Homeschooling. The word, in our society, can have negative connotations. Many people have preconceived ideas on homeschooling and don’t look at it as a healthy and viable option to educate children. Some people picture homeschooling as something that is done in families who are looking to shelter their children from the outside world. They think homeshooling families are religious fundamentalists, that homeschooled children are not properly socialized, that homeschoolers are missing out on so many things that can only be provided in school.
While there may be a basis for these prejudices against this radical lifestyle choice of keeping children out of school, in my experience of homeschooling nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, there are homeschooled children out there who are kept sheltered from the world. There are families who may be doing their children a disservice just as there are teachers who should not be allowed to teach. But I have met many a homeschooling family throughout the last six years in our homeschooling journey and I have yet to meet a family that was not fully engaged in the education of their children. All of the families I have met strive to create meaningful learning opportunities and the children of these families are some of the most engaged and curious souls I know.
Are homeschooled children missing out on things that can only be offered in school?
Guess what? My homeschooled children are involved in the greater community! We meet on a regular basis with other homeshooling families. We pool our resources and receive funding to hire mentors to work with us. We take art classes, hold sports days, go on field trips, hire yoga instructors, and get involved with community projects. We have hired biologists, geologists, ski instructors, clowns, music teachers, drama teachers, art teachers, outdoor education instructors and many more. Being homeschooled does not equate to sitting at home!
Can you be properly socialized outside of school?
This seems to be peoples’ number one concern for homeschooled children. How do homeschoolers get proper socialization? To this I ask, what is proper socialization? My children have a core group of about 20 friends whom they see at least twice a week. These friends are multi aged. It is not unusual for me to see my 7 year old son holding hands with a two year old and helping them accomplish a task while chatting with a 12 year old about Minecraft. My children are used to having conversations with adults whether that be friends, family members, mentors, or the clerk at the grocery store. There is no off limit age for friendship. Homeschooled children are socialized because people are naturally social. Putting 20 or 30 kids of the same age into a classroom with one adult for six hours a day is not the magic formula for socialization. And while I don’t like to put down public school as I know it is the best choice for some families, I have to ask myself in which scenario is proper socialization developing?
Parents choose to homeschool because they are religious or had a terrible experience in school.
There are a million different reasons why people decide to homeschool their children! I know this might be hard to fathom but some parents (myself included) homeschool because they truly believe they can provide a more engaged and enriching childhood by forgoing school entirely. I know homeschooling parents who have had a terrible public school experience, parents who have had a fantastic public school experience, and parents who became successful adults after being homeschooled themselves. I know religious homeschoolers and I know atheist homeschoolers and the common thread amongst them is the desire to be attached parents. I know people who have pulled their kids out of school because of awful experiences, people who pulled their kids out because the traditional setting was stifling to their children, and people who’s children have never been to school. There are as many different reasons to homeschool as there are families who do it.
Children need to learn at their grade level.
Being that I am an unschooling parent, prescribed learning outcomes don’t hold any weight with me and how I educate my children. I don’t care that in grade three my children should be learning about the provinces in Canada or that in grade five they should be learning decimal points. For us learning happens naturally and the when of it matters not. What is important for me is asking, are my children intelligent? Can they make up a far fetched tale and articulate it through writing, pictures, or story telling? Can they listen to a story or a conversation and understand what is happening? Can they increase their vocabulary by asking for definitions when they don’t understand a word? Can they understand math concepts and put them to use? Can they show empathy and compassion to people, animals, and the earth? Can they ask questions and delve deeper to find the answers? Are they excited to learn new things? Are they engaged? I don’t need an A+ on a report card to know my children are on a path of curiosity and knowledge. I don’t need to teach them an arbitrary curriculum because of their age.
Homeschoolers are sheltered from real life.
Gasp! Nothing could be farther from the truth! Homeschooling families are actively seeking learning opportunities and in my experience have more real-life learning than their peers in school. In the last two weeks our family has been involved with an environmental study with a biologist banding birds and tracking migratory patterns, examining aquatic invertebrates, and searching for salamanders and snakes. We have visited a cultural centre where we learned about local native history and culture. We have gone canoeing to visit a historical site of one of the first homesteaders in our area. And of course, we have also spent plenty of time hanging out at the beach with friends. Sheltered? Nope.
If you homeschool, I am preaching to the choir. But if you don’t I hope you can open your mind to the possibility that homeschooling can be an amazing, outside-the-box education full of exploration, curiosity, and engagement!