Monday, September 17, 2018

Why We Homeschool, Updated Reasons

This week is the first week of our full on term time schedule. We attended our first home ed group last Wednesday and started our book work late last week, but extracurricular activities didn't begin until today. Now we'll add ballet, violin, and theatre classes into the mix. This week starts the real deal of what our school year will look like. It feels...busy. But it's manageable. And I thought this would be a good time to write a series of posts about homeschooling. We've been doing it now for six years, and I'd love to say that I'm an old pro, but that's not true. We are constantly adjusting things and working to make home education the best possible experience we can for our kids.

I wrote a post three years ago about why we homeschool, but as our methods have changed and grown along with our children, so have our reasons. Some of these are the same ones we had from the beginning, but others have emerged as we have gone along. Here are our current reasons that we keep the responsibility for our kids' education on our own shoulders.

1. Customized Education - This was always a good reason to homeschool, but it wasn't my top reason initially. It was firmly in the number two slot. Now it's the primary reason I see for continuing to do this. My kids can work at their own pace, in the way that works best for them. I can address both their strengths and weaknesses. They do not look at others and see themselves as ahead or behind. They progress as they are developmentally ready to do so. Within our curriculum, if we discover something that piques their interest, we can pause what we are doing to explore it further. Children are most motivated to learn things that interest them, and I can weave a lot of learning into the pursuit of their interests.

2. Low(er) Stress - Many people would argue that children need to experience stress in order to know how to handle it, but I think that's bonkers. I do push my kids to do their best, but I have no interest in introducing stressful situations where they are unnecessary. There is no high stakes testing here. In fact, my kids don't take tests at all, and I don't mark their work in the traditional way. They do written work, and I go over it with them after they are done, and they correct what needs to be corrected. I don't need to test them because I am working one on one with them daily, so I always know how they are progressing. Additionally, I make sure that I balance what is going on outside our education time so they do not become overwhelmed. Here in the UK, there is a mental health crisis among children. While I can't guard my children from every mental health difficulty - some of this is beyond anyone's control - I can give them a life that is as peaceful as possible, in which additional stressors are not introduced with good cause.

3. Flexibility - This used to be our number one reason for homeschooling. It is still important, and it could be said that numbers one and two are partly affected by this ability to have flexibility in our lives. In some ways, our lives are less flexible due to both kids taking two extracurricular classes each, but we are still able to travel during term time, and we can visit family that is far away when we choose. I can choose to have them miss some of their extracurricular activities in favor of something more important. And we can structure our days as we choose. We seem to keep to the same workable daily and weekly routine, but we can change it up when we need to or even take a day off if we are all feeling burned out. But beyond that, we have flexibility with how our children progress through their education. They are never ahead or behind. If it takes a shorter time or a longer time for them to be ready to progress to the next level of education, or into a career, then that's okay. There is no one dictating when they need to be done with this phase of their learning.

4. Family Togetherness - We highly value our family time. At this stage of life, if the kids were in school, it would be really difficult to spend time together as a family daily, and this is a priority for us. Because we can keep a slightly later schedule than most due to not needing our kids to be up by a certain time in the morning, we have time every evening to be together. Most evenings we have dinner together. And in addition to time as a family of four, my kids also have a lot of time with each other. I have noted that when we are busy with activities for which they each go their own way, they have a harder time getting along at home. But when we have a normal homeschool week, they have time to work through their squabbles and figure out how to do things together that they both enjoy. With a five year age gap, this can be a challenge sometimes, but they continue to love to spend time together, even though their personalities and interests often diverge.

5. We Like It - Honestly, maybe this is the most important reason to do it. We like it. It's working. We've built up an amazing group of fellow home educating friends and are well connected with groups that organize activities so we can have the same type of museum visits and other field trips that kids in school can have. And we can do our own field trips, whenever we feel like it! My kids like the slow start in the mornings and how we can take time for them to pursue their passions. (Z is currently writing on three novels, for instance.) While I will admit that some days it feels like drudgery, most days I fully recognize what a privilege it is to pursue this together, and I wouldn't want things any other way. We have always said that we will continue to do this for as long as it is working for us. I feel pretty lucky that, right now at least, it is.

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