by Linnea Johnson
Should you consider homeschooling?
Have you ever asked yourself what might possess someone to homeschool instead of getting a free education in the public schools? Have you, friends, or family members had less than desirable experiences in schools, whether public or private? Have you known children who were different, perhaps had learning differences, or were bullied by other children or in my personal experience, even by the teacher, and did not thrive in a classroom situation?
Here are some things to think about.
Does the classroom actually prepare kids for real life?
We spend the rest of our lives after we complete our schooling interacting with people of all ages, ethnicities, worldviews, abilities, and income levels. Why would we expect children, who are kept almost all their days in classrooms of children and teens the same age, probably a similar income level, and with similar curriculum to be able to function effectively and happily in a world of such diversity?
Children are still figuring out who they are, what they believe about the world, and whom they can trust. If a child is in the majority of a group, they will probably do just fine, but if they are different in some way, perhaps a more critical or deeper thinker, or one who needs more hands-on learning, or one who looks different, or one who comes from a different culture, or one who has different abilities, they will suffer cognitive dissonance at a young age and will be expected to respond as the majority responds.
Is cognitive dissonance bad? Not always. That’s how we learn new things, but sometimes kids need support to help them bridge the two ideas or to decide if the new idea is one they can accept.
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. The occurrence of cognitive dissonance is a consequence of a person’s performing an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and values; and also occurs when confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values. (Source)
Children are quick to “fix” other children who are different, calling them stupid, or ugly, or “not cool”, or clumsy, or _______… you fill in the blank. You’re likely to harken back to your own experiences of this example of socialization, or more aptly, ensuring everyone thinks, looks, talks, and even believes the same way.
Is this what we want from a society that desperately needs creative thinking and different solutions to solve the complex problems we face? Shouldn’t there be some freedom to think differently without being beaten down?
What are your beliefs?
Whether you believe freedom of thought is important or whether you believe your child’s natural abilities and gifts should be encouraged and nurtured, or whether you believe that the worldview of the majority is inconsistent with what you want your child to learn, there are a plethora of reasons to consider homeschooling. In our family, we had a number of reasons.
One son had some learning differences and experienced bullying, another needed more hands-on learning than could be reasonably provided in a large classroom. We ran the gamut between public, private, and homeschool, and experienced the pros and cons of each. Heck, I even went on to get a masters degree in curriculum and instruction and started a PhD, became a licensed secondary education teacher, and in the course of my work experience taught everything from preschool music to English as a 2nd language, to high school technology, business, and personal finance to adult education.
To be sure, there is a best learning environment for everyone; it’s just a challenge to find it sometimes. I wanted to be the kind of parent who helped my kids find out who they really were and to discover their natural abilities, and interests, without unduly sheltering them from others. I wanted them to love to learn and to do it for the rest of their lives. They took music lessons, played on teams, attended church and youth groups, did community service, and didn’t miss out on that time with their peers, but did have time to explore what really interested them and develop those talents.
Need More Reasons to Consider Homeschooling?
Homeschooled kids score higher on standardized tests and are better adapted socially according to research. Lots of famous people have homeschooled and with good results. Some post-secondary schools now prefer homeschooled students:
Away from the standardized tests and rigid schedules in public education, kids can let their creative sides flourish, learn about the world they live in, and, when it’s time, earn acceptance into the best colleges in the world.
“The high achievement level of homeschoolers is readily recognized by recruiters from some of the best colleges in the nation,” education expert Dr. Susan Berry recently told Alpha Omega.
“Schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Stanford, and Duke University all actively recruit homeschoolers,” Berry said.
However, it’s not that being schooled at home advances an application.
The real value lies in what the added freedom of homeschooling allows students to do with their time.
Tell me the truth…this isn’t all fun and games
Were there challenges on the homeschool path? Sure. You still pay your taxes that support the public schools and buy curriculum and lessons on top of that. Parents need to find a way to teach and care for their children through co-ops or splitting the work between themselves and others and work to provide an income. It’s not a choice for the faint-hearted, but it can be done, and there are some significant rewards including building a relationship with your children beyond dinner, homework, and bedtime. Your children will learn to work together, work with you, and learn from you. You can take outings or vacations, and not just on holiday weekends.
Related: The Great American Unschooling Tour
Your children can learn what you do and help you with it, thereby adding another skill. When they were little our kids made magnets with my husband’s business cards on them, helped with jobs when they were teenagers, learned his business, and now run that business. They went on to get degrees in business and mechanical engineering. They practice blacksmithing, design and 3D print useful things, do engine repair, do reloading and target practice at the gun range, garden, and raise farm animals. They dirt bike, fish, hunt, backpack, snowboard, and ski, and they do all of this with a group of friends who are not just like them. They are not anti-social or boring by any means. Each child’s path is different, and that difference and contribution makes us stronger individually and as a society.
This series of articles will answer many questions you may have about homeschooling. What are the requirements? What are alternative methods of homeschooling? How do I make an income and school my children? I have a child with special needs, can I homeschool? How do I gauge the level of my child’s abilities in subject areas and choose the appropriate curriculum? I’m terrible at math or science, can I homeschool my child? How do I not lose myself and keep my sanity? How do I find support groups and resources?
These are good questions that deserve discussion. I hope that you will share your ideas in the comments.
Linnea Johnson has her MA in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught preschool students through adults on topics including music, English as a 2nd language, technology, business and personal finance. She now works in technical business development with universities. She and her husband homeschooled their two active sons, who went on to careers in mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship. Her greatest joy is spending time with her family, cultivating a little urban farm, and travelling with her husband of 31 years.