets never knowing it was an option for my youngest son. But it is growing in the UK too right now, and will keep growing for all the right reasons. I think you are doing a magnificent job, and I love reading about it all.

Thanks so much for your lovely comments too!

Jennifer said...

As a non-homeschooler, I'm not offended at all, and in fact, though my husband and I do not consider homeschooling an option for us, the reasons that you mentioned are the things that I most envy about the homeschooling choice.

I will also say as a word of encouragement that I think it's just Spring burnout. I am burned out as well--of leading my Bible studies, of my daughter's activities. I think that we have a scheduled cycle for a reason--summer is nice and by fall we are recharged and ready to jump in.

5KidMom said...

Good for you! As a general rule, our kids are in public school, but I homeschooled my 10 year old for a year. It was such a blessing to see him come out of his shell. He is back in public school now, but the changes in him are remarkable.

Redbud said...

Oh, yes, I sleep in too, tho' I spent quite a few years being apologetic. But between the facts that the children are obviously ahead of their peers & I'm just getting too old to apologize for who I am, I don't bother anymore. Enjoyed your post.


Jenny said...

What a wonderful list! I always find that being appreciative of the blessings really helps to me to cultivate a new attitude that will refresh and sustain me.

Little Acorns Treehouse

Summer said...

I love your reasons. I just wrote my own top 5 reasons to homeschool this morning. You should check out She's making a collection of posts on why people choose to homeschool. :)