Why are we homeschooling? I would never try to convince anyone that this is the right path for them, but we are choosing this as the right path for us. Every family is different, and every family also faces constant changes as children grow and go through their various phases. I’m planning on homeschooling my 5 year old daughter, Fiona — which has been a very long and difficult decision for us. Being a former home-schooled person myself (Kinder through 5th grade), I have always considered homeschooling my daughter and seriously started thinking about it when she was 3. I was dreading sending her to preschool. During this time, we did “preschool at home” with some semblance of structure. I would ask Fiona questions about what she was interested in learning about and write it out on a whiteboard like this:
These were daily goals but I didn’t push it. I let her lead the way and if we didn’t get to a subject or idea, it was totally fine. I was amazed at what she was interested in learning — one of her favorite things was asking questions about how the human body works, and she loved watching middle-school level videos on YouTube about the digestive and circulatory systems (definitely something I would not have thought of myself).
We happened to move back to my hometown last summer (2015). In light of this and other changes, I decided to send her into school for 4K. My hometown (Brodhead, WI — south of Madison near the Illinois border) has great schools. Since it was only three hours a day, four days per week, I thought it would be a great experience for her. And it has been! She enjoys it, although she does complain that she keeps “learning the same thing over and over” and I know she is on the advanced end (she is already reading) which is not getting noticed or worked with. The experience has been fun for her on a social level but has not challenged her intellectually.
The school year is now coming to an end. It wasn’t always easy having Fiona go to school, even for the relatively short period of time she was gone each week.
Most days, we would be just getting in the middle of a great learning experience (such as a violin lesson, art project, reading, experiment, etc) and we would have to put whatever we were doing on hold so she could go get on the bus. It was honestly heartbreaking at times.
So the thought of sending her to school ALL DAY EVERY DAY was just too much for me. If there was an option where I could send her for 3 hours a day though High School I would do it. But the entire day is just too much.
I know this, because I have two older children who have been in the public school system their entire lives, and are now in 6th and 8th grades.
Now, I’m not going to start bashing teachers or the system. Yes, there are flaws. Yes there is too much testing and too much homework. Yes, sometimes you have to deal with a teacher you don’t see eye-to-eye with. However, overall, we have had a good experience with public schools. Good, but not great. Certainly not an amazing, fun, student-centered, highly individualized learning experience. My older kids get deflated by testing, testing, testing, homework, and are honestly outright bored most of the day. As they get older (especially my son who is in 8th grade), I see them getting more uninterested in learning or creating anything at all. It breaks my heart. And I know there is another way.
What I want for my children is this:
- To develop a LOVE for learning. To realize that learning does not stop at a certain point during the day (like, say, 3:00 pm). Learning does not stop when you graduate from high school or college. Learning is a fulfilling part of life, your entire life!
- To develop CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS. I don’t want my kids to be robots. I want them to question everything. I want them to THINK about the world and their place in it. How can they help, what type of person do they want to be, how can they contribute, what is happening and what can I do about it, what do I really want out of my life, what are the next steps toward my goals?
- Knowledge Retention. I want my kids to not only be excited about what they are learning, but I want them to remember it. The typical system of learning and testing doesn’t do much for retention. Many times, kids (including college students) only learn enough to do well on the test, and then it’s gone. I got almost straight As in college myself, and can’t tell you much about what I learned except for the classes that I was INTERESTED in. Good grades does not equal learning.
- OPPORTUNITIES. Being homeschooled means freedom. The freedom to create, imagine, work with your hands, travel, connect with different types of people, visit more museums, spend more time in nature, read more, play music more, work on more projects, apply skills to real world living — the list of opportunities are endless. Simply because you have more TIME.
- To have an amazing childhood and develop their own unique perspectives and intelligence that will continue to guide them as they enter adulthood and during the rest of their lives. I want my children to know, down to their core, that life is what you make of it and you are capable of anything you set your mind to.
I have talked with my older two kids many times over the years about homeschooling. I have always said that it is their choice if they want to make the change. I did not start them homeschooling because at the time I was not in a place where I could do it. Now that I am older and more established, I am able to do this for my youngest daughter and hoping that my older two might like to join us in this grand adventure as well. My middle child, Kali, is on board for now but we will see after the summer what she thinks.
Speaking of summer, I am planning on doing year-round school. I should call it life-round school. I don’t think it is beneficial to distinguish between periods of learning and periods of breaks. Learning is not a factory job. It shouldn’t be mind-numbing drudgery. It should be something you are looking forward to doing at every opportunity, without even realizing it, because it is inherent and natural and your mind is open to it.
I organize my thoughts best when I am writing. So I knew that if I were to embark on this homeschooling journey that I would definitely need to start a blog. Not only to organize my thoughts, but also to hold myself accountable, and to create a lasting documentation of our journey.
Kali (my 6th grader) and I came up with this acronym the other day, when we were discussing what home school would look like to us:
At any rate, that’s a brief overview of why I am homeschooling some, maybe all, of my children. Whatever works for your own family, that’s what I say. We have more choices in this life than we tend to consider.
Until next time, cheers!