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:
- most preteens I know aren’t as eager as she is to play with a toddler sibling
- she’s an incredibly social girl and has many friends at school
- 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.