Three Reasons to Consider Homeschooling

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We were walking home from our neighborhood barbershop when I asked my mom to take me out of school and to teach me at home. She told me she couldn’t do that and if she tried, she might get arrested. That’s the way it was in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Few people homeschooled, and those who did faced legal hurdles.

Fifteen years later, when I discovered that homeschooling was a growing movement and that some people really did teach their children at home, I considered it a full three to four seconds before committing. I would teach my children at home, I decided. When my daughters finally came along, I kept my promise.

My initial motivation for homeschooling was my terrible experience in public schools. My years in the system were marked by a mixture of boredom, bullying, and being held back from pursuing the things that interested me most passionately.

Since first learning about homeschooling, I’ve discovered more positive reasons to homeschool, reasons that warrant your consideration even if your public schools years were bliss. Here are three:

 1. Homeschooling allows you to be with people you love.

When people ask why we homeschool, my first answer is always that we like our kids. Because we like them, we decided to spend the bulk of our time with them. Because of our decision to homeschool, we have been present with our children more than we ever would have been if they attended a public school.

We answer their questions, not a paid employee of the state. They eat lunch at our dining room table, not in a noisy cafeteria with fluorescent lighting. When they are hurt, we know. When they misbehave, we correct them. We know them and they know us. Neither they nor we squeeze our relationship in around the demands of an often-indifferent system.

Our family is now distant enough from mainstream educational assumptions that the idea of spending the days apart seems strange.

All this togetherness can be tough. There are times when even the most devoted parents might long for the respite provided by having somewhere to send the kids for the day. In the long run though, the value of being together outweighs the frustrations.

2. Homeschooling allows parents to be the major influences on their children.

Dropping kids off at a public school means delivering them to a system in which they will be formed more by their peers than by any adult. Kids outnumber adults significantly in school. The adults who are there can’t provide the same level of attention and care a parent can. The result is kids whose social and emotional development inevitably comes to center on one another.

Homeschooling offers an alternative. Homeschooling tends to place parents and siblings at the heart of a child’s development. Parents act as anchors for a child’s conscience and sense of responsibility in a way that is harder for public-schooling parents to do.

Rather than spending their youths focused on the intricacies of school romances or tracking the ever-shifting popularity contests, homeschooling students spend time internalizing the values of the adults around them. The results are, more often than not, mature and self-confident young people.

3. Homeschooling allows the family a higher degree of freedom than public schooling.

Some days, if things at home are hectic, we just don’t have school. If we want to drop everything for a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the zoo, we can. Indeed, if we want to make a trip to the doctor’s office or to the zoo a school activity, we can. Our schedule is ours, more or less.

Public schools make families beholden to the state’s sense of when things should happen. If the state wants your kid to be at the bus stop at 7:15, he’ll be at the bus stop at 7:15. If the state says your child will eat lunch at 12:30, regardless of her natural rhythms of hunger and fullness, you better believe your kid is going to eat lunch at 12:30.

Homeschooling frees our family from this sort of rigidity. Our girls are free to pursue their interests outside of a defined schedule of discrete class periods. Their minds are free to roam and their bodies are free to respond to the world around them without worrying about the artificial strictures public schooling requires. The result is a learning experience with more potential for serendipity, depth, and joy.

This is just a short list of the ways homeschooling has benefitted our family. I am certain it’s not exhaustive. Homeschooling requires high levels of investment of time and money. Some of the payoffs are immediate, but some cannot be seen for a long time. When I see them, I’ll add them to the list. Because, in the end, that’s what homeschooling is: a family commitment to learning as a lifestyle, a sense of being together on a long, long journey of discovery.

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4 responses

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading your articles on homeschooling, Dean. They are thoughtful rebuttals to the mainstream objections to the movement, objections that pose as common sense assumptions about what normal life ought to look like.

    As a homeschooling father who is a member of a church with a parochial school, however, my chief anxiety has been whether or not to abandon our project and use our small K-8 school, as it is so integrated with our whole church life and nearly all of the children of the congregation attend. I wonder if you have that dilemma as well and if you could speak to it.

    For my part, I realize that much of parochial school copies the public school model that I find objectionable, including strict all-day schedules and inflexible age-based grades; but their much smaller scale and local character does offer virtues not available in our increasingly large, consolidated public schools.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jason.

    I can see the tension in your situation. If I were in your place, I might feel it too. In the end though, I suspect I would still homeschool, largely because of the “public school’ model parochial schools tend to adopt.

    I am sure parochial schools are a good choice for many families. If I had to choose between one of them and a public school, I’d probably choose the parochial school.

    Supporting your parochial school is a good thing to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sending your kids there. You can support it through volunteering or some other kind of donation. You can promote it to the parents of public-school kids you know.

    In the end, we live in a world of trade-offs. If homeschooling is a possibility then I think there are advantages to it, I would be unwilling to trade off for the chance to support my church school directly.

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