I have really enjoyed reading Julie’s comments about her day over at FMH. She has a very fixed and vibrant determination about how things are and should be, which is quite refreshing most of the time (and grating a small minority of the time). Her comments about home-schooling have made me pause and reconsider some things.
(I am writing them here because this is a "blog on life, family,", etc., and I have not been using it very often to air out thoughts like this. I used to get a nice release by blogging, but have been apprehensive lately about using the blogging tool. I saw an expert witness in a deposition once get slammed with questions about something he had written (probably as a joke) on his blog. It was not pleasant, but that is a story for another day…)
Our oldest son is in public school right now (we homeschooled him for kindergarten). He really, really wanted to go so we let him. So far he is thriving in school (2nd grade)- reading well beyond his "level," (personally, I think they set the "level" too low) and he actually gets sent to another class for math because he is so far ahead of his peers on that. He loves school, but they work him so hard there. Between school and his extracurricular activities (chess club, music lessons, athletics, and scouts starting soon), he gets so tired and worn out. It doesn’t seem right for a seven year old kid to be so busy- and though he does have extra-curriculars a lot of that "busy-ness" and grinding comes during the day at school.
We are currently home-schooling our next oldest daughter for her kindergarten with the Oak Meadow curriculum: a sort of "waldorf-like" approach to home schooling. Here in Texas, the schools have all day kindergarten, and there is no other option in our Plano School District. The reason is that there is supposedly so much to learn before first grade that all day school is required to teach it to them. That doesn’t seem to be accurate, though. Anecdotally speaking, our oldest learned everything he needed (and apparently more) during no more than 2 hours of "formal" homeschooling most days of the weeks when he would have been in Kindergarten for 7 hours each day in the school district. The main goal for home-schooling during kindergarten is to teach them how to read, do some basic math, and most of all, gain/maintain an appreciation of, as well as a sense of wonder for, books, nature, art, and music.
We constantly toy with the idea of taking our son back out of school and home-schooling him again. Julie’s post was a positive nudge in that direction, to be sure. But homeschooling with four children just seems so daunting. It seemed easier when I was in graduate school with a bit more time to take on my fair share of things, like Julie’s husband does. I know I chose the big law firm life, but it frequently cuts into my family support time which would be so vital to home-schooling. I am convinced that a successful home-schooling experience requires massive support from BOTH parents. Just keeping the house up, keeping up with the kids lives, with church callings, with our friends, with work, etc., seem so daunting as it is.
Many of my concerns center around the following questions:
Will the younger children (3 and 7 months) be a hindrance? Will our son be able to make friends (besides us)? Will other people in the ward look down their noses at us as that "weird home-schooling family" and spend their time on Sundays picking out odd traits in our children (which I can assure you would exist with or without home school) and attribute those traits 100% to homeschooling? Will we be dismissed as fanatics by friends and family? Will we have time to make a good go at it? Will we be so frazzled by the end of the day that we will go insane (it is kind of nice sometimes to have a break from the kids when they go to school…)? Will we get pressured/harassed by the state/school district to send our kids to public school? And finally, as romantic as home schooling sounds, is it really the best option for our children?
Some of these concerns are selfish ones- what will other people think?- but they are still considerations, at least for me. My wife does not worry so much about that one.
Some of the most well-adjusted and brilliant people I have met in graduate schools and in my career thus far were home schooled. These people are not just book smart, they have very innovative approaches to problem-solving and thinking. One reason I think our son is very good at math is because we did not teach him mechanical rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying, etc. Rather, we taught him how to solve problems abstractly, by thinking outside the box. The human mind is an amazing problem solver. Of course, all of this can be done by parents of children in any educational situation, public, private, or at home.
The point is, I do think home-schooling can work very well when parents take the requisite care to really facilitate education. For that matter, heavy parental involvement is key to success in any type of school, in my opinion. Just some thoughts as we mull once again the prospects of home-schooling, and the dilemma we always face about it.