We’re a misunderstood bunch, or so it seems. Here’s a list of my Top 10 Myths about Homeschool Parents. I hope it’s enjoyable for those on both sides of the coin.
- We look down on non-homeschooling parents.
There seems to be an assumption that homeschooling parents believe all parents should educate their children at home. I see it in the eyes of another parent when they ask which local school my child attends, and I sheepishly admit that we home educate. It’s like I’ve hurt the other parent’s feelings, and a flood of mommy (or daddy) guilt washes over them, which prompts one of a couple typical responses: indignation (“I would never want to do that in a million years.”) or remorse (“I wish I could do that.”)
The truth is that we homeschool parents plainly see the need for public school. The children in public (and private) schools are my children’s peers, and one day they will inherit our grown up world. Believe me when I say I want the very best for them all.
We also respect your decision to send your child to school for their daytime education. Really, all parents are home educators. Children learn every waking hour, and teaching them how to enjoy leisure time is just as important as teaching them their lessons. Plus, we know at-school students come home with homework and school projects to complete. We see that you are working just as hard at this parenting thing as we are. We’re on the same team.
- We despise public school teachers.
Homeschooling parents give a variety of reasons why they educate their children at home (religious, social, economic, etc.), but I think what most of it boils down to is control. So, it may be true that we disagree with the education philosophy of modern public school and want to choose our child’s curriculum, but we also know that a large part of education is a child’s relationship with his or her teacher and that most of the people who enter the teaching profession do so because they care deeply about children.
We, in fact, consider ourselves “teachers,” and can relate to most of the teacher memes out there. Some of us even moonlight as classroom teachers in an education co-operative or as adjunct college faculty members. In fact, a large percentage of homeschool teachers I know were at one time full time classroom teachers, and they only left that profession in order to teach at home. Some will even return to the classroom after their last child matriculates.
- My spouse makes a lot of money.
Living on one income today is very countercultural. There are so many things on which to spend money that an abled bodied adult without gainful employment seems like, well, a waste. But, this lifestyle is achievable for even the most meager of means.
My family – and most homeschoolers I know – simply spends less money than our double-income counterparts. We rarely go out to eat, buy convenience foods, or hire a babysitter – but we also have more time to cook and trade off babysitting favors with other families. We make time for family field trips, which can often be more rewarding than a date night that excludes the kids.
We don’t own a lot of name brand clothing, we’ve never owned a new car, and we live in a modest house. Sometimes living in a house with one bathroom and four other people can be a drag, but most of the time I’m just thankful for only one bathroom to clean. Over the years, our extended family has come to realize that the best gift they can give our family is gift cards. Restaurants, activities, Amazon.com: Gift cards go a long way towards helping us stretch our budget.
Since my husband is the main income earner and I’m the main educator in our family, I haven’t worked for pay in a full-time capacity since our oldest son was born; however, I have maintained a part time work-from-home job pretty steadily. My husband also picks up extra hours at work, so it’s fair to say we wish we had more money at our disposal. But, instead of a new car, we’d probably just go on more elaborate field trips and buy more books. And I would totally hire a monthly maid service!
- I don’t want my child to be your child’s friend.
I fully admit that I’m highly selective about with whom my kids spend copious amounts of time. That’s because I know the power of peer pressure. So, although I prefer my kids to hang out regularly with kids whose parents share my worldview, I’m more than willing to believe that is you and your child.
Just as our lifestyle is counter-cultural, some of our family’s beliefs are too. We believe children should be encouraged to play a lot well into their teen years. We’re talking hours and hours of time outdoors discovering nature, stretching their lungs, pumping their blood, and getting dirty. We have cultivated several friendships with adventurous families and belong to a weekly hiking group full of kids of all ages.
Although our kids are just as drawn to video games, tablets, films, etc. as any other kid, we limit their exposure to it – not necessarily out of prudishness, but because it interferes with the serious business of play. We also read a lot of books, play with toys, and play board games and card games. Our kids have written and illustrated dozens of “books” and painted dozens of pictures, and they love to talk the ear off of any available person – man, woman, or child.
- We are naturally patient people.
I think the act of teaching helps anyone learn patience, but I don’t think educators (at home or in the classroom) necessarily start out that way. I think we are drawn to education because we find it rewarding in spite of whatever behavior requires our patience.
Being a stay at home parent is challenging because it’s impossible to separate your professional and private life. However, our time at home is way different than the few waking hours at home a working parent experiences. It’s a different kind of “work,” and the wise at-home parent figures out how to take breaks so that he or she doesn’t have to rely solely on the virtue of patience.
There are times throughout the day when I request for my children give me space. During the baby years this might be during a nap or a short stint in a play pen. With my elementary age kids, I typically take time to sit and read a book or listen to a podcast while folding laundry. As my kids become older, I anticipate trusting them to supervise themselves, but in the meantime when my spouse is home I sometimes go on a walk by myself or grocery shop in peace. I also attend a monthly book club with my adult friends, sans kids.
- We are all uber-religious.
Not all homeschoolers are religious. Just like people of other professions, we come in all shapes and sizes and with a myriad of beliefs. It’s true that our nation’s public school system is increasingly less interested in teaching morality from the Christian perspective, and many parents (homeschool or not) have strong feelings about this. Perhaps this has been the tipping point that has encouraged some parents to take the plunge into homeschool, but I don’t think a person could build and sustain a homeschool around “things I don’t like.”
Most home educators I know simply want to choose what their children learn and how they learn it. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and the way the U.S. public school is doing it is a fairly new method. Many homeschool parents are drawn to a more traditional course of study, modified, of course, for the home environment. We’re seeing a huge resurgence of education methods that are in line with Classical education, which is steeped in an appreciation for the liberal arts from a Christian perspective.
- We are too lazy to take our kids to school.
Okay, I admit that the last thing I want to do at 6, 7, or 8 o’clock in the morning is have my child dressed, fed, and delivered to a public location five days a week. That said, I am more than willing to lesson plan, teach multiple children for hours, be the lunch lady, conduct a field trip, be the janitor, and make dinner five days a week. So, I don’t think it’s fair to call me lazy. I think it’s fairer to say that I have chosen a different lifestyle for my family.
- We’re unskilled amateurs.
Not very often, but occasionally I have sensed a rebuff from a “professional teacher” about my choice to homeschool. More often I’ve heard doubts from my own family or friends about my ability to homeschool through high school (which is the plan, but could change someday).
Here’s the deal about the skill of teaching: You learn it as you go. You can earn a degree in childhood education or child psychology, and that only proves that you can educate theoretical children. It’s student teaching and actual time in the classroom that makes a person a professional classroom teacher.
Home educating is more like being a tutor than a classroom teacher. I let the book do the teaching and be the expert. I don’t need to deliver a lecture on a subject as if I’m the authority. Instead, I come along side my students as a co-learner and a guide. My enthusiasm for what they are learning is worth way more than my enforcement (although there are times when I have to be the enforcer: “This is what is required of you, so get to it.”).
And, have no doubt that I’m enthusiastic. The curriculum I set before my children has been well researched. When homeschool parents get together over coffee, you know what we talk about? We talk about curriculum ad nauseam.
I admit it would be difficult for a very uneducated parent to be the primary home educator. But, assuming a person has finished high school, I see no reason why they are not qualified to teach through high school. If a student surpasses his or her parent in a particular subject (math comes to mind), there are always tutors or education co-ops on which to rely.
- We expect our children to become geniuses.
I believe an individualized education is a great gift to give your student. Many homeschool students work on multiple grade levels based on their individual abilities. This means a third grade boy might be doing math on a fifth grade level, spelling on a third grade level, and handwriting on a second grade level all while reading at an eighth grade level. This is not a manipulation or a forced performance. This is simply a child achieving his potential, which is certainly pleasing to the parents and holds the interest of the student.
I think today there is a lot of pressure for kids to be the best at something, whether that is sports, academics, music, or something else. I have nothing against a healthy and fair competition. I think many kids crave it, and striving for a personal best can help a child discover his or her capabilities. The problem of undue pressure usually stems from parents and their egos, and since the job of a homeschool parent is centered on his or her own child, perhaps that temptation is greater. Or not. Perhaps a close relationship with your own child (no matter if you homeschool or not) will help you know your child well enough that you don’t treat him or her like a contestant.
I guess what I’m saying is, pressuring our kids into greatness (or a mental breakdown) is a temptation all parents face. But I understand how I.Q. scores work. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and you can’t study your way to genius.
- Everyone we encounter fully supports our decision to home educate.
When my kids are behaving, random strangers will observe that they “must be homeschooled” and I’m “doing a great job.” When my kids misbehave in public, I’m more likely to get a judgmental look than an actual comment from strangers.
It’s our extended family members who are more likely to question my intentions and quiz my kids on how to add sums in their head or spell or read or you name it. I don’t take offense at this, though, because I perceive this to be them taking interest in us and what we’re doing. Maybe one day they are asking me how long until I go back to work full time, and the next day they are buying books for school on my Amazon wish list and having them sent to my front door.
I don’t expect everyone to “support” our choice to home educate. After all, my brother didn’t consult me before he took a job at AT&T or some nonsense like that. It’s enough for me that they just act normal around us. We’re actually just regular people.
Okay, there’s 10 myths busted.
Until next week (or so).
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (audio book)
- The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (Family read aloud)
Moderately challenging books:
- Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
- Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor (Reading along with CiRCE’s Close Reads podcast)
- Mind to Mind: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education by Karen Glass
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in conjunction with Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study (for my CM study group)