Tags: Education, In This Issue
Is Homeschooling Right for You?
Although a traditional school setting works for many children, the variety of educational choices currently available to homeschooled kids makes this form of Education an attractive choice to many parents. Homeschooling now involves cooperative programs, tutors, library classes, online courses and even modified schedules with private schools - making this an increasingly popular option for families today.
Since the early 1980s, homeschool numbers have continued to rise at an estimated seven percent per year, according to "The History of Homeschooling in America" (sharefaith.com.) A method that was once considered a thing of the past has resurfaced and been re-established in the American culture. There's a strong group of homeschooling families Indiana, and the numbers continue to grow.
"I believe that the child and parent relationship, as well as the overall family dynamics, are important to consider when making a schooling choice," Rebecca McGuckin, a teacher by degree and mom of four (two of which are homeschooled), said.
Leslie Ober said homeschooling just seemed like the most natural schooling choice for her because she was already a stay-at-home mom. "I would've never guessed that I'd homeschool, but it just naturally evolved to this because I'd been teaching them up to this point of their school-age days, so why wouldn't I continue to be their teacher?"
Although the choice to homeschool can be a tough one to make, many families who have committed to it have similar positive opinions about the experience. They find that homeschooling allows them to connect with their children and slow down to focus on what they think is most important. Parents who homeschool often feel that this method gives them the chance to give their children more individual attention; building personal motivation and independence. Kids appreciate that there's less pressure to "make the grade" and more time for fun and field trips. Families also enjoy the flexibility of their schedules, particularly for vacation times.
Tracey Rollison, mother to three homeschoolers, chose to homeschool her kids before she was even married. While in a prelaw class researching the American governmental school system, she decided that homeschooling her children would be in her future.
Once she had her son, Alec, she knew from his learning style that he wasn't a fit for the public school system. "Our son is a global learner with a very high IQ," Rollison said. "He could not sit still when he was young. We just knew that if we put him in a formal education setting, they'd want to stop that behavior. We didn't want them to stifle him.
My goal is to help my kids reach their potential. With my son's attention deficit disorder, I didn't feel like it was possible for him to meet his potential in a government school because they'd concentrate on the 'dysfunction' of his ADD."
Still, in traditional schools educators are professionally trained. Parents who homeschool must be realistic about their limitations when teaching their children. Other potential obstacles include time management as it is easy to overschedule activities or be too lax about routines. Homeschooling can also be expensive. Finally, parents who choose to homeschool frequently hear the concern that their children are not as socialized as kids who learn in a traditional school environment.
Ober said she often laughs when thinking about the exhaustive commitment she's made to homeschooling. "I must be out of my mind to decide to do this because I'm giving up the next 18 years of my life to be with my kids all day every day! It's tough not getting to have 'me' time."
McGuckin agreed. "It is difficult not to place unrealistic expectations on myself in keeping a balance of maintaining a household and being the primary source of their education. The house is not always as clean as I want it; I sometimes lose track of myself amidst the demands. Rare is the moment that I am not doing three or more things at once. School can sometimes turn into a task list rather than an educational journey. There are periods when I question whether I offer them enough, which is when having a supportive spouse can be particularly helpful."
Even though homeschooling has its challenges, this type of education has its rewards.
McGuckin said she loves choosing curriculum and witnessing her children's excitement about a particular topic. "It is rewarding to watch the entire process of introducing, exploring and allowing them to pursue more on their own. Meanwhile, I have the opportunity to share our values consistently through the materials we use, the conversations we have and the volunteer work we occasionally do. My kids work on their relationships more, so I also get to observe how well my children know each other."
Rollison's children shared their own opinions about what it's like to be homeschooled. Alec, 16, said, ""I like that I can learn what I want when I want. I can take the classes that I want to, even if they're college-level. A challenge of homeschooling is that you can get lazy and not do your work if you don't have someone making sure you do it."
Bella, 13, adds, "I like the freedom and the choices I have, and that I am not forced to be stuck in bad situations like some of my friends who are in government schools. Yet, it's challenging to have other homeschool friends who live all over the place. That makes it hard to get together once the activity you're in together is over. On the other hand, I wouldn't have met these people at all had I not had the freedom to be part of those activities, some of which are during school hours. You just have to make the extra effort to stay friends – then you know it's a real friendship."
McGuckin's children also shared their feelings on being homeschooled. Elizabeth, 10, said, "I like being able to spend time with my other homeschool friends. I also appreciate that my mom knows my strengths and weaknesses in school and that she is able to help me with those. I like the flexibility of being able to do school throughout the day while doing other activities. However, it's hard not getting the attention I want with three younger brothers around. When I'm stuck on something, I may not be able to get the help I want immediately because my mom might be busy doing other things for our family."
"I like surprise field trips on Fridays to different places like Conner Prairie and the Children's Museum," Charlie, 7, said. "There are more good things than bad things."
With the array of schooling options available to children today, it is easy to become overwhelmed with information and opinions. For these parents, not "following the crowd" and choosing to homeschool has worked for their particular children, family and lifestyle.