My reasons have changed from all those years ago when I first cracked open “The Well-Trained Mind” and read with eager naivety. Then, I really did believe I could do it better than public schools. After all, I had been there. I had been a teacher myself and I knew the limitations of a classroom with many students. How one teacher could never meet the needs, or even know the needs of all of her students, better than I could meet the educational needs of my own child.
After adding three more children to my own classroom, my attention is just as torn from one crises to the next as I answer a math question one minute and struggle to understand why making a noun plural is suddenly causing problems on day three of the same work, as any public school teacher in a classroom full of 3rd graders.
I no longer believe homeschooling provides a better education than public schools. I believe it can, in certain situations with certain parents and certain students, but across the board this is not true. And it is definitely not true in my home. And, I’ve found, comparing myself and my children to kids in public school only makes me feel like a failure.
That feeling of failure can make me question if I should even continue homeschooling. Wouldn’t it be nice to send my kids off for hours during the day and be able to get my house clean, work on my business or do whatever I wanted to do each day? There has to be a reason to keep doing this. A reason I believe out-weighs all the sacrifice.
If not for a superior education why even bother? What are my reasons for keeping on?
During these nine years of homeschooling there are three things that have made me hold fast to this choice, even when I felt like giving up. And it’s not the extra laundry, extra meals or extra messes that are made when your children are home every day all day.
1. Relationships. It is my fervent hope and prayer that my children will have deep and lasting relationships with each other. Sending them off every day away from each other where their relationships with peers becomes stronger than their relationship with each other does not seem like the best method for creating that bond. I know it can happen. I know many people who went to public school and grew up close to their siblings. But there are so many things I see in my children that I don’t see in other families.
I see them helping each other, watching out for each other, playing with each other, and enjoying each other’s company.
I also want mine and my husband’s relationship with our children to always be close. I want them to respect our opinion above their peers. I want them to talk to us about problems, and about nothing at all. I want them to enjoy spending time with us.
I’ve talked to friends who have children who have gone to public school and children they have homeschooled, and they tell me there is a difference in the relationships. I have to believe that homeschooling makes a difference in family relationships.
2. Time. I have to admit that this is one of the main things I come back to every single time I want to quit. A homeschoolers’ time is not dictated by the government’s school schedule. We plan our own days, our own years and we have the freedom to lay on the couch all day and read a book or play outside on a really nice day.
I don’t think I’ll ever look back and regret the amount of time I got to spend with my kids or the amount of time they got to spend with each other.
No, we don’t always use our time wisely. Some of it is spent watching television, some is spent arguing, and far too often we sleep late, but it’s ours to choose what we do with it each day.
3. Play. It sounds silly to say that one of the reasons I homeschool is so that my children can play, but I truly believe that because we homeschool they have had far more opportunity to use their imagination, extend their playing years and learn how to play with younger children as a result.
My 13 and 11 year old aren’t ashamed to dress up and make mud pies. They will even include the littles (when coerced) and invent ways they can play too. It has always been my strong believe that the limited time of childhood should be protected as long as possible, shielded from adult situations (not like death or taxes, but like boyfriend and girlfriend, dating and such).
As my big girls are getting older, some of the ways they used to play are changing. Instead of pretending to be mothers to baby dolls, they spend afternoons creating. One likes to sew, the other likes to paint. I love to see them at the same table, deep into their separate art interests.
At the same time my son is setting up army men on the front porch steps, action taking place quietly in his mind. Meanwhile my toddler is bringing handfuls of dirt to feed her spring horse.
They play separate and together, and they do it often.
I really believe that through the daily art of play will spring their life’s work. And so I give them time to play and it brings me great joy to see it happen.
Time, relationships and play, not education, are the reasons I homeschool. Why do you?