First, an update on little L. She is doing much better, though her thumb is very swollen and tender. I am thankful she was able to sleep through the night and, unlike her sister, does not suck her thumb. When I commented to J. that at some point we were going to need to encourage her to move her hand and fingers on her left hand, she walked over to me to show she could (and would) move her fingers. Ever so slightly, and not her thumb, but she was willing to do it. I still don't know about that nail, though.
Now, on to the topic of the day... what homeschoolers actually do. I have had more than a couple of conversations in the past week with people either curious about homeschooling or because they made assumptions about homeschooling that I disagreed with. I thought perhaps it was time to talk about the realities of homeschooling for those of you who have ended up at my blog for reasons other than a shared homeschooling interest.
Because I live in the culture of homeschooling, I sometimes forget that not everyone really understands it or has even met a real, live homeschooler. Consequently I am surprised when opinions about homeschooling are expressed that are pretty much at odds with reality. So in the spirit of continuing education (and to help me clarify my ideas for conversations that seem to be becoming habitual), here is a brief primer of homeschooling.
1. While there are exceptions to everything, what happens in most homeschooling homes does NOT look like public school. There's just no need. Classroom management practices were developed because 20-30+ children in a classroom behave differently than 1 or 2 (or in my case 9). My children are free to move around the house at will. I don't really care where they do their math and grammar lessons, as long as the lesson is getting done. I've had children do schoolwork in the tree house, on a bed, on the floor, at the kitchen table, and while jumping up and down. B.'s favorite place to study is in a patio chair in a sunny spot out in the yard where he can keep an eye on his vegetable gardens while he studies.
If you still need something to compare what we do to, think an old one room schoolhouse but without the rows of desks. I work with a small group of students while the other students do their work independently, and sometimes we all work together.
2. We don't need to follow the public school schedule, and that schedule pertains to days of the week, hours of the day, and seasons of the year. While the homeschooling laws vary widely from state to state, in our state the requirements state that we must give instruction for a certain number of days in the year; it does not specify which days or which part of those days. We have learned during traditional school hours, in the evening, and on weekends. We also consider ourselves year 'round homeschoolers in that we don't stop learning during the summer. Because of this, we are pretty darn flexible in our schedule. A really nice day in spring? We can close our books and decide to play outside instead. Or, if we are really caught up in a topic, we can keep going past the hours we normally 'do school' because we set our own schedule.
3. Yes, my children have friends. In homeschooling circles the red herring of socialization is called the "S word", mainly because it is one of the first reasons the uninformed give against homeschooling while at the same time being the least supportable argument. I may claim to never leave my house, and don't if I can help it, but the sad truth is I do. And my older children who can get around town without my help get out even more. I find it is more difficult to rein in social outings and classes than it is to find them. At this moment, B. is helping to set up the sound system (which he will help run) for a concert this afternoon and A. has gone along to "socialize" and help where she can, and P. is off at a dance rehearsal to prepare for an upcoming performance.
Because my children find their circle of friends the way most adults do, through the activities they join, through the organizations to which they belong, and through the volunteer work they participate in, their circle of friends tends to be wide and diverse. They navigate through the 'real world' every day and are learning to function in it from an early age.
4. Homeschooled children do get into college and they flourish there. And I don't have to rely on just the example of M. to prove it. I have had the privilege of knowing many young adults over the years who were homeschooled and who have completed college and are living productive and successful lives. It is a viable educational alternative, and no, I'm not ruining my children even if I can't teach them calculus. (That's what tutors and community colleges are for!) Besides by the time any child of mine would be ready for calculus, they would also have the skills necessary to find the instruction which they need. Just because we homeschool does not mean that I have to do everything all by myself.
So there you have an example of the questions I have been fielding recently. Each conversation usually has a couple of other unique questions, but it is inevitable that some variation of these top four will be asked. Now, please, before some of you hit the publish button on your comment, note that I am only talking about what homeschooling is, not what anything else is not. The danger of talking about the benefits of homeschooling is illustrated beautifully by a joke I once read (and have tried and tried to find who wrote it):
What Mother 1 says: "I homeschool my son."
What Mother 2 hears: "I have chosen the educationally superior path for my child, far better than the lackadaisical choice you have made where you ship your son off to any old place as long as he doesn't have to be around the house. I evidently love my son far more than you love yours."
What Mother 1 meant: "I homeschool my son."
And this pretty much sums up some of the miry ground we walk on when we talk about the benefits of homeschooling. It is a false assumption that if homeschooling is positive, then everything else must be negative. And really, all I wanted to say was that there are positive things about homeschooling.
You can find my second post on this topic here: A little more about homeschooling