As my little one is starting to outgrow the term “little one,” I find myself thinking more and more about schooling for him. He’s 3 1/2 so it probably doesn’t seem too early but I started thinking about it a year ago.
My son is bright. Yes, I know every mother says that. But he really is. I had him evaluated when he was 2 1/2 for a variety of reasons and cognitively he was pretty advanced. Socially, he needed a little bit of work. But what surprised me the most was the doctors suggesting that he start preschool the following year. Not my baby! I’m not ready! And then when they told me the deadline were looming for the following fall, I went into a bit of that overbearing panicked mother mode.
Where do I send him? NOT daycare. Does he need school? What about Montessori? Or a Catholic school? Can’t he just stay where he is? He’s been going to someone’s home for a few days a week since he was 4 months old. He calls his sitter NaNa. Pulling him out would feel like breaking up the family!
I took a breath. I ignored the schooling issue for a while. I checked out a church preschool. I visited three Montessori schools. Then I was faced with what I could afford and where he could get in. Wow. I wasn’t expecting all of this for preschool. And is it really necessary?
I, myself, am a product of public schools. I grew up in a small rural community and always thought I turned out just fine. I went to a good college, graduated, and have achieved some relative success. I became a firm believer in public schools and felt that our tax dollars should be ensuring our children are well taken care of.
Then I became a teacher. I taught middle school science for a little over a year. It made me feel like I never wanted to have kids. Not if they were going to turn out like that. Then I did have a child. And as we all know, the lioness fiercely defends her cub. No child of mine is going to be subjected to public schools where we have no idea nor control over the content, the environment, or even how good the teacher is.
But lately, as I look at all the private (i.e., costly) school options, I actually started thinking about homeschooling in the back of my mind.
I’ve never been a fan of homeschooling. I always thought that socially it’s not good for kids. I thought that there is no way a parent can be as knowledgeable as all of the teachers of different subject matters. And a home environment certainly couldn’t be as structured as a school environment.
As my son gets older and more curious about the world around him, my doubts on all of this are fading. We have so many resources and materials available outside of the classroom. The world is the best place to learn. A lesson on ecology? Walk into the backyard and talk about deciduous and evergreen trees, perennials and annuals, bird migration, food chain, you name it. How about natural disasters? Keep the content relevant with what’s going on in the news. Go to YouTube and bring the subject to life.
I know that I have already taught my son a lot about the Space Shuttle and Apollo rockets, tsunamis and earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, pirates, music, history all through the magic of books, video, and (shocker) talking. We keep it conversational and I find that his love of learning makes it feel natural and not like a lesson plan.
No matter what I decide for his education, I am starting to feel a lot more respect and admiration for those that have the time and ability to teach their children at home. If you are one of them, I’d love to hear about some of your greatest challenges and successes.
Well, I am not a teacher but I can tell you that I am a product of home-schooling. I went to public school for 4 years (pre-k, k-2nd) before my parents decided to home school. So from 3rd grade until I graduated high school I was part of a collaborative with anywhere from 12-23 other students. We were at home every day with the exception of Fridays when we would come together for formal testing. We did standardized testing according to the State of FL at the end of each year and when we graduated we got state approved diplomas (some home schoolers only had the option of getting a GED). I went on to get my BA at NC State which I chose to get that “big school” feeling.
ANYWAY, all that to say for me it was awesome. I think I am now a self-starter in large part due to home-school. My parents were both Teachers so I had that going for me as well as having a large social network through my church. I think what they did right was make sure I had multiple influences aside from schooling (ie community sports, music lessons, church etc).
I could go on and on. If you ever want to talk about it, let me know! Funny thing is I am thinking of putting Oscar in public school! I have some time to decide though 🙂
I had no idea you were homeschooled. You seem so normal. I’m kidding of course. I’m very anti-public school right now but I suppose it all depends on where you live and what your child needs.
Interesting article! I am a product of the public school system as well, and loved school for the most part growing up. However, the system has changed radically from what I can tell from my viewpoint as a former student to my viewpoint as a current parent. The focus has changed from the student to The Test. While I understand the reasoning given for this focus, I don’t think it’s helpful for students or teachers at all.
My son went to public school pre-K and Kindergarten. He was in daycare prior, as I was a working parent. I had never considered homeschooling. But our experience in regular school was very frustrating. He was constantly bored, and his teachers, although well-meaning, were not equipped to provide him (and the other faster learning students) with extra work to keep his mind occupied and also be able to catch up the students who weren’t at grade-level yet. This is a failure of resources, not teachers. Many school systems simply don’t have the funding for teachers aides (a necessity with large elementary school classes), much less resource programs for kids who fall outside of the norm in either direction.
There was also the expectation that 4-5 year olds would sit still for 2+ hours at a time. When I was in kindergarten (and even though first grade), we were changing ‘stations’ quite often, from sit-down work (max. 30 min) to imaginative freeplay to teacher directed group ‘outloud’ learning. Unfortunately, there is such an insistence on ‘teaching to the test’ that even in the lower grades, teachers are very stressed out about ‘preparing’ students academically. I talked to parents of third-graders (the grade when standardized testing starts in NC) who could not eat the week before testing began, they were so anxious. I did not want that for my child.
We looked at private schools, but OMGWOW! Incredibly expensive. Tuition costs more for one year than I spent on three years of tuition in college.
When my circumstances changed, and homeschooling became an option, I researched it and decided to take the plunge. I reasoned that it was ‘only for a year’ and that we could go back to public school or suck it up and pay private school tuition if necessary. I was shocked at how well my kid took to it, how much we enjoy it, and how much less stressful it is than sending him to school had been. He has surpassed the NC Course of Study requirements for his grade level in all subjects, and was able to go more in depth in subjects he really enjoyed (he really got into anatomy- who knew?) We have ‘sit-down work’ each day, but then we move onto trips to the many state parks in the area, the free museums, and even our downtown area. There is so much to learn from that can’t be experience simply at a desk (or the kitchen table, in our case.)
I feel confident that I can cover elementary and middle school level material with good preparation. When we get to the grades where I don’t feel comfortable with the material (I anticipate this will be high school level math and science), then we will hire subject area tutors and/or enroll in courses at the local (awesome!) community college.
As for socialization- well, my little dude is incredibly social naturally, so this has never been a concern for us. There are tons of kids in our neighborhood that he plays with daily, and as he gets older and becomes involved in sports/community groups, he’ll meet even more.
Sorry for the novel! This past year has been a revelation for us, and I tend to gush about it. I don’t think our choice is for everyone- I don’t think there is any *one* choice on *any* subject that is for everyone. But homeschooling was absolutely the right choice for our family and I am so grateful we have that option.
Well, I feel like I need to write a novel back! You had so many good points. Yes, we need to ensure, especially in the public schools, that certain competencies are met. I guess the idea is to make sure graduating seniors can actually read and add. But it does seem like lesson plans aren’t even designed for curriculum any more. It is all about the test.
Having been a teacher of kids at multiple levels, I have found that you end up teaching at the pace of the slowest learners whether you mean to or not.
My favorite part about the natural part of teaching my son is all of things I am learning. He wants to know every detail so now I know the compete history of Blackbeard the pirate 🙂
P.S. I didn’t know you were a fellow NCer!
First of all – yes, you obviously felt that way because you chose to teach middle school.
Everybody knows middle school is just another word for hell on earth.
Also, I spend Saturday cleaning my basement while replaying America Rock on the tv over and over again. That George III, what a pansy.
I picked middle school kids because I thought that’s where kids need the most help. They do. Hope I made a tiny bit of a difference because I knew that was NOT a long term career.
As for George III, he is known in my house now as “the bad king.”
I never dreamed that I would homeschool, but the school my kids were assigned to was a disaster. (I know not all schools are liked that.)
So we tried homeschooling and now we have far more reasons to homeschool. We’re focused on the kids’ character, relationships, interests. You can learn facts anywhere, anytime. Schools these days don’t provide education. They provide short-term memorization.
It’s far more valuable to teach kids skills that they can apply to any fact they learn throughout their lives.
(I recommend reading anything by John Taylor Gatto or John Caldwell Holt.)
Awesome points. Character is not something kids learn at school. And fostering their interests is key to making learn natural and fun. Memorization is not the same aa learning
As to your point below on socialization, it’s a really good one that never occurred to me even though it’s been staring in my face all my life. Still have some time to ponder but appreciate your perspective.
One more thing – about socialization. This is the biggest load of crap stereotype of homeschoolers.
Schools are HORRIBLE places to socialize. There’s cliques and popularity contests and even teachers reject students unless they fit into a neat and tidy box. You *have* to perform well in order to fit in – whether you’re a theater nerd or a cheerleader.
Plus, teachers are always telling their students they didn’t come to school to socialize.
The fact that people can’t understand that 99% of socialization happens OUTSIDE the classroom is just mind-numbing.
I come to catch up and find this post…so relevant as I was thinking about schooling as well. Only thing is my little one is 17 months but every day I see how curious and bright he is and wonder what will happen when he is ready for school. I too was a product of the public school system, except for a small 4 year stint in Catholic school but lately I have had the same homeschooling thoughts! I like you thought it was social suicide but I think there are more people doing it and there is more support. I will really have to give this a serious looking into before the time comes!