Why I Sometimes Wish We Homeschooled

Mother-and-Child-reading

I had a surprising conversation with my 7th grade daughter the other day.  While she was playing with her 3yo brother, she said, “You know, if we were homeschooled, we’d have more time to play together like this.”  This surprised me because:

  1. most preteens I know aren’t as eager as she is to play with a toddler sibling
  2. she’s an incredibly social girl and has many friends at school
  3. we’ve never taken an honest look at the option of homeschooling, and it’s never really been a topic of conversation in our home

I have to say, though, even if I was surprised that SHE brought it up, the benefits of homeschooling have been on my mind for the past few years.

We live in a school district that seems particularly impressed with sucking the joy right out of learning.  There is heavy pressure to perform well, and the standardized testing in Texas causes teachers to threaten “You won’t be promoted if you don’t pass this test!” (we heard this from every teacher when we first moved here).  Our district also has a strict (and I mean strict) attendance policy, and though my kids are A/B students and display upright citizenship at school, we’ve been served court notices and probation letters from the district’s police department because of “excessive” absences (ie: when my 13yo was down for a week with a broken ankle, or my 9yo had the flu for a week).

The adminstrative rules and high-pressure atmosphere in our district have left me with two overwhelming worries:  my children are learning to perform, not learning to learn -AND- my rights to how/when I keep my child home (in MY care) are routinely being questioned.

I understand that homeschooling is not a romantic picture of always having things how you want them, or your children always bounding towards the learning table with enthusiasm and energy.  BUT, I often wish I had more influence over how their young minds embraced learning.  I wish I could do more to nurture their strengths and attend to their interests.  As it is, I do that when and how I can, but when they must leave me for 7 or more hours a day and be put into what feels more and more like a rat race, my influence becomes limited (and sometimes contradictory to the patterns they are faced with at school).

I am also growing weary of how the school district here seems to diminish the role of family and the authority of parents.  I feel like the rules are made for the parents who aren’t conscientious about their children’s education, and it leaves the rest of us to trudge along.  Aside from the 7 or more hours of daily school, my children often have 1-4 hours of homework once they get home, severely cutting into our opportunities to spend time together as a family.  Waves of anxiety flow off my children when we just try to sit and play a game at night; I know they’re worried about the work they have left to do or the threat of falling behind in class.

I know there are two arguments that can be posed towards my frustrations:  why don’t I get more involved in the schools to make changes in the district?  -and- why don’t I just go ahead and switch to a homeschooling education?  For one thing, this district intimidates me.  It’s huge, it’s complex, overwhelming.  I honestly don’t know if my speaking up would make any difference at all.  And there’s little chance we’d ever switch to homeschooling now, since my kids are in advanced grades – 4th, 7th, 8th, and 11th.  As stressed out as they are, it’s all they know, and I don’t think (at this point) they’d be receptive to such a huge shift in lifestyle.

And why don’t we just move?  Well, that’s easier said than done.  Really, anybody knows that – especially with the current economic and job situation in the country.  You go where there’s a secure job, and you go where you can afford to live.

I never thought I would ever give this much thought to the benefits of homeschooling.  When we lived in Oregon, we were happy with the public education and my husband was even an elected official on our city’s School Board.  I thought the future of our childrens’ schooling – though I knew it would get more difficult in the higher grades – would retain the sense of interest in learning and perspective of a “whole child” that we had grown used to.  I had no idea how much that would change.

We have our fifth and youngest child still at home, with three years before Kindergarten.  Feeling how I feel now, if we are still in this area when the time comes, I will be giving serious thought to beginning homeschooling with him when I can.

  • Donna@Waymorehomemade

    As we were considering our options last spring for this current school year and where we were financially, we considered taking our kids out of their private school and going with the public school district for a year or so. Then, as I began doing some research, we half jokingly and half not decided that it would be cheaper to pay for the private school tuition rather than all the attorneys I would need to fight some of the rules that I fell step on my parental toes. Attendance being one of them. Compulsory attendance is a problem that, in my opinion, drives many of the other issues public education faces. I agree that trying to change things on a district level is futile as it is a state and nationwide problem, not a local one. The districts are sticklers about attendance not for concern about the child, but for concern about funding. That’s what it’s all about. However, the main problem with public education is that politicians are in charge. And, when you get down to it, they are not concerned about my child and her education. They are concerned about reelection and fundraising.
    Sorry to get on a soap-box, but this is one that is so easy for me to step up on. I hear you, though. And while I know it’s not a possibility for everyone, our private school has addressed many of these concerns for us.

    • Donna, I LOVE having your perspective on this! Something I find so ironic with attendance issues is that last year at the jr high honor reception, the students who were on the Principal’s Honor Roll were not the kids who got the Perfect Attendance Awards, and hardly any of the kids who got Perfect Attendance Awards were on the Principal’s Honor Roll. It was so enlightening! Attendance does NOT always equal a greater mastery of a subject, even though all the handbooks they’ve given us say the motivating factor for compulsory attendance is the welfare of our child (and not – as you accurately pointed out – issues of school funding and bureaucracy). Education is about so much more than making sure the seat is filled! I feel like I just want to reclaim my kids and give them back something this current system has taken.

  • Jenlynnthomas

    A very interesting read Stacey.
    Since my oldest is only in 1st grade I haven’t yet experienced the same frustrations you have, but I too have thought about homeschooling for a long time. I haven’t taken huge steps in to researching it, and in general I think our ISD is a good one, but the idea of homeschooling (possibly for the junior high years) will continue to stay in my mind. I look forward to chatting about this more with you the next time we get together.

    • I think what I’m finding is that jr high may be a bit too late to start. By then, your child’s social patterns are set, and at least for my kids, I can’t imagine them making that change now. That’s why knowing what I know, I’d start earlier. I thought even Isaac was ok for a while, but now in 4th grade he’s coming home totally stressed out and has cried a few days now saying that his days are so long and everything is so hard (AND the kids at his school are so crude and with bad language). It’s just so hard to watch it all happening when you know that academic excellence doesn’t HAVE to have such a high price.

  • oh my goodness … could I fill you ear with all we’ve gone through with Piper since August 23. She was in a private kindergarten program last year and now is going into the public school system. Long story short, she has to repeat Kindergarten. Parental opinion counts for nothing. NOTHING. We couldn’t even submit a sealed letter from her teacher last year. Because she scored an 87% on a standardized test instead of the needed 90%, she can’t go into 1st grade. Now … we met with the counselor. Every single question that she missed was over a skill that present first grade students won’t learn until the 3rd 6 weeks this year. URGH!!! There are so many things that this school system does well, but what they lack – they REALLY lack.

    Oh yeah … we also got the court notice 2 years ago. OMG. I almost died.

    • I remember following your nightmare on Facebook and just aching for all your trouble! I have felt before that anything just outside the school’s expectations is unacceptable. When we first moved here, it was three months into my son’s 1st grade. They actually requested that we bring him to tutoring at 7am three days a week at the school so he could “catch up” with his classmates. IN FIRST GRADE! It was a piece of cake for him, but it sure taught me that there’s hardly an room for error or “falling behind” here. So stressful.

      And the first time I got that court notice, I cried. The second time, I threw it away, called the school, and told them to fix it. Fortunately, I haven’t actually had to attend court yet. Blergh!

  • We have one kid in private school and the other in public, 6th and 4th grade respectively. I knew the private school would have a better class size (12 kids per class as compared to 35) but what I was completely floored by was the difference in stressing critical thinking and exploring one’s educational interests versus “teaching to the test.” It’s really, really depressing to think about, and we’re probably moving our younger kid to private school next year too. What breaks my heart? Most kids inteh public school system don’t come from families with the resources to send their kids to private schools for the better education. The rift between the haves and the have nots just grows wider. 🙁

    However I would never home school. I don’t have the patience!

  • Thanks so much for the comment, Jen! I am really appreciating the perspective from parents who have chosen routes other than public school. I think what you’re saying about critical thinking is spot on. When my kids ask me what they’ll use in “real life” from their classrooms, I have to be honest and admit that most of it is never necessary in certain chosen professions. What *is* necessary, though, is a desire to be challenged, the ability to deconstruct a problem and find solutions, use available resources, etc. Unfortunately, that’s not always the focus in their classrooms. I’m not sure if I have the patience for homeschool, either, but private school is not really an option. I’m blessed to stay home, but don’t think we could further those financial sacrifices to pay for private school. My kids surprised me tonight by discussing this blog post with my husband and I, and they were eager to at least look into the option. So, here we go! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Wish I had homeschooled with my step-son. He hated high school and started ditching so much they expelled him. Yet, we needed two incomes at the time to pay the bills and so I worked full time.
    First for high school he wanted to go to a special technical academy. So I stayed up after my night shift and drove him there, round trip for me was lasting about an hour and twenty minutes. Then about 4 hours later I was back up to drive to that school so I could take him to another school that offered ROTC. Yet, the technical academy school was giving him such a hard time about going to
    ROTC that he started hating that school. So we enrolled him in the high school in our community. I was reluctant to do so because of the high drop out rate. Well the first year he did okay, even lettered in ROTC. Then the next year he hit some women teachers that he just hated and he couldn’t learn from them for nothing. I think his brain just turned off the minute they spoke because they too had attitudes about the kids in ROTC.
    Well, he started ditching. So they kicked him out.
    He finally went back to school and graduated a year late, and barely passing in grades because he was so angry about how he was treated in high school by some of the teachers.
    I think teachers attitudes can make or break a child, I truly do.
    I had suggested to my husband that I take a second job so we could send him to a private school that was a military prep school. I think he would have excelled there. Yet, my husband at the time said “No.”
    Well, he’s a young man out on his own now. He left the Navy, which we thought he was going to make his career, but I guess not. I don’t really know what he’s doing now, I do know he’s living in the
    same State and town as his biological mom now. Maybe he just needed to connect with her again and his half-sisters. I just hope he’s happy.

    • I think you’re so right in that many times school isn’t just about education, but about personalities and attitudes and personal choices. Good for you for doing what you could to support your step-son. It sounds like he sure had a rough time of it.

  • There are definitely pros and cons to homeschooling. I’m regretting our decision to try out public school this year but I’m trying to separate which fears are mine and which are justified.

  • I’ve read some of your tweets on that recently. I’m sorry there’s been some struggles with the adjustment! It’s such a complicated choice/process. Hope things are already looking up!

  • Such a beautifully written post. Thank you for being so candid about how you feel! I think we all appreciate someone else who struggles, too, but doesn’t bash the other side in that struggle. We have tried all types of schooling, all while the older 2 were beginning. Now, I wouldn’t change homeschooling a bit (grades 1, 4, 7, 9th), but you’re so right that it would be a BIG change to your older ones. The biggest change would be that they won’t know the kids in the homeschooling group as well as they do their current school friends. Our kids are very active socially, too, but it really does tend to be with just other homeschoolers, mostly because that’s who is free to get together at 11am or 1pm for an impromptu field trip.

  • Brunilda

    es algo muy real y sobre todo mas dificil para familias de habla hispana .Muy veraz el posted y real GRACIAS!!!