Homeschooling: Action or reaction?
I have a confession to make. Before I tell you what it is, I should probably start out with the one long-time readers have likely figured out. I often use this space as a sort of informal confessional. This column is a place to ponder homeschooling and parenting in general, but also a place where I have shared the successes and shortcomings in both areas.
Accountability is a good thing. Telling you all that making apple cider vinegar at home was a terrible idea has kept me from romanticizing the experience with the passage of time. As much as I'd like to forget spewing partially fermented apple peels and half-brewed vinegar all over the counter top, having that experience recorded in print prevents me from trying it again.
Sometimes this mom feels like she learns more from her own children than they learn from her. Those experiences are shared here as well — reminders, I hope, that there is wonder all around us if we stop and take a moment to consider it (though the experience of spewing fermenting apple peels is still devoid of wonderment around here).
My confession this time seems somewhat contradictory, since I am so jazzed about home education. But I'll tell you anyway. I started homeschooling for the wrong reason. Thirteen years after we began, I can finally admit that to myself.
Under optimal circumstances, homeschooling should be an action rather than a reaction. For us, the decision to start learning at home was a reaction to a school situation that didn't work for our children.
That may be fine in its own way — I wouldn't advocate staying in a bad situation, of course. Over the years, though, I have met people who have planned all along to homeschool. They did their homework well ahead of the class bell. Sometimes I envy those folks.
Look around and you can find plenty of reasons to homeschool that are reactions to a problem. Reports of underperforming schools, teachers who harm students and budget cuts that impact critical programs all add up.
For some, underperforming schools are a good reason to homeschool. Even in such a situation, though, there are options. Rather than homeschool, many parents help in classrooms and in booster programs, find private schools or help develop programs that are off-the-charts amazing.
I do find that some who homeschool focus on the negatives associated with traditional education as a primary reason to educate at home. In some respects, this is the same argument that is used in reverse by those who put their children into a regular classroom. "My school is fine," they might say, "and therefore public education works." When it comes to polarizing issues, people usually find something to support their own opinions.
Even though we started homeschooling as a reaction to a series of specific events, I have been able to acknowledge that we shouldn't spend our time pointing fingers at perceived problems.
Are some schools substandard? Of course. And yet, if you look hard enough, you can find children in those very schools who still excel in spite of the odds. In the same vein, not every homeschool kid is going to ace the National Spelling Bee on the way to gaining early entry into an Ivy League college.
We started homeschooling in full reactive mode, but our decision quickly became proactive as we learned how much we enjoyed the process, the adventure and the flexibility.
Maybe I'll amend my confession. Our reason to begin was right for us at the time. We aren't reacting to a bad situation any longer. We're enjoying the journey and are oh, so grateful for the choice we made.
Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom in Meridian. Her homeschool blog can be found on the Appeal-Democrat website at appealdemocrat.com.