Homeschool Q&A

I’ve often wondered how best to articulate this. A pros and cons list? Top 5 reasons? I’ve been asked so many times about our choice to homeschool that I have decided to simply answer the questions that have been raised. It’s lengthy and I imagine I will add even more to it as questions and answers arise, but I hope it’s thorough enough to satiate you all for now.

Q. How did you arrive at your decision to homeschool?

A. I knew I wanted to homeschool our kids before Kerry and I even got together. It was a deal-breaker for me, to be honest. Thankfully, he was on board without hesitation and now here we are entering our 4th year of homeschool!
I myself went to private schools in 3 different cities, was homeschooled for one year, and went to public school in two different states. (Answer to the inevitable follow up question: We moved around a lot, yes, but no, we were not a military family.)
I also have a degree in education and have a tiny bit of teaching experience in the public schools.
All things considered, I felt very knowledgeable about the options before me and chose homeschool because I believe that, when done well, it is the best environment for learning and the building up of our kids’ faith. When I say this to people who choose to school their kids in a traditional way (public school) I totally see why they might feel offended or pressured to choose homeschool. I by no means plan to convert all our friends to homeschool just as I expect they do not plan to force us to enroll our kids in public school. They have chosen what they believe is best for their children and we for ours.
The liberal agenda of the public school system is worth taking a second look at. My husband and I are born-again, Bible-believing, conservative Christians. We don’t agree with a fair chunk of the public school curriculum in our district and we know that, by and large, if sent to public school, our kids would be spending the vast majority of their day with non-believers. We don’t yet know if any of our kids are truly saved but I can tell you for sure they are not mission-minded and are heavily-influenced by their peers. We think it’s best to keep them close to us to be taught academically and trained spiritually until they’ve matured and can contribute positively (i.e. befriending the friendless, speaking up for what’s right, being an example of humility, working hard, and honoring authority, to name a few) in a more “mature” environment, such as the public schools.

Q. How long do you plan to homeschool? Through college?

A. Definitely not through college. Is that a real thing? I cannot even imagine! Haha!  The rest is TBD. We are not “homeschool or bust.” Luca is actually going to preschool at the Science Center 4 days per week this coming fall. We plan to bring her back home for kindergarten and beyond.
We prayerfully consider the needs of our kids and will accommodate accordingly. If one has special needs and one is extremely gifted and one has a major motivation problem, do you think that the public school is the BEST place for them all? Perhaps. But I submit that with a small class size and a teacher who is dedicated to their individual success without also having to be dedicated to 25 other kids’ successes, they are likely to accomplish a great deal.
I am not a teacher-basher by any means. Most teachers work incredibly hard and are paid significantly less than what they should actually earn. I have nothing against the public school teacher in general but the fact of the matter remains, I am more personally dedicated to my child’s academic success than any given hard-working and unrelenting, fully-qualified teacher. We plan to homeschool for as long as it is the best option available.

Q. Are you concerned that your kids will miss out on social opportunities and be socially awkward because they are homeschooled?

A. If you would have asked me about this concern 15 years ago as freshman in high school I would have cited it as the number one reason NOT to homeschool: social ineptitude. Growing up, the vast majority of people that I knew who were homeschooled were not good at sports, didn’t know who Slater or Zack Morris were, wore high waters and shirts their mom made, and had only friends who were equally as socially awkward as they were. I love my kids too much to let that be their fate.
The homeschoolers of today are usually not such social standouts.
Our kids in particular spend considerable time with their peers at sports events (our boys have played basketball, soccer, baseball, and finished a triathlon; our 4 year old starts gymnastics in the fall), church (2+ times a week), play dates, and neighborhood gatherings (everything from the spontaneous backyard games to block parties) with the old and young.
In short, if done well, homeschool does not mean isolation.

Q. What about things like standing in line and public speaking? Good life skills they can’t learn in a class size of 4…

A. We do occasionally step foot in a grocery store and most traditionally-schooled adults I know are terrified of public speaking.

Q. Why not private school?
A. Private school is not out of question, necessarily, and neither is public school.

Q. Is the cost to homeschool subsidized?
A. Not in our state, no. (If I am wrong BY ALL MEANS PLEASE help a sister out and notify me ASAP. Ha!) We pay property taxes, helping fund the public school services and we purchase our homeschool materials out of our own pocket. It’s a real financial commitment, that’s for sure!

Q. What curriculum do you use?

A. We use Sonlight, a Christian, literature-based company that includes all subjects from history and science to Bible and reading to math. (If this changes I will update why and to what, but for now I expect we will stick with it for quite some time.) We also recently started Rosetta Stone Homeschool for French.

Q. Why did you choose Sonlight?

A. I love love LOVE to read. Reading aloud is my specialty. Sonlight’s base has lot of reading. That really drew me in. Also, we used Math-U-See before Sonlight and still get to use it with Sonlight. It’s been an excellent curriculum for our boys who learn math very differently from one another. They were doing algebra in 1st grade! Love!
Sonlight also has a 4-day schedule available, which is wonderful if you’re involved in a co-op (we are not) or want a field trip day or Friday fun day (that’s us!).
There are A LOT of really great homeschool curricula. Research, explore, borrow and ask questions to find out which will work best for YOU and your kids. Feel free to mix and match, too. You’re not bound to any certain way.

Q. What’s your homeschool schedule?

A. 4 days per week.
Year-round (many shorter breaks throughout the year rather than one long summer break).

Daily:
Pajama Mathematics- we get math done after breakfast, before we even get dressed. It’s their hardest subject and requires the most brain power, so it makes sense to me to finish it when they’re at their peak.
Spelling is after lunch.
Then, we rest and have reading time.
Then, we finish the rest of the lessons in the afternoon while the babe finishes her nap.
It takes me 3-4 hours with two 2nd-graders (which includes a one-hour mandatory rest and silent reading time listed above).

Q. What is the most important thing you’ve learned?

A. Attitude is everything and I’m not talking about the kids.
MY attitude is everything. If I want to rush through school to get to something else, it will invariably take longer than it should.
If I am irritable, they will be provoked to anger, and angry kids don’t learn well.
If I am obsessed with the curriculum, the kids will feel stressed.
However, if I expect that we all work as hard as we can with our happiest hearts in a reasonable amount of time, things go pretty well. We have good days and less good days, sure, but so does everyone. Homeschool is not a magic wand that eliminates all stress and sin in our lives. If it did, everyone would be into it.

Q. Wouldn’t it be easier just to send them to school?

A. I’m tempted to give an emphatic “YES!” but to be honest, I don’t know a mom, homeschool or otherwise, who is just taking a cake walk every day. Moms who send their kids to school tackle a different set of challenges than I face. They may deal with the consequences of peer pressure whereas I might worry if our kids are being too sheltered from the real world. Both the decision to send your kids to a traditional school and to homeschool come with a unique set of issues. Motherhood is demanding and challenging and unexpected and relentless. But rest assured, I’m not doing this homeschool thing because it’s easy.

And my most oft-asked question…

Q. Where did you get those school desks? 

A. The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Fairfield, Iowa.  A once in a lifetime find!