Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Homeschool or School at Home?

Thirteen years ago, when I began teaching my children at home, I was determined to do it right. A room in our home was set aside as a classroom. I put alphabet strips above the blackboard and furnished it with school-style desks. We started our school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and the children sat stiffly in their desks as I read to them. A timer reminded us when it was time for recess.

At the end of two weeks, I was exhausted and seriously reconsidering the decision to homeschool. Everything took twice as long as I had planned. Because this was a home, lessons were constantly being interrupted by the telephone or the doorbell, the baby crying or the dog needing let out. I was saddened by the way my children dashed out the door at recess time and frustrated with the amount of time required to get them back on task when recess was over.

Public school was very tempting. I could avoid criticism, save money, and have a lot more time to myself, simply by sending my children to school. Thinking along these lines led me to consider why I chose to homeschool my children in the first place. Reluctantly, I admitted to myself that all of my reasons boiled down to one basic belief. I thought I could do a better job than the public schools! It might sound arrogant when put in those words, but the belief that "I can do better" is what's behind most families' decision to homeschool, whether they are concerned about academics, spiritual training, health aspects, or social influences.

Understanding my motivation freed me to change the way I thought about school. If I really thought I could do better, then why was I trying to copy the public schools? I decided to trust my instincts and make some drastic changes. To be honest, our home classroom was designed as a showpiece for others, to fend off criticism from anti-homeschooling friends and relatives. It wasn't practical for teaching three childen at three different grade levels, while balancing a baby on my hip. I realized that homeschool didn't have to look like school at home.

One of my teacher's manuals included a picture of a mother, reading to her children, who were crowded around her on the sofa. I liked that picture, because my children often crowded around me in the same way when I read their bedtime stories. I wished they showed such interest in the school books we read together! THAT'S what I wanted our homeschool to be like!

It took a while to deprogram my public school attitude. I was encouraged, because each change I made seemed to result in less stress and more learning taking place. These days, the classroom has been repurposed as yet another child's bedroom. We start our day in our pajamas, drinking hot cocoa in the living room and enjoying a good book together. I'm convinced that the hour I spend reading to my children each morning has been the source of most of their retained knowledge. Kids just seem to absorb material that's presented in story form, especially when it's NOT accompanied by a test.

We are not unschoolers. We've merely incorporated school into the rest of our lives, instead of setting aside certain times and places when learning is required. We practice spelling words while loading the dishwasher. We recite our times tables while traveling. One child does his computer lessons while a younger sister looks on, oblivious to the fact that she's learning, too! The kids do their school work in the kitchen, in their rooms, or outside under a tree. Education thrives in a relaxed, nonthreatening environment, and I have a lot more free time!

1 comment:

  1. Great point. There really isn't much sense in home schooling if all we are doing is emulating the public schools. Home schooling is fundimentally different than traditional schooling.


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