This past year we decided to homeschool our youngest. He had gone to public school for Kindergarten, but after a number of problems we thought that first grade was a good time to start schooling at home. Being six, he was not required to be in school at all. So, we decided it was a good transition year to try it and see if it was a better fit for him (and for our whole family) than the public school had been. This was our first year of homeschooling. I’m convinced. He’s doing great. We’re going to be starting second grade in a couple of months.
We’re not trying to recreate at home what the public school does on campus. You see, homeschooling is a whole-life learning opportunity, from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed. Yes, there’s a formal aspect of it in that we sit down and go through classes including, but not limited to history, math, science, geography, music, spelling, writing, and reading. Guidance class should not be a formal class in a homeschool, in my opinion. It is an ongoing mindset and lifestyle training that goes on between parent and child. He learns through your example in all of the things that “Guidance class” covers and so much more. Simply living life brings up topics such as manners; how to handle anger, grief or stress; interpersonal skills; planning; study skills; and so much more. All of these things are taught by example, by talking through it, by answering questions your child might have (“Why did he do that, Mommy?”), and in other ways. The entire parent/child relationship and interaction is a “guidance class”.
But, homeschooling is much more than a formal time of training during the day. The attitude of learning is a lifestyle. Going for a walk mid-day and looking at nature, going to the grocery story and checking out our math skills or learning to read labels, going for a walk in the park to get exercise, learning what street signs mean or playing the alphabet game (finding the alphabet in sequence on any and all signs, license plates, etc., until we get from A to Z) while we’re driving. Every single moment can be a fun learning experience.
We usually have an organized schedule, but at times it changes. Flexibility is part of the beauty of homeschooling. We do not have the public school schedule so my child doesn’t have to “be in school” from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm. We homeschool year-round and have the opportunity to cover far more than what the public school covers, yet there is still time for activities with other kids (such as t-ball, Tae Kwon Do, tennis, Cub Scouts, meetings or play time with other homeschool kids) and plenty of time to just play and be a kid.
We don’t have homework in the evening because everything necessary for the day was covered during the day. If we decide to go on vacation, we can take a break from the formal-sitting-down-to-class part of homeschooling. But, remember that every opportunity is a learning opportunity so even going to the beach or taking a drive somewhere is filled with opportunities to learn. Some people are very structured in their homeschooling process. We tend to be a bit more flexible. My goal is to learn beyond public school requirements and enjoy the process. We can choose to work during the holidays, but we also have the ability, for example, to take Friday off this week and go do something fun because we’ve had an incredibly productive week. We can plan field trips together as a family or take a spur of the moment field trip because questions came up in history class and tomorrow we’ve decided to go to a historical re-enactment to better understand something.
But, I’ve also discovered something else. Time and time again, people in the community who don’t know us or anything about us have felt that it is their business to confront us about our schedule. When I say, “confront us”, I mean confront my six year old son who isn’t even legally required to be in school yet. One time we had errands that had to be taken care of so I decided that school would start at 10. Well, on this day that I’m recalling, we swung by the grocery store to pick up a few things while we were out. In the parking lot as I was putting the grocery bags into the trunk a woman came up and menacingly hovered over my little son with a big frown on her face, barking “Why aren’t you in school?”
First of all, if she had a problem, she should have addressed me, as the adult with the child, not scared him to death. He ducked behind me at her sharp tone. Many things quickly went through my mind before I chose to smile and ask, “Have you heard of homeschooling, Ma’am?” She sniffed and moved on down the parking lot. I had to bite my tongue and not say any more because I didn’t think it was appropriate to start a fight with a stranger in the grocery store parking lot… regardless of how upset and protective I felt at the moment. I simply don’t appreciate people by-passing me and verbally assaulting my son with demanding questions. What happened to addressing the parent first? That was a great learning opportunity. We talked about how that made him feel and about which good manners would have been appropriate for that woman to use. We can learn from other people’s choices as well as our own.
Variations of this scenario have happened a number of times during this school year… from people ignoring me, but politely asking him why he wasn’t in school to people practically accosting him with the kind of rudeness described above.
We are doing what we feel is best for our son and the results of this past year have been extraordinary. What a difference one-on-one time makes. What a difference it makes to be able to not have strangers spending more time with our son than we do. The values he learns are values we believe in and not those of strangers we really don’t know.
I’ll talk about homeschooling with anyone who is interested because of our positive experiences. However, our schedule is not the business of a bunch of strangers who choose to be rude to my son or to us about the whole school thing. Experiences like what I’ve described can be a learning point in this lifestyle of homeschooling. We will come across rude people in this life. Learning how to cope is a good thing.