Home schoolers and “school at home” families get asked a lot of questions about why we choose to take control over our children’s educations. Since we started this journey I would say that the questions I get asked the most often are:
- Why did you choose “school at home” instead of “normal” home schooling?
- What about socialization?
- What about sports, foreign languages, art and music? What about extracurricular activities?
- Don’t you get bored being at home all day?
- Don’t you want a break from your kids?
- Do you worry about how your kids will do when they get to college?
In fact, just this week, I was asked many of these questions and more! It always amazes me how little people really understand about the basic concept of home schooling. I realize when you add in “schooling at home” and “unschooling” that it can become a little confusing. I admit that even I didn’t realize that there were so many forms of “home schooling”, but since traditional home schooling has been around pretty much as long as we have had people on earth (in one form or another), it is hard for me to understand why so many people look at me like I have lost my mind when my son explains that we are the library at 10am on a Friday and going to Chick-fil-a for lunch with friends and he is not out of school for being sick or having a doctor’s appointment! So, as so many homeschooling moms before me have done, I will try to answer these questions.
- We chose Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy because I was nervous about starting any form of home schooling when my son is already about half way through his academic career. I was worried about not having resources and back up on subject matter that I have not looked at since I graduated college myself! I liked the idea of having a certified teacher that I can call on for help. I didn’t have the money to pay for K12’s curriculum for one child, let alone a second when the time came. I chose public school at home because in all the research that I did, my husband and I felt that it was the best choice for our family.
- Socialization seems to be a hot topic for people these days. The common misconception is that home schoolers (of any kind) sit at home all day and never interact with the world. That everything we see, learn, and experience is from a text book, on TV, or from a computer. That simply is not true. At least it is not true for most home schooling families that I know! Yes, we have to make sure our kids are able to get out and make friends, experience the world, and interact with civilization, but that is not a hard task. We go to the grocery store, the bank, the post office, the library, our co-op events, sporting events, dance recitals, church events, and all sorts other activities as a family. My children go with me to do all the things that many parents do while their children are in school or daycare. I admit that it can get a little crazy sometimes trying to load up 2-6 kids to do these things, but I am sure the Duggar Family has it way harder than I do!
- Sports, foreign language, art, music, and other extracurricular activities are very simple to find! In our case, we got to choose between a foreign language, music, and art as part of our curriculum. We choose a foreign language. We are required to provide some sort of PE to our children for the curriculum we chose. It was pretty simple for us to do. Our son plays sports at our church thru the Upward Sports program. Our church also offers martial arts classes. Many local churches allow non-members to participate in these programs! The cost is usual minimal and if you can’t afford it, many of them have “scholarship” programs to help out! The YMCA also has a great sports program.
Our co-op has a PE/Recess time before lunch on the days we meet. Our daughter was able to participate in cheer as well. She is now attending a dance class. Both of our children participate in the Awanas program at our church. For the older kids this include a “game time” where they practice the games they will play for the “Olympics” in the spring. All the children go to choir practice, so that was an easy way to work in some music exposure as well. My husband played the saxophone in high school and participated in “drum corp” while in tech school for the USAF, so he does a great job of exposing our children to all sort of music and helps them appreciate the history behind all sorts of music as well. We plan to get them both into some sort of music lessons very soon! All of this pretty much covers the “extracurricular activities” as well, but specifically our son attends a co-op two days a week, and I help organize a play group that my daughter attends 1-2 times a week as well. So they both get plenty of time with kids their own ages and other adults as well. Many of the lessons we do have all forms of art built right into them. Whether it be reading in literature or history about a famous artist or drawing about something they read about.
- I definitely do not have much time for being bored while at home with my kids! As I mentioned in previous blogs, I am also a licensed in-home childcare provider. So I have a few other kids here most days. Between my own kids and my daycare kids, I stay pretty busy.
- Sure I want a break from being with kids. That is why we participate in stuff like co-op, play group, and my husband and I try to make sure we get a date night on a regular basis. It is all a matter of being organized and flexible. For example, my husband has a class to attend that will take him out of town for Valentine’s Day. We did not know this until about 4 days before he would have to leave. Thankfully we already had plans to go on a “double date” with some friends the Friday before! But if we hadn’t already planned that night out then we would have tried to fit one in before he left or as soon as he got back. Being a military family, we have gotten very accustom to having to adjust our celebrations and holidays around the USAF’s schedule. It is not always fun, but we make the best out of it. A change of scenery always helps us too. Going to co-op, running errands, going to the library, or participating in the other events I mentioned before helps break up our day and gives us something fun and different to look forward to.
- Do YOU worry about your kids going off to college? Why would we be any different? I am sure the people who ask me this mean “Do I worry that my children’s education at home has prepared them for college as well as the person asking thinks that public school has prepared their child for college. Sure I worry, but watching the news I was a lot more worried about it when my son was in public school! I was more worried when he came home crying about being bullied. I was more worried when I got phone calls from the school about something he had supposedly done. I was more worried when the school had no support or empathy for military children who were dealing with deployments. The difference now is that my husband and I are solely responsible for our children’s education.
The upside is that we can protect them a little longer from the things that are happening more and more in our public schools. We are able to let them experience the same social settings, but with a little more control over the content of those experiences. There is no one right answer to this. Our choice may not work for every child or family. I just know we did not want to be the next family in the news crying over the loss of their bullied child.
The downside? Well in my opinion the downside is the same for the majority of us. Did we make the right choice? Are we teaching them everything they need to know? Not just academically, but as people? Will they be able to function on their own once they get out into the great big, scary world? In my experience, ALL PARENTS, ask themselves those questions. There is no guarantee that public school will accomplish those things any more than home schooling will.
Choosing to educate our children at home does not make us any smarter or better than other parents who do not make the same choices we do. Home schooling in any form is not for everyone. There are plenty of very good teachers in the public school system. There are good schools in the public school system. There are good schools and teachers in the private school world, too. We made the best choice for our children and our family. It is as simple as that.
I honestly do not mind answering these questions. To me, there is no such thing as a “stupid question,” if you truly do not know the answer and you truly want to learn what the answer is. All I ask is that on topics like home schooling that people keep an open mind and do not prejudge my family (or any other home school family) before getting to know them. We are just parents trying to do what we think is best for our children! Just like you are doing what you think is best for yours.