Why We Are Homeschooling

As mentioned in the previous post, I wanted to provide a more detailed explanation for why we are planning to homeschool. Here are the reasons:

  • Improve Harry’s math and language arts: he has not progressed much this year in either area. He entered 1st grade with a strong reading ability, but much of the year, his class time was spent learning basic words. He has had very little phonics and he is not encouraged to learn correct spelling at this age, a philosophy that we are finding that we disagree with. Also, he hasn’t done nearly as much math as we were expecting. Harry has not even quite mastered addition and subtraction, and we’re already near the end of 1st grade. We feel that in the two areas of math and language arts, we can do better than the public school setting. We don’t fault Harry’s teacher for this; she has no choice but to teach to a group of 25 and there is no way to provide individual attention to every child. We’ve learned that the average public school student receives 3-5 minutes of individual attention a day. Even though I am not a teacher by training, if I can even provide Harry with direct one-on-one teaching in math and language arts every day, he should be able to progress at a faster pace than he has this year. We’re not trying to create a super-genius, but we do want what he studies to match what he is capable of, and to this point, his public school experience has not been able to do this.
  • Control over subjects: I admit that I am a bit of a control freak, and once I began learning more about different homeschooling educational philosophies, I loved the idea that I could choose a path for Harry that would be of our own preference, not restricted by what the public school deems appropriate. I’ll explain more about this in another post, but we’ll be adopting a largely classical-based education, which means an emphasis on great literature, a focus on the development of the mind in a systematic way, with the end result being that the children growing up learning how to learn, loving what they learn, and being able to communicate in the written and spoken word effectively and persuasively. It feels like a children’s version of a liberal-arts college education, something I’m very familiar with myself.
  • Concurrently, homeschooling allows us to let the kids focus on areas of interest and design experiences to help them deepen those interests. We took a day off school this year to take Harry and Ron to the Chicago Auto Show, since cars are such a passion of J. in particular, and homeschooling would allow us to continue to do activities such as that with more frequency and without the guilt of missing school.
  • More time to enjoy childhood: This year has felt extremely stressful for us all. Every day of the week feels stretched and rushed, and we think that moving to homeschooling could actually ease the pressures for us all. Right now, Harry comes home around 3 p.m., and sometimes even later than that. By the time he comes home, has a snack, and has a little downtime, he has something to do homework-wise, plus piano time, with the end result that he barely has much time to play before dinner–and I highly value the benefit of play in young children. Our hope for our homeschooling schedule is that we would be largely done with our schoolwork and 30 minutes of piano time by the time or before school typically gets out for his peers (2:30 p.m.) After the younger brothers are awake, we will have more flexibility for outings and field trips before dinner, or for more unstructured play time than we have had this year. We just think this will result in a lot more joy for us all.
  • Family focus: Earlier this year, I was wrestling with the question of, what is our family’s purpose? Instead of trying to do so many things and not do them all particularly well, I wanted to gain a sense of mission so that we could pare down those things that don’t fit with the mission and put more emphasis on the things that do. Homeschooling will absolutely force us to do this. There is no way around the fact that to do this well will require time, energy, creativity, and effort. I’m committed putting in that time, because I do feel we are being called to do this, and so for me, being “missional” in this season of life is to focus on my kids’ educational development. But it means that we will be paring down and/or letting go of other time commitments that were, frankly, wearing us thin this past year in particular. Homeschooling will help me say “no” to many wonderful opportunities that are just not right for us at this stage in life. This will be a big switch for me because I’m used to being super-involved, especially in my church context. But I just sense that right now, we need to have a simpler life. Homeschooling itself may not be that simple, but it provides us a focal point for our energies that makes sense to me right now.
  • Strengthen family bonds: I like the idea that should we continue with homeschooling, sibling and family bonds will become even more important for our kids, as opposed to being replaced by peer relationships. Not that peer relationships aren’t important, and at some point that shift has to happen, but especially when the kids are young, I see the value in building a foundation of family relationships that will stay with them as they move into later childhood/adolescence/adulthood.

Why we are NOT homeschooling:

  • To create a pristine, bubble-like environment for Harry and the other boys. No, this is not our desire, although we do confess that if Harry learns fewer slightly offensive, 1st-grade level jokes as a result of homeschooling, we will not protest! We know that we will need to be extra attentive to make sure that Harry has enough opportunities to connect socially with other children. We also know that we are not to retreat from the world, and that we must find ways to engage and enter into the lives of others. Of course, knowing this in our heads and making sure we take the right steps in reality are two different things! But we don’t necessarily believe that the only way to become socially adept is to spend most of one’s time primarily with one’s own age group, and we’ll be looking for ways to help Harry engage with other children without being necessarily restricted by the idea that being in a class with 25 other children is the only way to do so.
  • Because we think that homeschooling is the only right way to educate children. No, this is absolutely not where we are. We have come to the place ourselves that we want to at least try this out for a year and see how it goes, but we certainly do not believe that this is the only right way. We don’t even know at this point if all three boys will be homeschooled entirely or in part, or for how long. All these questions will be answered in time, but right now we’ll just take it a year at a time. And by no means as we embark on this journey do we mean to communicate that others should be joining us. But, that having been said, if anyone reads our story and feels led to investigate the option themselves, we’d be happy to chat more about our decision!

Next post: more about the classical education philosophy that we are leaning towards adopting. Does this mean our boys may learn Latin??? Find out next time. =)

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