More School Questions

Since we enrolled our oldest daughter in the local parish school, I am sure that there are many people wondering What about homeschooling?  Have we lost faith in it?  Have we given up because it was a failed experiment?  Do we still think it is the best form of education, or have we become bitter ex-homeschoolers?

First of all, we are still planning to homeschool Piper and the younger children through at least 4th grade.  It’s also possible that Bailey will be brought back home for school at some point.  And I am not bitter that it is not the best option for Bailey right now.

I think in general that homeschooling is the best form of education for many of the original reasons we began homeschooling:  personalized education, strong family bonds, and an emphasis on learning life skills rather than just getting grades.  Plus one of the things that I still love about homeschooling is the way it makes you see everything in life as a learning experience.  Education doesn’t only take place in a school building or from text books.  You see the whole world as being ripe with possibilities.

I also think that homeschooling was best for Bailey for a time, at least through second grade.  I think she would have had a hard time living by the schedule and rules of a traditional school.  It was hard enough getting her up before eight o’clock for something she really loved to do, like teeball, without an emotional meltdown.  For a long time her ability to concentrate for more than 15 minutes at a time was low while her energy levels were extremely high.  I must admit that I still have some concerns how she will emotionally handle the strictures and structures of school.  It will either be great for her at this point or it will be a disaster.

Academically Bailey seems to be well-prepared.  The biggest issue she will probably face on that front is the same one she faced at home:  taking the time to read the directions and follow them correctly.  This caused a major power struggle within the context of our parent-child relationship.  Now at school she will have to accept that the rules for multiplying two two-digit numbers aren’t something that I invented to torture her personally.

My only regret about homeschooling so far is that the circumstances of our life prevented us from fully taking advantage of the possibilities homeschooling can offer.  For instance, early on I imagined lots of play-dates and field trips with other homeschooling families.  Unfortunately, most homeschooling activities occurred during the day when my husband needed our only vehicle for work.  Then having so many children so close together added to the level of difficulty of getting out and about; sometimes I really needed a second set of hands to keep track of everyone and couldn’t do it.

I think these circumstances that kept us more isolated than a lot of other homeschooling families were especially hard on Bailey, who really loves to always be doing things and meeting new people.  While we have tried to keep the older kids involved in activities through the parks district and they have neighborhood kids with whom to play, it just wasn’t enough for Bailey.  She needs more exterior stimulation and is easily bored.

But doesn’t this just feed into anti-homeschooling fears about socialization?  While Bailey may not have received as much time to socialize as she may have liked or needed at times, I do think that her time at home well-prepared her to handle social situations.  When kids around her started talking about inappropriate subjects, I was there to witness it.  Because I knew it was going on I was able to coach her on strategies for handling future situations like that (whereas the parents of the other kids were completely shocked to learn what their kids were discussing).

Because Bailey has spent so much time witnessing her father and I interact with business people, she is already confident about ordering her own food in restaurants and asking salespeople for help in stores.  Her teacher and principal were surprised at her poise and confidence during her first shadow day.  She had no qualms about raising her hand to answer questions or joining in class discussions.  This could partly be her personality, but after almost ten years of life at home (no daycare or school), she obviously has not ended up being an anti-social idiot as naysayers of homeschooling would expect.

I still think that homeschooling is probably the best form of education in general, and I still think that that it should be seriously investigated as a legitimate educational option by the larger population.  However, I have become more humble in my understanding that homeschooling isn’t the only good educational option.  Sometimes there are good schools out there with good teachers, and there are sometimes kids who would thrive better (academically and emotionally) in a “traditional” school setting rather than an alternate school (such as Montessori) or homeschooling.  And sometimes sending the kids to school is best for the family as a whole.

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