03 May 2011

Homeschooling: why we do it

I haven't talked much here about homeschooling our son, Luke*, or about the conditions that brought about our decision to homeschool. Mostly, it's because Parent Hacks isn't exactly a blog about me or my family life. But also, because I just couldn't write about what was going on with any perspective. We were in the middle of it -- it being a health crisis, a reevaluation of our values, a course change for our kid's education, more -- so much that it felt impossible to write about it in any meaningful way. Looking back I know it would have helped to hear your perspectives as mine slowly came into focus, but at the time it was all I could do to just put one foot in front of the other.

Well, I am proud to say that time of crisis is over. And I've learned so much about parenting, and being open to new ideas, and being humble...in many ways I feel like I did when I emerged from the fog of parenting a newborn. Like, "Ohhh! I get it. It's not what I thought, but it's good."

Once again, I've discovered that following my gut -- not the advice from well-meaning experts -- was the right path. Not a direct path, but the right path.

The Pioneer Woman Homeschooling: Homeschool Mom Interviews: Asha Dornfest

If you're interested in hearing more of the story, hop on over to The Pioneer Woman: Homeschooling. Dear friend and fellow homeschooler Kristen Chase (Cool Mom Picks, Cool Mom Tech, Motherhood Uncensored) recently interviewed me, and her questions helped me think about our homeschool experience in ways I never had.

I intend to write more about homeschooling and our experience in general -- many of you have asked to hear about it. And while Parent Hacks isn't a "homeschooling" blog (whatever that means), homeschooling is one of the best parent hacks there is.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

* "Luke" and "Mimi" are my kids' Internet names. I keep their actual names out of my writing mainly to hold their search engine spots open. When future employers and love interests Google their names, I want the results to be stuff they've created, not me.

Summer 2011 update: In a stunning turn of events, Luke has decided he wants to return to school for 6th grade. It's an incredibly brave choice, and it's all his. We discussed the pros and cons at length, and he decided that school was the right choice. While I continue to believe that homeschooling is an amazing educational option, we support his desire to jump back into the neighborhood school community. No matter how it goes, he (and we) will learn a lot. I am so proud that he's steering his own education.

Related: Homeschooling: How to start (from 2007, when homeschooling wasn't even a blip on my radar)

More: Hacks about learning, education and behavior

Your comments

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Really enjoyed the interview Asha. Especially like your comment "homeschooling is one of the best parent hacks there is". You mentioned being surprised by how much YOU are enjoying. While I always looked forward to doing school with my kids, I also was surprised at how much I enjoy the learning process along with them!

I just found out about your blog/ site from the interview on Pioneer Woman. I'm so excited to find this as well as the prospect of hearing more from you on homeschooling. I'm considering homeschooling my children, but my eldest is 4 right now, so I'm trying to learn as much as I can about how to do it. Of course, some would say I'm already homeschooling all of them, as we live our daily lives! I guess I'm trying to figure out what homeschooling is going to look like for our family (if we do end up taking that path) in the future, with "school-aged" children.

Many do indeed homeschool for religious purposes. Our homeschooling has nothing to do with religion, and it's important for those considering it to know that there is a huge community of secular homeschoolers (and religious, non-Christian homeschoolers, and homeschoolers that follow every other belief system one can think of).

A friendly observation: you don't need to "figure out" much! Yes, in terms of logistics, employment, who will be home, etc., but in terms of the actual schooling, I have found it's more "as you go along." You start with your best guesses, then make adjustments.

I would love to hear about your homeschool! We're not homeschooling, and I don't like reading homeschool blogs and books that talk about how terrible schools are--those seem as ridiculous as the people who talk about how awful homeschooling is. I suspect you wouldn't take that approach, but talking about your experience and how it works for you guys is always good.

Okay, to better clarify what I mean: information about homeschooling that includes some honest discussion of what you lose when do you this, as well as what you gain.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience regarding homeschooling your son, Luke. We will begin homeschooling our 9 year old son in the fall due to similar reasons (5 public schools & 1 private). Our son is also an Aspie. His behavior has been the overriding factor throughout his educational experience at this point. Our hope is to reverse the direction that our lives together as a family have been taking. It most certainly can be no worse & Lord willing, we are on the right track to success.

Oh, Asha, I so related with this! I'm so glad you shared. That is pretty much exactly why we took our middle kiddo out of school. I'll put in, though, that having them all home is SO much nicer than one in school! We did both. It was hard to keep up with everything. But I like that you look at things year to year - that's been our opinion, too.
And I LOVE LOVE your answer to #8. Amen.

I can certainly speak to that, at least for us, and will in future posts. I am not anti-school by any means. I'm also way more enthusiastic about homeschooling than I EVER thought I would be.

Kirsten! How lovely to hear this from you, after all our years together here!

I hear you about the ease of having all the kids either in school or home. That has been hard, even with my daughter's zen-like acceptance of everything.

Congrats on such a bold step! As you can read by the comments here and at PW, you are NOT alone, and your son is lucky to have a family so willing to go on this journey with him. Homeschooling gave us that reversal. Sending you good thoughts!

Hello,

I live in France so my perspective is clearly very much different that the one in the US.

To start with - I do not think that calling "nonsense" other people views is nice. I am a scientist and for me anything religion is nonsense, though I do not advertize this in blog comments :)

This aside -- the curriculum in schools in France is not easy to follow for someone who is not a teacher. I have two children (4 and 7 yo) and I used to teach students in universities -- this has nothing to do with teaching your own children. I found that teaching the "basics of basics" is way more difficult than teaching exotic uses for differential equations. One really needs to know how to do this right in order not to get catastrophic results.

I would also be worried about the socializing aspect of going to school (in the sense that they would not get it at home).

Then I believe that it is sane to be disconnected for a few hours, everybody (parents and children) have their own world to deal with.

I know nothing about homeschooling, I just think this must be tough (maybe rewarding too, depending on the intent) -- anyway good luck to those who do try :)

I really enjoyed your interview - very honest and real. My 4 yo son is on the mild end of the autism spectrum, and although he is doing wonderfully in public pre-school, your experience has given me something new to think / learn about as a real potential future option for our family. Glad to hear "Luke" is doing so well - good for you for having the courage to follow your gut.

Like saying, "everyone in France" saying American perspective from one comment is silly.

Homeschooling is scary and fun and challenging and absolutely one of the best parent hacks there is. We home school and use schooling as a resource as our kids need it. This opens our kids eyes to the partnership of the world. This is also where they get "socialization." Many grownups, family, and friends are met based on uses performed and learning things. This keeps peers from ruling their society.

Thank you for sharing your story here and at PW.

Thanks so much. I'm glad to hear that my interview makes homeschooling at least an option to consider. I used to think it was such an extreme choice...but it really doesn't have to be. There's so much community and support, when you're ready for it.

For many people, there is quite a lot to figure out! The laws differ from state to state. You can Just Do It in some states, while in others there is a yearly pile of papers to be submitted to the state Department of Education.

The biggest reason I don't homeschool: it would result in a murder-suicide in my house. You guess if it would be me or my son doing the deed.

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