I’ve been pretty staunchly anti-homeschool for as long as I can remember. I’ll admit that I’ve been judgmental about kids who were homeschooled missing out on the traditional, American experience of school as a social scene and that because they missed out on that they were some how worse off.
I once dated a guy who graduated from a home school, and I thought the whole thing was strange. They had a graduation with cap and gown and everything. They had a band, and a few of the more advanced classes were taught by one parent or individual to the whole group. I thought, how is that any different than regular school other than smaller and just of your own choosing? I thought the point was to not have those things? If you wanted those things why not just go to school? I didn’t get it. In addition, this person had not shared in my experiences and I thought that gave me the right to consider the home school experience sub par and inferior to my more traditional school experience. I sounded like a stuck-up snob, didn’t I?
Well, I’ve not totally abandoned all of those beliefs, but a discussion on a radio program the other day caused me to ponder a few benefits to homeschool that I’d not considered before. The commentator was discussing all the extra stuff that goes on in public schools that’s not directly tied to education. For example, she pointed to school spirit dress up days like twin day or tacky clothes day as an examples where schools are not really focusing on education. It just so happened that very day was twin day, and my sons had dressed alike for the occasion. Her point was that these things aren’t part of learning and can actually be a distraction and take up more time than necessary that could be used for more important things.
Hmm. She may have a point there.
I realized a few weeks ago, while discussing the boys’ schedules with them, that their teachers are pretty much done with instructing by lunch time. With just a few exceptions, most of the time after lunch is spent napping, coloring or playing for the kindergartener, and PE, recess and homework for the third-grader.
The thought occurred to me that a lot of the things they do at school as part of enriching their education, we do at home. Crafts, small science projects, creative play, physical fitness, art, etc. We spend about 30-45 minutes a day on third-grade homework, which is about half the time my home school teaching friends say they spend each day teaching.
So my thought was this: If I spent twice that amount of time, broken up throughout the day, we could learn everything we needed to learn and then do all the same fun things they do at school that we’re doing at home anyway. And if they want to dress alike for twin day or wear a hat or have pajama day or pirate day or cowboys and Indians day, we can do that, and we can do that with way less fuss than we do now when they have those days at school. We would get so much time back — time for us — if they boys were schooled at home. If they ride the bus both morning and afternoon that’s another nearly 2 hours of their day that’s just gone that could certainly be better purposed. And no school fundraisers!!
I still think my sons would miss out on the “traditional” school experience, but how important is that, really? So many of their social activities are outside of school anyhow that I don’t think they would suffer socially even the slightest bit. Society — and I, for the longest time — makes the traditions of in-school schooling seem so important, that if you don’t have it you’re missing out. But what if they’re wrong? What if “traditional” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially if you’re doing it just for the sake of having the traditional experience? What if the benefits of freedom and flexibility and open-ended learning outweigh the benefits of the tradition?
I’m by no means yanking my kids out of public school, nor am I convinced that home school is better or best for us or anyone else. But my thinking is a little different and more open-minded that maybe — just maybe — there’s something to all this home school business that I didn’t pay enough attention to before now.