why i love homeschooling (part 2)

In case you missed it, you may want to read the beginning of this three-part blog, “Why I Love Homeschooling (Part 1)”.

This past year, I witnessed firsthand the chaos of my sister’s school year. She has three school-aged children. Each day in their household was a flurry of dragging everyone out of bed at 6:30 and herding them through morning prep in order to get out the door and dropped off firmly before the 7:30 bell. (The bus came by at 6:45, which my sister thought was just too early.) At the end of the day, her kids bounced off the bus at 3:00 full of news, and she juggled listening to the trials and triumphs of each. Each girl needed help with homework and had assigned reading to complete. Once all the necessities were scheduled into the evening, there were only two hours of free time remaining each day. At the beginning of the year, each of the girls was involved in one weekly extracurricular activity. When the first semester of activities ended, my sister heaved a sigh of relief that only one girl wanted to be involved in anything the following semester. Life simply seemed too harried if their limited free time was spent dashing around town ferrying girls to and from activities.

At home, we have an abundance of time for playing.

At home, we have an abundance of time for playing.

This past year, I homeschooled. I had two children completing schoolwork each day. They woke up whenever their bodies were ready—usually around 7:00—and once everyone was stirring, I gathered them for a leisurely breakfast. Since they have always been so eager to play first thing in the morning, I let them. After about two hours of hard-core playing, they were ready to have a snack and settle down for work. Unlike the public school, which runs for seven hours a day and involves an hour of homework each night, we completed a full complement of courses in about two hours a day, four days a week. (And we made it through about two levels of the three Rs!) Each of my kids spent one morning a week in their own class at Community Bible Study, and the older two kids were involved in soccer (separate teams) both in the fall and spring. In the spring semester, Peatie also participated in a choir which met weekly. This fall each of the older kids will be enrolled in two weekly activities (separate, so they have time away from each other) besides our attendance at Bible Study each week. Even with five days of toting kids to and fro (six counting Saturday games—or seven counting Sunday School and church), we still have epic amounts of time for playing around the house, biking, exploring local parks, and generating tons of crafts.

Over the course of this past school year, I listened to my sister bemoan her kids’ schooling experience. The kindergarten teacher’s tempestuous personality left the class unsure of her expectations from one moment to the next. While the first grader had a pleasant teacher and an amiable class, the third-grader’s teacher cried frequently, spent one day a week allowing the kids to do whatever they wanted, taught science only occasionally as a reward for good behavior, and told the students that they needn’t worry about spelling and accurate math wasn’t terribly important. At the end of the year, my sister was relieved to have her kindergartener and third-grader moving on; she felt her third-grader had actually lost ground academically over the course of the year.

This past year, I homeschooled. My kids knew their teacher well and knew exactly what was expected of them. They knew what would particularly grate on me in my grumpier moods—and I also gave them permission to politely let me know if I was overly prickly. (I was surprised at how delighted they were by this permission and how carefully and rarely they executed their pleas for less grump.) There is no question in my kids’ minds as to whether learning is important. They know that both of their parents value their intellectual development, and they know that we expect their best effort.

In fact, because we value our children’s development so highly, we pour ourselves into considering the pieces that will help our children’s growth. As parents, we have the opportunity to use our children’s education to instill in them the values we feel are most important. We don’t just want rote memorization—though that can be helpful in some instances—we want a passion for learning and the skills to execute it. We want creative thinking and persistent problem-solving. We want collaboration and compassion. Because of this, I can devote time to critical thinking and computer programming games, encourage my children to try hard things and make mistakes, challenge them to devise their own solutions and work together to solve problems both during work and play, share my delight for Greek and Latin roots as a way to better understand our language, get the whole family involved in service projects, let them putter on the computer to develop their own sense of how it works and how to use it to meet their ends.

But that’s still not all I love about homeschooling!  Part 3–my final installment–is coming your way!