Am I morally opposed to homeschooling?
Do I think I would be good at homeschooling my kids?
Are my kids better off learning each subject area from certified, experienced teachers?
Do my lack of patience and shoddy mathematical ability impact my decision to not homeschool my kids?
Listen, if you homeschool your kids, I’m bowing down to you. I really am. I couldn’t do it. I don’t want to do it. I believe in our educational system, despite all its flaws. I think, as a student, there is something to be said for the social aspect of attending school with other kiddos your age, and it can’t just be my kids who act differently for other adults, can it? When my cherubs come home, the gloves come off. They shed their public personas real quick; what was once, “Yes, please” and “I’ll wait my turn,” become “NOW!!!!!!!” and “THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!!!”
And that’s just one of the reasons why this mother will never homeschool her children.
Have you ever baked cookies with a toddler? It goes something like this: fresh dough rolled out on the counter, cookie cutters poised for action, frosting and sprinkles waiting in the wings for their big debut. Adorable apron-clad kid posing for her first baking experience photo and then…tears. And tantrums. And unrealistic expectations, like “Why does the oven have to be HOT?!” And let’s not forget my inability to impart any reason through the frustration barrier that is a lack of understanding.
That’s what I imagine homeschooling is like.
Before everyone starts chucking textbooks at my head, let me first say that I am not opposed to homeschooling. In theory, it’s a fantastic way to ensure a child has one-on-one instruction in a productive, safe environment. But in practice? Homeschooling is toddlers baking cookies, only with higher stakes.
As a high school English teacher, I know a little something about the world of curriculum, best practices, and instruction. As a mother of three, I pretend to know a few things about parenting too. Maybe the reason I want to steer clear of homeschooling is because I am painfully aware of what educating a classroom full of students really entails, and I have to tell my kids to put on their shoes 46 times before they actually do it.
The planning, varied instruction, ongoing assessments, and benchmarks are enough to make a trained professional’s head spin. So the thought of applying the aforementioned to every subject area is enough to make this secondary English teacher break out in hives. And doing it all from home, with my own kids? No thank you. And here’s why:
1. My degree is in Shakespeare and multi-paragraph essays. At least I think that is what my diploma says. I never signed up for algebra or biology.
2. The idea of being solely responsible for my kids’ formal education is entirely too daunting. It takes a village for a reason. In this case, it takes a certified, specially trained village.
3. Social interactions tend to be limited, especially when it comes to diversity, when a child is homeschooled. Valuable skills like communication and collaboration can too easily fall by the wayside when a kiddo is isolated during his or her formative years.
4. School districts hire people to extensively research and test curricula before purchasing and implementing them. The cost and time it would take me to do that is more than my resources allow.
5. As much as I love my kids, I cannot justify spending every waking moment with them. A little time and space apart is a good thing for all of us. My son is a different kid in school. Not once has he chucked a toy against the wall of his classroom or openly defied his teachers. Mind-blowing, right? He deserves the chance to test the waters of independence, and come face-to-face with the consequences.
6. What happens to the extracurricular activities? Am I supposed to teach my kids to play an instrument or explore computer programming? Unfortunately, we live in an area that doesn’t offer too much along the lines of “extra” unless we’re going to pay “extra,” which means Mama needs a few “extra” jobs to afford it. I can be a cheerleader for their activities, but I cannot morph into an expert in every field.
7. Many parents who have tackled homeschooling tout protecting their kids from negative influences as one of the main benefits. Much like homeschooling itself, the idea of putting our children in a bubble sounds good in theory. The world is a scary place, but we can only shelter them for so long. It’s not realistic to keep them under our thumbs, even though there are days that we all want to.
8. Personally, I loved school. I enjoyed finding my voice and making friends. I came into my own as a high school student, and I firmly believe that foundation helped me find success in college. It wasn’t always easy. The mean girls, the drama, the bad teachers (yes, there are bad teachers) meant some days were worse than others. But my overall experience is one that helped shape me and I appreciate that.
9. One of the most important reasons I will never homeschool my kids is because I would be limiting positive influences and lasting relationships in their lives. My best friend today was my best friend in eighth grade. From my sophomore geometry teacher to my senior English teacher, I learned about angles and parallelism in writing, but I also learned what it meant to dedicate myself to a cause and never give up. I refuse to underestimate the good people who will shape my kids’ lives as they journey through their school years.
10. If I am both my kids’ teacher and parent, who do I blame when they screw up? Homeschooling takes away the luxury of finger pointing, and in the age of “not my child,” the scapegoat is second to literacy.*
*That was sarcasm. Welcome.
There are absolutely extenuating circumstances in which I would consider homeschooling, like constantly changing school districts as military families often do, or opting out of the local public schools when they are less than desirable and a private school is prohibitively pricey. But on the whole, a traditional classroom with a flesh-and-blood teacher is an experience I don’t want my children to miss.