Breaking The Home School Stigma
I have long heard the homeschool myths circulate around my peers. “Well how do they socialize?” or “Who keeps track of what they are learning?”…”Oh, you didn’t turn out like most homeschoolers?” or “What about sports?”
As with many of our decisions, it is what you make it. I had a very positive experience with homeschooling in the late 80s. When my sister and I entered school in 5th and 6th grade, people were surprised that we were more mature than many of the girls at our private school. Although I made new friends quicker than most of the girls, wasn’t intimated by playground bullying and had my own sense of fashion at a young age, it was school that taught me to worry about my appearance, inclusion and security.
In the back of my head, I held on to the idea of homeschooling my children. I enjoyed the freedom it gave us as children and the confidence it gave us as adults. I received my teaching degree in Elementary Education, “just in case” I might homeschool. When I met my husband he mentioned “homeschoolers don’t experience real life circumstances necessary for their maturity as adults.” I quickly challenged that thought pattern. His heart received the idea and soon enough he had full confidence in my ability to educate and train up our children.
While our first son was young, I was preparing my mind and life around homeschooling our children. As we added new children year after year, my teaching and parenting skills were challenged. I had to stretch, mature and grow just like my children. Now, with six children under 8, homeschooling has become more than a way of learning. We work, play, learn and grow as a family in sync with our days at home or around our city.
Without listing the many myths or reasons one might homeschool, there are a few important things that continue to motivate us. Think about what your kids learn at school versus what you might have the freedom to teach them at home or out in the community. As homeschoolers, I set the schedule, curriculum, and learning environment. If you can plan the logistics necessary to graduate school, show up to work on time, learn a new task and accomplish it, you can homeschool. Parents are actually the most important teachers in a child’s life, they always have been.
Homeschoolers are often very comfortable mingling with people of all ages. We notice that kids who speak with peers for the majority of their day have a tendency to shy away from adult conversations. I have my thoughts about why this is, but the educator in me needs to stay on point. In our family, we create an environment where eye contact, mature language, and independent decisions are a part of the curriculum at an early age. My 7 and 5 yr old can snuggle with your babies, play football with your teenagers, or hold an adult conversation about what you are working on in the yard without skipping a beat.
I love the closeness that our family has and continues to develop. One of our mentor couples has pointed out to us that families often spend their time sending their young kids out. School, extracurricular activities, team traveling, and more. Life gets busy fast. But then when the kids are older, the parents want to rein them back, know every detail of their day and make memories all over again. By then, the children are so used to being away and independent, they reject the notion.
You might be thinking “Well you can’t shelter your children forever?” We don’t overlook this question or take it lightly. My husband and I demonstrate hardship and risk to them in other intentional ways. Our children experience adversity and we often promote more than many families we know. Learning to ask for forgiveness even when it wasn’t your fault, yard work, a family mission trip, feeding the homeless, presenting a school project to a group, serving others, changing diapers, caring for farm animals, buying, saving — the list goes on. Presenting adversity while allowing them to lead in that initiative are some of the ways we will challenge them socially or help them experience life’s circumstances. As they continue to grow and face new situations, we trust their training and development to prepare them for any unknowns. Just this week my 7 year old went into my favorite tea shop, ordered my drink, used a coupon, and purchased it on his own. He ran into a problem and figured it out without me. I sat in the car with the other kids, watched my son feel responsible and benefitted with a nice milk tea.
The stigma of homeschooling has continually faded as parents create a homeschooling culture within their family culture. There is no one way of homeschooling because each child is an individual. When you see your child as an individual, homeschooling transitions from a way of learning to a life-long process of creating family unity. The influence we have on each other, the freedoms we enjoy, and the opportunities for well-rounded and healthy development make homeschooling the perfect option for our family.