Monday, February 1, 2016

We Really Want Weird Kids; Or, Why We have Decided to Home School


We are homeschooling at the Hepworth house, and I figured today was as good a day as any to talk about it on the blog.

I have had some experience with both home school and public school in my own life. I was home-schooled until the middle of 2nd grade. I was reading at 4 and writing little stories and hiding them under my bed at 5. Homeschooling definitely gave me a superior leg up in the realm of learning. Though, I hated to see my next door neighbor friend, Kristin, go off to school while I stayed home. I begged and begged and begged my mom to let me go to school with my friend, and so she enrolled me. I thrived in public school classrooms, and kept on thriving on that education through college to my graduation. Today my thirst for knowledge and learning continues on, in all sorts of interesting, different ways. Socially though, public education brought tears. Oh, so many tears. More tears throughout the process than tears shed asking my mom to let me go, for sure. Bullying, alienation, loneliness, and dealing with being the outsider of cliques were all mine with public schooling. A handful of dear friendships were mine by the end of high school. And, I had the opportunity to serve as my high school drum major for three years, and to serve in student council my Senior year. Overall a mix of both positive and negative experiences. I’m not sure if some aspects would have been better or worse if I had been home schooled as I don’t have a time machine. Essentially - I don’t long for anything other than what I had, but I don’t feel an obligation to recreate it for my children, either. 

Several years ago, though, I watched this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson on the question, “Do schools kill creativity?” before I had conceived any of my own children. 

The message that they do, rang true, and I made place for it within myself. While I find comfort living “in my head” as a more academic-type myself, I respected the idea that perhaps not all my children would be like me. Ken’s message was influential in opening my mind to the educational possibilities I would want to offer to my future children, and some of the limitations of public schooling in that regard.

Several years later, reading this book certainly put a stain on the idea of public schooling in my mind, for my children, as well. (If Common Core has been of interest to you, I recommend you take a look at this book. The issue is so much bigger than this one policy!)

About two years ago, I started to seriously consider Lincoln’s schooling. The thought of sending him off to school all day did not sit well with me. So I prayed about it. I studied education in the scriptures. I thought about it some more. I started some research on educational methods. I listened to mom friends talk at play groups and story time about their children’s experiences in public, charter and private schools. I read blog posts from home school moms. All things considered, I told God I felt best about home schooling. I felt His approval of my choice with a confirming warmth in my heart. And that’s how I got to my decision, today! 

Currently, I home school Lincoln (almost 5) and Atley (3) for a couple of hours, two or three times a week more formally. The rest of the time is unstructured play time around, here. Knowing that I am my children's main educator has encouraged me to make every experience an opportunity to learn and explore and I find teaching moments come up all the time in every place and moment imaginable.

I asked Squire when he came home from work tonight why he thinks we are homeschooling, without letting him see any of my blog post, here. I thought it might be interesting to document  how we each view the issue.

We are homeschooling (according to Squire):
  • For our kids to spend more time with their mother.
  • Our kids will enjoy learning more than at public school.
  • To avoid indoctrination by increasingly liberal teachers and the government’s influence.
  • To have that self-sufficiency if it becomes necessary.
  • To teach with a Latter-Day Saint Christian influence in all of the teachings.
  • To avoid the influences that hundreds of teenage kids around each other brings (drugs, sex, swearing, etc.)
  • No danger of children being shot at school with the increasing number of school shootings.
  • It is good for Jami, too – continuing to learn and be with the kids.

We are homeschooling (according to me) because:

  • Our children will receive an education that is in line with my beliefs, values, and research about education and learning. Answers to the questions, “What is education?” “What is the purpose of education?” “What is a good, quality education?” “What constitutes educational success?” “What is worth learning and studying?” are ones I have pondered for years, now. And our children’s education will be tailor-fit to my answers to those very questions. Therefore, they will receive a higher quality education.
  • I can tailor our children’s education to their individual personalities, learning-styles, gifts and passions.
  •  I want our children to learn proficiency in skills not being taught in public school (homesteading, handicrafts, gardening, cooking, building, sewing), many of which require them being able to spend much more time outside.
  • I want our family to spend as much time together as possible. Childhood only lasts so long and I won’t miss a beat of it. My children won’t miss time spent with each other, either.
  • I love the flexibility. Schooling can take place any time, any where in the world, and can be as involved, or long or short as we need it to be each day.
  • Our kids’ education will not be stunted by learning in a large group. It will be tailored to their skill-level. They certainly won’t have wasted a quarter of their life on busy work.
  • I don’t want to waste days of my life driving our kids to and from school everyday, or be beholden to whatever assignments they are given to complete within our precious remaining hours of the day.
  • I look forward to the challenge of developing teaching skills as well as furthering my own educational/learning pursuits as I work with our children on theirs.
  • By rejecting participation in public education, we are claiming freedom in a substantial way – with all the responsibilities and benefits that go with it.
  • Most importantly - I felt led to this route of education for my children. And if God tells me in the future to change course for our children’s education, I’d be willing to do that, too.

Whenever it comes up that we are homeschooling our kids, I get a lot of common responses. I consider them straw-man anti-home school arguments/comments. I’ll just address the top three today, because I can:
·         “I knew a home-schooled kid once. They were weird. Like, really, really weird.”

o   Great. What does that have to do with my children? Are you saying they are (or are going to be) weird (from spending too much time with me?!) I don’t care if you ever were to are say that, by the way. I just like to act offended to make others uncomfortable from time to time. What is bad about being “weird?” What constitutes weird? And how was that home-schooled kid weird, specifically? Most of the home-schooled kids I have met are definitely different, but I find it is usually in really delightful ways – they are happy, curious, respectful, engaged, polite, driven, intelligent, able to look me in the eye and hold a real conversation . . .

·         “What about socialization?”

o   This is the most easily and widely debunked straw man against homeschooling. But let’s go there for one paragraph I suppose. For those who ask this question - Do you send your children to public school to socialize or to get an education, anyways? If to be socialized, then, is their social experience in public education adequate? And by the way, how do you feel about socialism? I abhor it by-and-large, and that seems to be the product by-and-large of public education (which isn’t really Constitutional by the way . . .) The discomfort and often disdain people express when you inform them of an out-of-the-mainstream choice (like homeschooling) is real, people! Why? Well, a large part of public education is about conforming to the needs of the group. In school we learn to raise our hand and wait to answer until we are called on, get in line, sit quietly in our chairs, accept the food at the school lunch counter, and finish our worksheets and tests in time with our peers. Homeschooling presents something so varied and eclectic in approach, philosophy, and actual application it is no wonder why discomfort and rejection is the knee-jerk reaction of so many to it. I believe that society would be improved if we all could get along, not only with peers our own age, but if we felt comfortable and confident interacting with people from every age group, belief system and background on the spectrum. Homeschooling for many, presents more, not fewer, opportunities to do just that! Is there value in peer relationships, too? Sure! Especially when it comes time to form a family, knowing how to get along with others within our age group is crucial. Happily, the research on home-schoolers' outcomes show no deficiency in that area. I believe that socializing is more effectively and efficiently done outside the walls of a traditional public classroom setting. I also believe society would be improved if we were all a little less focused on acquiescing to group think, and more focused on meaningfully developing our own individual potential and seeking Truth. Imagine the dynamic, real conversations we could have with each other then!

·         “I could never do the routine, the structure. I don’t have the patience. I don’t have a good space for it. I am not qualified to do the teaching, etc. . .”

o     I’m not making an argument for anyone to choose homeschooling, here. Whether that is something within your realm of possibility or even something you want to pursue is totally up to you. I just hear a lot of comments like this and I want to answer with something of an informative rebuttal – homeschooling looks really different for a lot of people. It is anything but a one size fits all approach to education (like public schooling so often is!) Homeschooling a couple of your own children is totally different than being an educator of a large classroom of other people’s children - each necessitating totally different skills, approaches, and things to juggle, one a degree in education, the other not so much. Homeschooling can and often does involve other educators, mentors, or groups of kids in co-ops. The location can be at the dinner table, a dedicated school room, out in the community, the backyard, or even traveling the world. Some people choose homeschooling because they want absolutely nothing to do with the routine, testing and structure of traditional schooling. Ever heard of unschooling? The truth is, whatever you brand as “homeschooling” there are whole swaths of home-schoolers overcoming those obstacles in all sorts of creative ways. Something I’ve learned, is that owning our choices instead of using excuses for them in our language, is the first step to finding out if obstacles are worth fighting to overcome. I personally reject phrases that start with “I can’t” or “I could never,” not because real challenges don’t exist in mortality that limit our ability to make all the choices we would like to make, but because --- Who am I (or you!) to place limits on what a person can or can’t accomplish?!

Ultimately, I don’t really care, nor is it my stewardship to decide what people choose when it comes to their children’s education. My hope for a better world, would be that whatever we do choose, is carefully, honestly, and prayerfully considered.  

Conforming for the sake of conforming, is a really lame excuse to be turning out a whole lot like every one else. Not conforming for the sake of not conforming, is also just as lame a reason to stand out. The key in all of this, is to discover what we want to achieve and why we want to achieve it. If we honestly assess our personal circumstances in light of those two answers, the how will become more clear. 

If you are wanting to explore the homeschooling route, I will gladly share the resources I have found in a future blog post. 

The important first step for any parent on this path, is finding out what you think about education. This site has a great quiz that can help you answer the question, “What kind of homeschooler are you?
Here are my results:

I hope you’ll share your results and thoughts with me in the comments section!

3 comments:

  1. That's a really exciting choice! We're homeschooling as well for many of the same reasons!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for sharing your experience as a lot of parents will be thinking about homeschooling with the help of essay writing skills becasue through that the students can earn and learn at hope and can help their parents as well to run the family smoothly without any financial problem.

    ReplyDelete

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