Weighing the Odds

I recently had a friend ask me if I could share with her all the pros and cons I have found so far in our homeschool journey.  She’s not the first person to ask about this “strange lifestyle” decision we have made.  As I always say, it isn’t a path we ever planned to be on, but I’m so glad we are.  I told her if I tried to respond with a Facebook message, it would fill up her inbox, so I decided to post it here instead.

About the time Addy turned one or two, I met a handful of homeschooling families.  (Up to this point, I only had stereotypes to look to for my idea of homeschooling.)  From the moment I became a momma, I understood the privilege and responsibility to raising my children, and I wanted to pour my heart into doing it well.  At some point this  led me to mention the h=word to Andy.  He probably said something like, “What about it?”–though, even in the beginning, never brushed it off.  God continued to fill my thoughts of homeschooling, and I continued to casually bring it up when the time seemed right.  Andy’s a logical thinker, and he simply said, “Let’s weigh the pros and cons.  Make a list, and we’ll go from there.”  Well, I’m a list-maker, friends, so I went right to work.

Long story short, in the end our list showed us that for OUR family homeschooling seemed to be the best fit.  We are in our 2nd “official” year, and I’ve had many more moments of confirmation than doubt.  I’ve had more time to add things to our pros and cons list.  For us the pros outweigh the cons, though I’m certain this isn’t the case for all families, and I certainly wouldn’t judge that it is for everyone.  So, if you are interested or wondering if it might be for you, I hope our list can be helpful to you:

CONS

1- Going Against the Grain–  It was a hard decision to do something different than all our friends and families.  We wanted to be able to have “school things” in common.  We wanted to lament together over too much homework and cheer together for our kids at sporting events.  I wanted to be able to call my best friend and ask her how her daughter was doing on such-and-such project.  It’s a fact that this path leads in different directions sometimes, and some conversations just won’t be able to happen as naturally.  Friendships might weaken, and (more importantly) those friendships for my kids have become harder.

2- Criticism of Others:  It just isn’t “the norm” to homeschool.  While we have been blessed beyond belief to have the support of our families, there will always be people who don’t understand and constantly question the motives and all important “socialization” of my children.  I’ve been asked, “Don’t you worry about them?” implying that I should worry that I’m screwing them up.

3- Lack of Socialization:  There.  Yep, it’s true.  My kiddos aren’t going to be around kids their own age as much as if they were in public school.  I don’t deny that I sometimes wonder if they would be “more outgoing, more social, more willing to talk to strangers” if they were with more kids all day.  And, yet, I also don’t place so much value on interacting with kids their own age that I think it will make or break them, or change their personalities.  And, I realize now that not every kid has to be the life of the party.  My kids come from a HUGE family with loads of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  We have a great church family, and the kids have a blast in Sunday School and youth group.  Addy has taken gymnastics with complete strangers every week.  And, when they are old enough we plan to get involved in clubs like 4-H and others that will provide plenty of “socialization.”  I have made the comment to Andy that our children are equally excited to invite their friends over to play as they are when we invite people in their 30s, 50s, even 80s!

4-My Kids Feeling “Different”:  This has been the hardest for me as a mom.  I don’t ever want my kids to feel like they don’t belong.  Addy’s very best friend in the world is her neighbor and cousin Kate.  They are exactly the same age and would be in the same class together.  If anything has been the most difficult, it has been seeing Kate interact with new school friends and watching the look in Addy’s eyes when she feels like an odd man out.  I imagine this will get harder as they get older and we do slumber parties and birthday parties.  Addy (and my other kids) will always be a little on the “outside” of all the inside jokes and stories.  She just won’t have the exact same things in common with them.  But, I also know that it provides opportunities for Addy to get to meet new friends through her cousin as well, and undoubtedly, much fun will be had in spite of the fact that we homeschool.

5- The Fear of Not Doing A Good Job Teaching Them:  I think it is only natural for fear to jump right past the idea of teaching a child 1+1=2 or how to write their name, and go straight to “How will I teach them calculus?” or “I know NOTHING about the anatomy of the eye!”  Sure, I find myself wondering if I’m teaching them everything they need to know right now, or if they’d be better off at public school, but my motto is “One Year at a Time.”  I started out thinking, “I can do Preschool.  I can do Kindergarten.  I am doing 1st Grade.”  Each year I’ll re-evaluate, do MY homework, and go from there.  I use a pre-made curriculum that I love and trust, so I can be confident that I am teaching age-appropriate lessons, and my kids aren’t falling behind, and ideally, excelling.

6- They Won’t Be Able to Survive College:  I have a cousin who was homeschooled well– raised with a love to learn– and he is flourishing in medical school.  He told me he felt that his homeschooling actually gave him an advantage because he “learned HOW to learn.”  He enjoyed learning and was taught how to problem solve.  This isn’t one I worry about much.

7- Sports.:  True statement—If you played sports in school, there is a good chance you want your kids to play too.  Andy and I were both involved in sports growing up.  We both have GREAT memories of competition, teamwork, big wins, and memorable losses.  This was one of the hardest ones for us.  We, in some ways, were taking away the opportunity for our children to make those memories.  And yet, when we really talked it through, we realized that while working as a team is an important skill, high school sports in general aren’t going to help you much in adult life. (Except the .03% that go on to play professionally.)  There are plenty of opportunities for our kids to play sports outside of public school if that is something they want to do.

PROS

1-  Seeing Things through the Lens of Christ: Faith was not our only reason to homeschool.  Not by a long shot.  However, I would be lying if I said it didn’t play a huge part.  It isn’t as though we do nothing but study the Bible all day, but I love the ability to study things with God at the center.  For instance, we can study how a plant grows or how a scab heals or an ugly caterpillar can transform into a butterfly, and we can be thankful that God designed the world and His people with such care.

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2- A Closer Bond as a Family:  This was so important to us.  We wanted to create lasting memories and bonds as a family, and part of that was by learning together.  We wanted our children to love each other, and not brush each other off for friends who come and go throughout childhood.  We wanted to be able to spend extra time together if Andy had a crazy work week, and we wanted to stay up late to see him.  This has been one of the biggest blessings so far.  My kids are BEST FRIENDS.  They play together so well (most of the time).  They go on grand adventures, and stick close together.  We feel like as adults it will be more important that they have good memories and relationship with each other than with their best friend from 5th grade.

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3-  They Have More Time to Be Kids: I seldom talk about the time it takes to do school with people because I fear judgement.  But, for now, we do school in about 3-4 hours.  In Kindergarten, it took us even less than that, 1-2 hours a day.  This gives them extra time to run and play outside (which in itself can be learning), or do things like piano lessons, visiting with Grandparents, or being creative.  As we speak, lunch just ended and they have an hour of free time before Cora’s nap.  Abe is a policeman, Addy is running a salon, and Cora is playing with bath toys in the sink (just keeping it real!), and while it can be viewed as “just playing,” they are practicing life skills.  Just don’t tell them that.

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4- Extra Opportunites:  One of the things we were excited about when we decided to homeschool was the opportunity for extra learning.  For instance, we can stop what we are doing to study something happening in the moment.  We can spend time learning about what each child is really interested in at the time.  We can plan family vacations any time of the year, and plan them to enhance what we are studying.  (History and geography are going to SO much fun!!!)  We can load up in the Airstream and learn about the Battle of Gettysburg IN Gettysburg.  We can study mammals at the zoo, we can learn about hydroelectric power while at Niagara Falls!  In addition to trips, our kids can decide what they are passionate about and pursue it.  For example, Addy LOVES art, and we are in the process of finding art lessons for her.  The possibilities for enhancing learning are endless.

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5- Teaching to Each Child’s Learning Style and Pace: I love being able to teach my kids in a way they best understand, at a pace they are capable of.  One thing that frustrated me when I taught in public school is that the kids who caught on quickly got bored and the kids who struggled got left behind.  A plus to homeschooling is that we can work on something until they master it, and then we move on–however long that may take.

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6- No Homework in the Evenings:  We get all schoolwork done before Andy gets home, so that we can protect “family time.”  The kids might talk to him about what they learned or show him something they did, but they aren’t stuck at the table doing busywork while the rest of us spend time together.

7- A Vast Number of Resources:  We are blessed.  In our family alone, we have a retired Ag teacher/ principle/ superintendent, a biology teacher, a history teacher, a math teacher, a science teacher, a nurse, a farmer, an engineer, and I am a former Language Arts teacher.  If we ever need extra help mastering something, we’ll know just where to go!

8- Homeschool Group:  We are part of a group that meets a few times each month  for field trips, holiday parties, educational events, and PE/ Rec days.  It provides my children with opportunities to meet new friends, and I am able to form a support group too!  My kids aren’t missing out on making Valentine’s day boxes or learning how to play kick ball or doing science fair!

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There are so many more, but if you have made it to this point of the post, then you already deserve a gold medal for sticking with me.  This was just a glimpse of our pros and cons.  Someone else may have completely different things on their list–but this (and much prayer) helped us make the decision that was best for us.  I would love to know what helped you make your decision to homeschool or not!  This is a judgement-free discussion!

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