To homeschool our first-born child or not? That is the question.
Eight years ago when Dave and I got married, this question would not have even entered into our minds. I think we were still busy wondering which one of us would stay at home to raise any future Yankowiaks that we would have (at 23, the thought of being a stay-at-home-mom was less than appealing to me). When Annika was born over 4 years ago, we didn’t worry too much about things like schooling. I knew that we’d get out of the cities by the time she started kindergarten and so we’d probably be in a small community with a good school. I was happy when we moved to northern MN and bought a house less than two blocks away from an elementary school.
But then some good friends, who began to homeschool their previously public school educated 7 and 9 year olds, encouraged us to begin praying for God’s will for our family and our children and our children’s education. Annika was 2. So we began. I read, I listened to homeschooling families, we weighed the pros and cons. I even babysat for two young children for two months….they were homeschooled 6 and 9 year olds. So I was able to roll up my sleeves and give this homeschooling thing a try.
To sum it all up, Dave and I both feel strongly in favor of homeschooling. We certainly have nothing against public schools (or other options that parents may choose for their children, such as private schools), but we tend to find a lot more advantage in homeschooling–for us, anyway. Of course, as many homeschool families have said to me, we’d reconsider it each year for each child. We always want what is best for our kids.
I know that many of you have experiences or strong opinions about homeschooling. I’d love to hear feedback, both positive and negative.
While I have less than a year to decide what to do for Annika for kindergarten, here is at least a partial list of reasons why Dave and I want to teach our children ourselves. A homeschooling friend told me yesterday that if we have a list of reasons to homeschool, we should write it down as there would be days where we’d need to look at it….such as the days when boarding school seems like the best option….ha, ha….her comical words, not mine! So here goes!
- Relationships. One of the arguments I hear against homeschooling is that kids need the social interaction that school provides. I agree completely that kids need social interaction, but maybe the interactions I value are different than what people have in mind. I believe that the most lasting and important relationships in a person’s life are their relationships with Christ and with their family, particularly siblings. For all of the wonderful friends I have in my life, my sister and I remain the closest. We share a long history, after all! Homeschooling allows my children to be together more as peers than if they were each in separate grades in school. Dave and I also get to remain the most influential people in our children’s lives, at least a little bit longer. Who do I turn to today if I need help or support or advice? Hardly my first grade teacher. I still often look to my parents.
- On the family note, I want a flexible lifestyle. This is something that public school obviously can’t provide. If my children and I want to serve or volunteer together and we’re homeschooling, we can make it part of our day or even our curriculum. If a sickness or family emergency comes up, we have the flexibility to catch up with schoolwork at our own pace. And with Dave being self-employed, our dream is to be able to travel whenever we want or are able to. Some friends of ours who homeschool are on a 4 week trip out East and homeschooling while they’re traveling. I love this possibility!
- To be honest, Dave and I both look back at school and remember being bored. Not because we were particularly brilliant or anything, but we always had to work at the pace of the slowest kid in the class (and of course, to the slowest kid, it probably felt like we were moving way too fast!). We want to be able to cater learning to our children’s abilities. If they succeed, they can move along quickly. If they struggle, we’ll have the extra time to work with them that a teacher of 20 or 30 wouldn’t.
- We want our children to have a well-rounded education. Whether or not I was a Christian, I would still argue that most public school curriculum is sadly lacking in perspective. History tends to be primarily American and still fairly Anglo-Saxon in perspective. Science leans heavy on popular theories, not necessarily showing all theories, or even better theories. I want to teach my children the value of getting different perspectives, investigating different theories, and learning to think for themselves. I am not faulting public school teachers or leaders in these areas…..the system is not set up to teach these things.
- There is a lot of what I call “distracting noise” in schools. There always has been and today kids probably just face more noise than the last generation. By this I don’t literally mean noise (although I’m sure there is plenty of that, too). I mean all the stupid little things that distract you from getting the education that you’re supposed to be achieving for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Examples include bullying, peer pressure, confusing moral or amoral messages that probably don’t belong in school (homosexuality, patriotism/nationalism, for example). I also think that technology has introduced a whole new level of each of these things. I heard of a kindergartener in the school behind us who had a cell phone with inappropriate sexual pictures on it. Older kids are texting all day long (trust me, I spend about 2 hours a week with high school girls and I can’t even count how many texts each girl receives in that time) and by being more connected, they are experiencing whole new levels of distraction, pressure, and bullying. Some of these “noise polluters” are things that we’ll have to teach our kids to deal with in the real world. But I will argue that my 5 year old doesn’t have to learn about sexuality from her classmate’s cell phone and frankly, my teenager shouldn’t be stressing out about all her friends who are pregnant or doing drugs. I don’t want to homeschool to put my kids in a safe little bubble. I want to homeschool so that I can prepare them to face these things in life when it is the right time.
- I want my kids to be able to stay kids for as long as they can! Not for my sake, but for their own. I don’t possibly see how it is beneficial for any child under 10 to spend 7 hours a day in a regimented classroom setting. Add to that any extra-curricular activities and my young child could be spending up to 9 or 10 hours a day scheduled! With no time to play, relax, goof off, or bond with her sister or family. That seems wrong to me. By homeschooling next year for kindergarten, I expect we’ll spend two hours or less each day on formal learning, leaving lots and lots of time for play, informal learning, and REST! I honestly remember how tired I felt as a kindergartener who only had to go to school every other day, not every day like the elementary schools here.
- I want my girls to develop into the beautiful young ladies that God intended them to be. Without a firm foundation in truth, Godly wisdom, selfless service, and Godly virtue, they will flounder. They may not fail, but they will certainly struggle to become who God created them to be. Can children gain this firm foundation if they are going to a public school? Absolutely. Might it be easier for their moral teachers (primarily their parents) and for the children themselves if they are in an environment that pursues and cherishes these values? Absolutely.
We still have something like 204 days to figure it out for kindergarten for Annika. But I think it’s worth weighing and re-weighing the options. Please give me food for thought if you have any to offer!