After homeschooling four kids, forever, I’d like to address some of the misrepresentations, misunderstandings and general misleading balderdash you may hear about the project.
Education is a hot-button issue. There is a lot of vehemence and righteousness around the subject — everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is right. (Maybe I should stop reading comments.)
The truth is, you will find success and failure and everything in between in any education model. My homeschoolers have grown into lovely, bright, curious, capable humans, in spite of occasional bad attitudes and general sloth. They have conquered college, internships, jobs, and functional relationships — in short, they are ‘normal’ (whatever that means). They have many friends, both schooled and homeschooled, who have achieved the same level of ‘normalcy.’ Homeschooling worked for us, though it was, at times, hard, frustrating, and boring — sort of like life and sort of like school.
I’m not a ruler-wielding drill sergeant or a religious fanatic. I’m not a hippie or a mystic (though I admit to wearing Birkenstocks). My kids delight and infuriate me. I’m kind of tired and sort of stressed, I drive a regular car and my house is moderately messy. I don’t have irrational plans for world domination and I don’t buy into crazy conspiracy theories about the evil intention of school. I’m kind of like you. No better, no worse — ‘normal,’ like you.
I do think the system is kind of crap right now, though, and decided to take the reins. I thought about, and even briefly tried, fixing it from within. The wheels of change move too slowly for growing kids, however — there’s a window and it closes fast.
So I homeschooled.
And now I’d like to bust some myths.
- We’re smarter than you.
I wish. Some of us probably are, sometimes. Because we’re humans.
I have met many brilliant people who have said, “I could never do that — I’m not smart enough to teach all those subjects alone.”
You don’t do any of it alone, of course! You use the world — the great big awesome world that is packed to the rafters with everything you could ever want or need. People, books, places, things — you’ll never run out of help.
Besides, it has nothing to do with smart.
2. You’re smarter than us.
Maybe, some of you. But again, this whole thing has nothing to do with smart. It’s about challenge, creativity, solution seeking. It is about stretching and thinking outside the box.
3. Your kids will have no friends.
This is, frankly, ridiculous. Again, the world — it’s filled with people, friends for your child and some for you, too. We made lifelong friends everywhere — teams, clubs, classes, trips — often friends who connected around an interest, rather than just an age. If you live in the world, there will be no lack of social opportunities.
4. We do it for religious reasons.
We didn’t, actually.
Religious affiliation, or lack thereof, doesn’t guide the education choices of most homeschoolers, I think.
More importantly, why does this matter? Many homeschoolers are religious and many are not. Many school kids are religious and many are not. Homeschooling is not owned or controlled by any religious community — it is and will be whatever you make of it.
To be sure, the religious right has made a great noise about their penchant for homeschooling, but so have a fair number of liberal academics, and jaded farmers, and average Joes and Janes who see that school isn’t serving little Johnny.
It’s a choice for anyone and everyone. It’s personal.
5. We do it for political reasons.
No we don’t. See above and replace religious with political.
6. Homeschoolers are weird.
Yes, sometimes. But so are you, probably. So am I.
Have you spent any time in a school lately? Or anywhere with a collection of humans? Because, let me tell you, people are weird. It takes all types and you’ll find them sitting in classrooms just as easily as you’ll find them frolicking in homeschools.
And I am of a mind to encourage weird, anyway. All the best stuff is born in the weirdest minds — outside the box should be the goal. You’ll be surprised how quickly weird becomes cool.
7. Homeschooling requires epic confidence.
It’s not confidence, it’s — I don’t know, adaptive behavior? Whimsy? Crazy?
Even with all evidence showing that the education system is severely broken, perhaps irreparably, it remains the accepted cultural norm. Schools are where kids belong, everyone agrees, no matter how backward, how destructive, how almost tragicomic the whole mess has become. So it must take epic confidence to say no, to buck the system that is hated and loved all at the same time.
Not so much. For me, confidence has had very little to do with it. I have a crisis of confidence around this issue almost daily and yet I have been willing to take a chance, dive in and try. Why not, when the alternatives aren’t working? What is there to lose?
8. How will they learn?
How do we learn anything? When? And, maybe a better question, why?
Methods can be vastly different, timelines can be fluid, but it’s the why that interests me the most. Babies learn the most important human skills (walking, talking, etc.) because they are driven to. They want to.
Children are endlessly curious and marvelously adaptive. Show them the world, show them enthusiasm about the world, and they will learn. You won’t be able to stop them.
And it will be learning that sticks, not just learning for Friday’s test.
9. How will they adapt to the ‘real world’?
Putting aside the laughable notion that homeschoolers don’t live in the ‘real world’, the adaptation question actually did concern me for awhile regarding schedules.
However, I watched each of my four kids shift from lazy sleep-late mode into work or college scheduling almost effortlessly. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ll take it.
When a young person (or any person) is interested in pursuing something, they will adjust, adapt. That’s a life skill and it comes with a little living — in the ‘real world’, the same one we all share.
10. You need a lot of money.
I certainly don’t have much, probably because instead of being paid to do anything, I homeschooled my kids. If your goal is to have a lot of money, homeschool only if you are independently wealthy, you have a partner who is raking it in, or you have a loaded patron.
I guess it’s about priorities. You don’t need lots of money to homeschool — it helps, as with anything, but you can patch together all sorts of interesting opportunity with very little.
So, a little tip-of-the-iceberg myth busting.
If you’re curious about homeschooling, try it. Really, it’s not a big deal. The food is better, you can sleep late, and if it doesn’t work or you don’t like it, the big yellow bus will roll by every day. Put them on it, if that’s your path.
It’s your right to choose the best educational approach for your family at any given time. It all works, or doesn’t work, in varying degrees and you will find ways to adjust.
Sort of like life.