Flirting with homeschooling
What advice do you give to those who are considering homeschooling? Dr. Melissa Clouthier ponders:
And, I've had two people talk to me out-of-the-blue about home schooling. I'm torn about it. It would free us up to do some more interesting things, but I'm worried about losing my last neuron. Any thoughts?
There is, of course, the "What? Are you crazy? Why on earth would you want to do that to your kids?" response. But within the homeschooling community itself, I know only two main answers:

1. Of course you should homeschool. There is no other real alternative.

Whether for religious, ideological or pedagogical reasons, most people I know who homeschool (and bother to blog about it) are pretty passionate about what they do and don't quite understand why everyone isn't doing it.

Despite how I may come across in this blog, I don't really fall under this category. I think there are serious problems with our public schools, but I do not believe that the public schools are a prescription for a lifetime of problems. When parents are committed to their children, the children generally do well, no matter where they are educated. For some, that commitment naturally progresses to homeschooling because the school is failing their children. For others, it means a little additional support at home. Public schools fail worst when parents drop their children off and wash their hands of them, but then homeschooling would fail these children, too.

Education flows naturally from the home, but that does not preclude someone from delegating portions of that responsibility.

2. Homeschooling isn't for everyone. Try it out and see how it goes.

It is an appealing, non-threatening way to help someone who is considering homeschooling, particularly with summer approaching. And there are several advantages to this basic idea. The largest benefit I see is that it breaks down those first barriers and allows parents to see what homeschooling is really about without having to withdraw their children from school or feeling like they've somehow failed if they put their children back in school after a period of time.

But it has problems, too. In the absence of convictions about what you were doing and why, would you have continued homeschooling past a three month summer break? I don't think I would have. Initially, it was my husband who wanted to homeschool. I agreed to do it through kindergarten, not thinking I'd make it beyond that. By the time I was finished researching, however, I had developed firmer convictions. Without those convictions, I doubt I would have made it through the nightmare that was kindergarten. I made every mistake a beginning homeschooler makes. I tried to make my home into a school. We even had bathroom breaks, a makeshift white board, posters and a pointer.

Every thing the non-homeschooler fears has probably occurred in our homes: defiant children, disinterested children, not knowing the answers to questions, not understanding something in the lesson, apathy on the part of the parent, etc. That is just part of being a parent working with children. I think the difference is that homeschooling is not an end in itself. There is something else we are trying to achieve and we know that homeschooling is the means to that end.

My two cents, for anyone interested.

Set homeschooling aside and consider what it is you want to accomplish through education. Essentially, consider and write out an educational philosophy. This consists of three main parts:


What is the nature of knowledge?
What is the role of the teacher?
What is the role of the child?

I followed this pretty well in part one of my educational philosophy if you want a sample.


What does it mean to be educated?
What do you wish to impart to your child?
What are those thing you wish to remain after all the facts have been forgotten?

I sort of did this in part two, but it needs some work.


What is the best method to achieve these goals?

For part three, I did a pretty good job of defining my three main goals and how I planned to meet those goals.

And that will lead you to homeschool, private school or public school. It will lead you to the approach that is right for your family, whether that is a more structured, text book style, or something more informal like unschooling. The key is not to go into this trying to fulfill other people's expectations or trying to live up to a model of education that was imposed on you. The key is to evaluate what you believe education should be and choose your child's educational setting accordingly.

If you choose to homeschool, having a thought out philosophy of education should help you through those inevitable days where nothing seems to be working and you feel like giving up. I know it has helped me with that irritating tendency to compare what we are doing to what everyone else seems to be doing. I have more confidence in what I am doing because I have taken the time to think about why I am doing it. And the passion that I may exhibit in this blog comes from that conviction and that reflection. I know we are doing what is right for our family.