Friday, November 18, 2016

Homeschooling: Why Not?

museum learning
Often when I meet parents at the park or around the city and they learn that we are homeschoolers, a common response is: "Oh, I could never do that!" To which I respond, "Of course you could! Why not?"

What follows is usually a litany of reasons including, "I don't have the patience," or "I need my breaks," or "I want my kids to learn from others," or "I wouldn't know what to teach," or "I can't give them everything they need to learn," or "We both have to work."

Homeschooling may not be the right path for every family, but just as parents spend a lot of time contemplating and researching the public and private school options available to them, homeschooling should be another reasonable education choice for families to consider.

There are two hurdles, I think, that parents need to overcome to truly understand and fully consider the homeschooling option: the personal and the practical.

On the personal side, I find parents don't give themselves enough credit. They are often too hard on themselves. Parents don't need to be superstars, with limitless patience, boundless energy, and masterful creativity to help their children learn. They have been engaged in the important process of teaching and learning with their kids from the beginning, and homeschooling becomes an extension of this natural learning process. Homeschooling provides time and space for children to explore and uncover their own interests and talents. It strengthens family and sibling bonds, positioning family at the center of a child's life and learning, while also encouraging children to become vital members of their community through civic activities, community classes and local events. Homeschooling helps to slow down the increasingly frenetic pace of American childhood, helping families to simplify schedules and foster an environment of natural family learning.

On the practical side, there are many resources now available to homeschoolers that help to craft a homeschooling approach that is right for each family. Many homeschoolers purchase level-specific curriculum packages to provide structure to learning. Homeschoolers may hire tutors, participate in community classes or lessons, take advantage of free, online learning resources, use community college courses and a host of other learning resources to define or augment their homeschooling approach. Some homeschoolers take an "eclectic" approach to learning, perhaps using structured curriculum for certain learning areas (like math), but not for others. An increasingly growing number of homeschoolers, ourselves included, are unschoolers, or those who don't use any prescribed curriculum but instead follow our children's lead when deciding when and what to learn.

Given the wide variety of homeschooling approaches, it is not surprising that all kinds of families find ways to make homeschooling work, including single-parent families and those with two working parents. Creative scheduling, community resources and learning centers, formal or informal homeschooling co-ops, and help from others can make homeschooling accessible to many families who wish to choose this educational option.

So, of course you can homeschool! In the end, homeschooling may not be right for every family, but for families who are interested in exploring this educational option, along with private and public school offerings, there are many personal and practical ways to make homeschooling work for any family that wants to give it a try.

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