Thursday, April 28, 2005

The last step

My wife and I were never really advocates of homeschooling. If you asked her why we started homeschooling our children she would probably tell you that we were forced into it. Last year, we sent our daughter to a private Catholic preschool, three days a week for three hours a day. We expected to send her to kindergarten at the same school the following year. Then the school decided to drop their half-day kindergarten program. It seems that most of the kids in their half-day program were being sent to "after-care" once the school day ended. We couldn't see sending our daughter to school for 35 hours a week after she had spent a whole year going only 9 hours a week. The neighborhood schools -- public and parochial -- simply weren't an option (and none of them was offering a half-day program anyway). So that's how we wound up homeschooling, more or less (I've left out some unimportant details).

Since we've started homeschooling, our decision has been confirmed by the experiences of friends and acquaintances with their children's schools. We hear the horror stories and thank God that we decided to homeschool. But it makes me wonder: What does it take for other parents to take that last step? The news is full of stories of parents up in arms because of something that happened to their children at school. What does it take? Bullying? Physical injury? Explicit sex education?

I'm not trying to cast aspersions on the educational choices people make for their children. It strikes me that perhaps parents remain beholden to this particular institution because they don't think that they have an alternative. There's no doubt that homeschooling parents have to make a lot of sacrifices. But it seems to me that parents are willing to make sacrifices for their children in other areas -- so that they can play organized sports, for example. Why not in this area?


At 11:23 AM, Blogger David Hopkins said...

There is still a stigma associated with home schooling. The perception is that the kids and/or parents are weird, and that the children are not being properly socialized. Now I know that the type of socialization that the world thrusts upon kids is what you as a homeschooler is trying to avoid. Nevertheless, the perception is that the kids will be so sheltered, so coddled, that they will not be properly prepared for societal living. Having said that, I have become more sympathetic to homeschooling as of late and would strongly consider it for my own children were it feasible...precisely for the reasons you cite.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger dcs said...

Well, my wife and I are weird. So are our kids. That's precisely why we want to protect them.

Let me give you an example. I simplified our story in my post for the sake of brevity. We were very frustrated with our daughter's preschool, and not only about the lack of a half-day kindergarten program. In fact, if they had been responsive to our concerns, we might have tried to work something out with them. Our daughter was being pushed around by another girl in her class. We brought this up to the teacher, who told us that our daughter was "meek" (as if it were her fault that she was being bullied!). Only in our American culture is meekness considered a flaw. Our Lord, on the other hand, says that the meek are blessed (Matthew 5,5). We're not "weird" -- it's the culture around us that's weird.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger BekahS. said...

The misconception I think I most frequently encounter is that homeschooling requires a larger commitment from the parents than traditional schooling. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. It is, of course, true that homeschoolers must be committed to it to work, but in my observations, traditional schooling families are far busier and schedules are far more hectic than most homeschoolers I know. My close friend just sent her 5 kids to school for the first time this year. They spend the same amount of time doing homework as they used to spend doing school during the day, and that is on top of the hours they have already spent in the classroom. Plus, they're involved in more extra-curricular activities and school functions than they were involved in while homeschooling. While my friend is still a full-time mom, she now spends most of her days at the school helping in each of the children's classrooms and doing anything else she can to help out the school. While not everyone will choose to put their kids in so many activities or choose to be at the school so often, traditional schooling around here still requires you to run your kids to and from school (with four kids of my own, carpooling would not be an option), prepare lunch ahead of time, or provide kids with lunch money, try to stay involved in what is happening in the classroom and your child's social circle, keep on top of homework, etc. All that's just not for me.

Now, I must confess that this next year we will not be actual homeschoolers. We opted to try out the state's virtual charter school, almost exclusively for monetary reasons. I've felt that while we've been homeschooling, I have not had an adequate budget to provide all the materials I would like my children to have. Science is probably the area that has taken that hit the hardest. So the state will be providing my kids' curriculum and materials next year, using the Calvert School curriculum. I'll be adding in Religious Ed, of course, and we'll have some extra money to provide more materials or music lessons or something. I'm prepared to pull my kids out again if it isn't working for us, but I hope that it will. I feel better that our tax money will actually be working to our kids' advantage for once. :)

At 12:05 PM, Blogger BekahS. said...

We're weird too, and proud of it. :D

At 2:19 PM, Blogger David Hopkins said...

Anyone 'religious' is weird in this day and age.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger dcs said...

Anyone 'religious' is weird in this day and age.

A common refrain but one that is not wholly true, I think. Certain types of religious people (traditional Catholics, Moslems, Hasidic Jews) are perceived as "weird" but others . . . not so much. You and I might find President Bush's religious beliefs "weird" but I guarantee that they are 100% mainstream. There are two keys to being thought "weird": (1) Isolate yourself and your family from others who don't share your religious beliefs, and (2) reject Enlightenment concepts about the separation of Church and State. Then, and only then, are you officially "weird."


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