My children, or if they’re feeling too shy to speak up, I will say, “We homeschool.” This used to be met with somewhat strange looks, as if what we do is something they’ve never heard of, or is too unusual to ever be considered “normal.”
This summer, however, the reaction is different. Our district made some very dramatic budget cuts this year, laying off more than 100 teachers district-wide, cutting funds for art, music, PE, etc. Parents are becoming more and more unhappy with the district, and public school in general.
I frequently get asked now why I decided to homeschool, how difficult it is, what I have to do (is there testing, portfolios, how do I know they’re learning, things like that), what kind of supplies I need and how much it all costs, and various other questions. I also hear a lot of the same complaints from these parents that I had when I pulled my kids: an unhappiness with the quality of education, frustration with homework and lack of response from teachers when parents ask questions regarding homework (don’t misunderstand, I realize teachers do the best they can and am not criticizing them, but instead the system that puts them in the position of being so busy they can’t respond or can’t respond more quickly), and so on.
But then the conversation always ends with something along the lines of, “It’s just too bad that the kids have to suffer. I wish we could homeschool, but other than paying for private school, public school is our only option.”
I disagree. Public school is NOT your only option. And private school is not the only alternative to public school. Homeschooling is a very viable option for just about anyone. Whether you’re a single parent or married, working or stay at home, college educated or just a high school graduate, homeschooling can be done – if you want to do it.
I’m not saying everyone should homeschool. Just like anything else, the decision is personal. Only you and your family can decide whether or not it will truly work for you, and I fully realize that the families I speak to may have other factors at play when they sigh and accept public school as their only option.
But I would encourage any family that is unhappy with the education their child is getting in public school, or simply feels that school is just not the right place for their child (let’s face it, not everyone learns so well in that environment), to take a serious, honest look at homeschooling.
Talk to other families that homeschool. You can find homeschooling groups in nearly every community, and even if you can’t, you can go online and find groups and forums. A little exploration in your community groups, as well as the online ones, will show you that there are homeschooling families of every size and shape: single parents, married parents, working parents, parents who stay home, every race, religion, income, neighborhood, education level, etc. Any argument you can come up with, there is at least one family out there who has overcome that argument.
I usually don’t try to talk to these families I meet about homeschooling after they make the comment about public school being the only option. Some of that is because often, the conversation ends there because we’re moving on to other parts of the activity and continuing the discussion just isn’t feasible. But it’s also because, though I strongly believe in homeschooling, I don’t want to be one of those people who beats someone else over the head with it in an attempt to convince them.
But if you’re here, reading this and not already homeschooling, obviously you’re curious. And I want to encourage you to explore that curiosity. You may ultimately decide that homeschooling isn’t right for you, or for your kids, and that’s fine. But dig deep into your research, and find the people who have faced the same circumstances you have that make you feel it can’t work. Talk to them about how they make it work, look into various resources and methods, and really try to picture yourself doing it.
Consider a trial run, too. It doesn’t even have to be a situation where you pull your kids out of school and start homeschooling, if you’re worried that they’ll fall behind. Take summer break, or Christmas break, and behave as though you’re homeschooling. See how you feel, how the kids feel, and evaluate whether it’s working for you or not. Compare the time spent on school compared to the 6+ hour day they have at public school plus the homework they then come home to work on. You may discover, based on the merits of that alone (you’d be amazed how much shorter the day is when you homeschool!), that it works for you.
But don’t believe that public school is your only option. It’s not. And with the state of the public school system today, considering alternatives to it is not just a good idea, but an important one. If you’re unhappy with what your kids are learning (or worse, in many cases, what they’re NOT learning!), if you feel that public school isn’t the right environment, or that your child’s school just isn’t safe, or simply that your child might be better off at home to learn, don’t just give in and accept it as inevitable. It’s not inevitable. Just like anything else in life, if you want to change it, you can. You have choices. Explore them. Make an informed decision, rather than one based on what everyone else does, or what your school district would like you to believe you have to do.