Why I Homeschool (and You Don’t)

Believe it or not, I am not particularly confrontational about the “weird” parenting stuff I do. Homebirth, intact boys (not circumcising), nursing on cue, supplementing with donor milk rather than formula, cosleeping, not vaccinating… those are the right decisions for my family. Homeschooling is a fairly hot button topic because I talk about it on Facebook and in parenting forums, and also, like, DUH, I’m out in the world with my kids who aren’t in school. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it.

The decision to homeschool is different than the decision to have a homebirth; it’s more of a long-term process rather than a YES or NO thing. I’m constantly evaluating and re-evaluating how it’s going and what I’m doing right and wrong. However, for all my insecurities about what I’m doing, I am going to continue homeschooling.

Why do you homeschool?

I do not like packing lunches. I do not like getting up early. I do not like doing homework. I do not like mandatory meetings with staff. I want to be my childrens’ teacher. I want to spend time with them. I want to teach them important life skills that I missed in 17 years of public education. I want to shelter them. I believe they learn better from my instruction than from one teacher with twenty or thirty students. I want to teach them a different way. I do not think they need eight or nine hours of instruction. I want them to enjoy their childhoods. I do not want them to become institutionalized. I want to give them options. I want them to experience the real world, not being in a building for many hours a day. I want them to socialize with people of all ages, not just their own 12-month-birthday span. I like to stay in my pajamas. I like being able to go to museums when they’re empty during the week rather than crazy on the weekends. I want them to learn to cook. And do laundry. And clean. I want them to know how to calculate mortgage costs. I want them to understand that education is a privilege. I want them to figure out what they want to do, what they like and don’t like, rather than blindly follow a set path. I like to print things.

But my children go to public school and they’re XYZ! and they’re NOT abc! 

How nice for you. Congratulations. My decision to homeschool my children has nothing to do with you or your children. Please do not take it personally or we are going to have some issues in our relationship. Because, honestly, it gets old explaining why public school is perfectly fine and why you and your children are lovely special snowflakes but I’m still going to homeschool mine (who are also perfectly fine — mostly — and lovely special snowflakes too). When it comes to school, I do not care what you and your children do.

I find it so obnoxious that people question homeschoolers when I’d never dream of saying to my friends who send their kids to school, “But don’t you worry that all they know how to do is TAKE TESTS?!?!?! Don’t you worry that they have no critical thinking skills!!! In the real world, they’re going to have to make decisions for themselves; how will they learn that in public school?!?!” I’m sure most kids will find their way,whether they learn at school or at home. And if you tell me that you have absolutely no patience for your children, yes, it is probably better that you don’t homeschool them. Jeez.

What about when they’re in higher grades? What about calculus? How will they go to college? How can you teach them Spanish? 

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if they will. I will teach them French.

You’re holding them back! They’re going to work in tollbooths!

First of all, I don’t think tollbooths actually employ workers anymore. Second of all, I think I’m helping them. If they are not ambitious, I do not want to spend $40,000 on higher education — or have them take out $40,000 in loans. If they are ambitious, they will discover that I can only take them so far, but I’ll help them find other ways to learn. If they want to be some kind of skilled worker, that’s okay.

Here is where I feel it turns into a class warfare thing.

I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood in Michigan. Everyone went to college. I mean everyone. (Also, nobody got pregnant. Nobody. Either everyone was too scared to have sex, everyone was smart enough to be on birth control or abortions were rampant.) So, I went to college like everyone, had no idea what I want to “do” with my life, got my bachelor’s degree in psychology and creative writing and… ***crickets.*** Yes, I have my education and nobody can ever take it away from me, but a bachelor’s degree in psychology and creative writing is about as helpful as… a bachelor’s degree in sociology or humanities. And yet, I was expected to go to college, and people expect my children to go to college. It’s taken me a long time to get away from that attitude, but with the economy in shambles and the cost of education rising, I’m okay if my kids don’t go to college.

And that is all I’m going to say about that. For now, at least.

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17 Responses

  1. Love this! It does annoy the daylights out of me that I have to tiptoe around explaining my family’s choices without insulting the people who are usually insulting me with their questions.

  2. Good post! It always irks to have our well thought out choices questioned for the 2343789830 billionth time, especially the JUST off grid ones like homeschooling. It’s not like you’re doing something wildly unheard of, right? Well, not anymore anyways. And it seems like we are often fielding the same questions over and over. Some of it is ignorance, but some has to be simply a part of choosing a technique that is not mainstream, you know? We will invite questions by making crunchy or otherwise non mainstream choices.
    I think though that parenting is SO personal that it is hard for people to just live and let live. Like, my kids go to public school and although I have always thought homeschooling was totally cool, amazing, and in many ways superior to traditional schooling, I constantly feel judged by pro homeschool arguments.
    You can argue just live and let live, but at the end of the day homeschoolers often feel their way is best for all. It isn’t. It is one of several wonderful ways to educate children. There are tons of benefits to both, generally, unless you live in an area with no good school options. Then obviously homeschooling would be the superior choice.
    At the end of the day I don’t WANT to be a teacher. If homeschooling is superior and I just don’t want to do it, doesn’t that make me selfish? That’s where I get sensitive about this issue, because I’m not selfish. I just genuinely think both home and outsourced schooling are GOOD. And outsourcing works for us.
    I think this is a different issue than the one you are writing about here though, because it seems like the questions you wrote about spring more from ignorance and insensitivity than anything else. Whereas I’m not ignorant. Generally not insensitive. Just chose differently.

    I think I’m a rare breed, though. Public schooler who believes homeschooling is awesome. =) Anyways. Some thoughts.

  3. Very nice!

  4. I support you 100%. I also think schools do not provide very safe environments anymore.
    Mom-a teacher of 31 years

  5. Interesting. I had the opposite experience. I was homeschooled until I went to college (full-time) at 17. I also got my B.S. in Psych, but then went on to get my MSW in Social Work. I think people need to remember, children are individuals, they all have different personalities and life paths regardless of the education they recieve. Good luck! I hope homeschooling is a positive experience for you and your children.

  6. Heeeeeey! …I got my bachelors degree in a psyc/soc kind of thing, and I’m gainfully employed. 😛 it wasn’t useless! Phooey on you!

    😉

    Seriously though: I wouldn’t encourage a kid that clearly did not have the potetnial to finish college to start, but If they did, I would. And I’m from the hood 🙂

    The path you ended up in, Er, was not necessarily part of a plan. Its what happened. And thats kinda the point. Encouraging college is about keeping options (if you have the potential for them) open.

    And if I had girls–for me–those ladies would be STUCK going to college. That ain’t classism, that’s sexism! My boys can swing hammers if they want, but I would make sure my girls would always have the opportunity to go white collar if the need arised. Consider my current life situation: it would be really sad if I was facing waiting tables and no medical and dental for me or my kids. Would you want that fate for one of your daughters? I’ve never been MORE GLAD IN MY LIFE that I went to college. But I probably would not have done it without it being indoctrinated in me by my parents that I WOULD go.

  7. That is the truth… sadly many college grad find themselves in the position of being overeducated and under-paid, or unemployed!

  8. Good post! I have both homeschooled and sent
    My kids to public school. My kids do better in their non-homeschool environments, but neither are traditional public situations, either. On the other side of the coin, some of us super-crunches with friends that homeschool often feel like we have to justify we don’t homeschool our kids like so many of our friends do. It goes both ways and in general, I think once you’ve known enough kids and families from all different educational settings, you realize there is no better or worse, there’s what works for you and your family.

    • I agree — I know a few crunchy moms who don’t homeschool. You do have to pick your battles and know what’s working for your family in order to parent effectively.

  9. Love your words and tone. Thank you! As for the college thing, it might be interesting to note that college students who were previously homeschooled statistically score the SAME or HIGHER than kids who went to public or private school. I’m a walking testimony to that myself:)….but my parents didn’t force me to go to college. I just did. When learning is fun and inspiring, most people don’t want to stop!

  10. I really enjoyed your article. That’s a lot of great thoughts about homeschooling & it sounds like the perfect choice for your family. As I go on parenting, I find there are less & less hills I’m willing to die on & things I’m willing to debate with other parents. Did you pray, think, & make a careful decision? Great!

    On the other hand, I must mention that degrees in humanities can be very useful & employable. With my BA in Anthopology (double major with Bible) I found work immediately before graduating from college, and never had trouble getting a job until I left it voluntarily when my daughter was born 5 yrs later. I worked in ESL and then in child welfare. I really value my college degree & knowing that I can easily go back to work when it is good for our family, to help save up more money for… well… my kids’ college.

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