Friday, August 31, 2007

Why I Love Homeschooling

Danielle Bean, always an interesting writer to read, has this post up on her love/hate relationship with homeschooling.

I respect her honesty and cheerfully admit that with a few less children at the moment I can't at all speak to the realities of her situation. But I've got to be honest, too.

I love homeschooling.

It's not a crush, it's not an infatuation, it's not a temporary attraction. It's not the kind of giddy feeling that wears off when reality hits, or when I see homeschooling sitting in my living room in a grungy tee-shirt. And we have grungy-tee shirt days, like everyone else (which is why I can write the "Creatures that Haunt Homeschooling Moms" posts). But that just doesn't change the fact that I love being able to teach my children at home, and would consider it a painful tragedy if I ever had to put them in school.

Part of the reason for the strength of my love for homeschooling is that I went to schools, parochial ones, for the first ten and a half years of my education. I always, but always, hated school. I can still remember the faint dull misery that accompanied the beginning of each new school day, the smell of chalk and pencil dust, the grim attempts to make cheerful rooms that were more like this than like places that should house young bright spirits. I hated listening to the teacher drone on, giving the fifteenth example, when I had understood back at the second or third, if not sooner; I hated being scolded for attempting to do my homework while the teacher talked, as it seemed hideously unfair to make me wait until I got home to do it when I no longer needed any instruction.

I hated the isolation, the rules about not talking, the constant and wearying boredom that to this day is what I chiefly associate with my years in the parochial schools. In one sense, and one only, I owe them a debt: if I hadn't been so persistently and fiercely bored I never would have learned the art of escaping into my imagination and creating a rich and vivid life there, which might have made becoming a literature major and a dabbler in the writing of fiction a bit more challenging.

But sending my own children to school so that they can be bored enough to need to escape enough to become creative enough to discover their life's passions seems an unnecessarily circuitous route to take, since what plenty of people before me have discovered about homeschooling is that it never robs these little souls of their God-given brimful measures of creativity to begin with.

It is the institutional school that thwarts, retards, and reigns in creativity, whether this is intentional or not. In one sense, I can understand it: thirty children in a small room each discovering their own educational drives and paths isn't school, it's chaos. A much smaller student-teacher ratio is required for this to be practicable, and the teacher should know her students very, very well so she can guide and direct them in the best possible way.

Which is what homeschooling is.

And I love it. I enjoy getting to explain transitive and intransitive verbs. I look forward to reading the writing assignments in various subjects. I like giving spelling quizzes, and coming up with mnemonic devices to help with the spelling of a difficult word. I loved it when my daughter, reading a great Catholic American History book last year, got passionate enough about the evils of slavery to write a lengthy discussion of it instead of the short essay question that was assigned. I had as much fun as the girls did, today, making paper drinking straws that actually worked, and I loved combining literature and grammar when one of them was supposed to lead a group discussion this morning which allowed me to pull a literary term from this website along with its definition as the subject of the discussion.

I love teaching them when they don't even realize they're being taught, such as asking someone who is learning about fractions to help me double a recipe. I love slipping into "stealth teacher mode" at the grocery store by asking one of the girls to round up the prices of the items we're putting in our cart to the nearest whole dollar, and having another keep track of the total.

I love being with them, enjoying their company, watching them grow, seeing them gain accomplishments, knowledge, wisdom, and, most of all, grace.

What's not to love?


nutmeg said...

This sounds absolutely wonderful. I wish my homeschooling days were like that.

freddy said...

After reading Danielle's post and yours I had to ponder this a while. You see, I love homeschooling, and, well, I love homeschooling. I appreciate Danielle's eloquent and honest evaluation, but respectfully disagree that they are about "hating" anything. They are, in my view, about being a normal fallen human being in a fallen world. They're just "job gripes."

For example, hating "being responsible" for her children's education is something that society has foisted on families, and only quite recently. Ditto her second point.

Giving up long stretches of quiet is a fantasy if you have toddlers and/or babies. If not, well, I know I wouldn't necessarily use all that time wisely or well! Besides which, what are you going to do when they're all grown, if you do it all now?

I used to worry about not reading as much to the younger kids as to the older kids, till I caught those same olders reading to the young ones. Is it not as good just cause it's not me doing it?

I can relate to the burned-out feeling. "Plate-spinning," we call it in our house. It's the same feeling many work-outside-the-home moms feel, only they're getting material compensation and other benefits, like talking to grown-ups and buying work clothes.

See what I mean? Job gripes. Every job has its good points and bad points -- even a dream job has its routine, boring, frustrating bits. The problem is that folks who homeschool are so often seen as loonier than a bag of squirrels. The temptation becomes to look upon homeschooling in compensation as some sort of Higher Calling and both criticize and praise it as such.

Maybe it's time for homeschooling to grow up. Time to admit that it's a real job. Okay, totally cool and the pay stinks, but real actual grown-up work. Not everybody's dream job.

However, it is mine.

Pixilated Mum said...


I could've written this post (except I had a good two years at a parochial school, but, still, that's two years from 13). I feel the same way about homeschooling ... I know that some people homeschool for a while then put their kids in school or give them an option or do half and half, but honestly ... I think sending my children to school sounds horrible, and it WOULD be a tragedy for me to have to do so. DH and I have talked about what we'd do if our finances shrunk more, and we're committed enough to homeschooling that we would seriously be very creative (job shifts and what-not) in order to keep homeschooling.

I thank God for homeschooling.