When I am passionate about something, you know it. Most of the time my friends and family will say, Calm down! as I’m talking because I get so worked up. I guess that’s the Type-A coming out in me. Anyway, I feel pretty passionately about what I’m about to say. I was a teacher for 6+ years before becoming a stay-at-home mom and I have some thoughts on this issue. And, if you start reading this and strongly disagree, I urge you to keep reading, you will be really surprised at my closing thoughts.
So, here we go. I’ve found through reading SEVERAL blogs lately that homeschooling is on the rise. Apparently, according to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are about 2.2 million home educated children in the US. This baffles me! To me, homeschooling seems so unnatural, but that’s probably because I’ve been in a classroom for years. I also don’t know who would actually want to do this? Why wouldn’t you just leave it to the professionals? I like the idea of my kids going off to school and interacting with other students and teachers! Plus, I need a break! To help you understand how I feel about this, in true teacher fashion, I’ll give you an example:
I guess I can explain my way of thinking on this subject as this: Something went wrong with my electricity in my house. Sure, I could look it up on YouTube and read books to educate myself on how to fix it, but why not just hire a professional who knows what they’re doing to fix it? Why on Earth would you try to take on something like this yourself? Is the end result the same? Maybe, or maybe not? So, yeah, that may have pissed you off because you think I’m comparing your kid to an electrical problem and you to a DIY Electrician, but that’s not really what I meant.
Let me explain…
So, I have a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education and know the content I am qualified to teach VERY well, just ask any of my previous students (this is where my old students should scroll to the bottom and leave a comment about how I was such an AMAZING teacher). Very few people actually completely major in the subject they’re teaching; it’s rare to find someone like me. For example, most people go to school knowing they want to become a teacher and major in Education. They take classes to hone in on the area they want to teach and major in some kind of Education program. Then, as long as they can pass the Praxis text, they are good to go and they can become a qualified teacher. Not me. I majored in Biology, actually I was Pre-Pharmacy for a while, and I ended up with a BA in Biology and a Concentration in Neuroscience. Whoa, right? I MUST be smart! Well, yes, but that major wasn’t really getting me anywhere, especially since it wasn’t ideal timing for me to jump into Pharmacy School (my dad just passed away) and so my “smartness” wasn’t getting me anywhere. So, the next best thing was to go to Graduate school and get my Masters in Education, so I could teach.
Still with me? I promise, this article really is about homeschooling! So anyway, I moved south and started teaching at a not-so-great school and then eventually got a job at a SUPER-great school! I was living the dream, right? No. The amount of work that was put on me as a science teacher (not to mention NEW teacher in general) was incredible. Not only did we have lesson plans due every day, but I taught 220 students! Yes, 220! And that meant that for every assignment I gave, I had to grade 220 of them! WTF! How is this even possible?
On top of that, teachers are faced with parent
criticisms meetings, committees, report cards, state testing, district testing, phone calls, discipline issues, differentiated lessons and children with special needs. We are asked to be innovative and we are evaluated using a very impossible difficult evaluation tool that is supposed to be objective, but is SO subjective! There were many days I left my classroom in tears or so angry that I could have exploded, but rarely was it because of the kids. It was the incredible workload on my plate and that I kept being asked to do more, more, more and to be better, better, better! Aside from actually being in front of the kids and interacting with them, there was never a time when it was really that “fun”. I had very little autonomy to allow my “craft” or “art” as an individual to shine through.
A robot could easily do the job of a public school teacher, on some accounts, because there are so many checklists and systems we are forced to follow…it has very little to do with how “good” a teacher is anymore, it’s more about how well can they “play the game”.
So, my biggest question, concern, rant, whatever this is about the homeschooling thing is not that it’s not a good choice or that I don’t agree with it, but rather, how the hell can a mom of 6 homeschool her kids with 6 different curriculums and do it just as well as someone who knows the ins-and-outs of education and is a master at the content they teach?
At first, my personal thought was that homeschooling can’t be done as effectively as in a classroom. Learning in a classroom setting not only teaches the kids the content, but it also teaches them empathy, social skills, and discipline. There are definitely some children who I have taught that would have done SO much better in a different setting, the classroom just wasn’t right for them, but for the most part, school is a great experience for kids. They get to play sports, learn classroom etiquette, develop a rapport with adults OTHER than their parents, and they get to make lifelong friendships.
Aside from my personal thoughts about homeschooling vs. public schooling, I’d also like to point the finger at the public education system.
Earlier I asked, “How the hell can a mom of 6 homeschool her kids with 6 different curriculums and do it just as well as someone who knows the ins-and-outs of education and is a master at the content they teach?” It wasn’t a jab at those moms and dad’s homeschooling their kids, but rather a serious “How the hell do you do this?” and “Why does it have to be so difficult to just teach one curriculum in a public setting?”
Ask a public school teacher, especially a middle or high school teacher, to teach more than two subjects and they’ll flip! Why, because it’s SO hard to manage just ONE! And then you’re going to ask us to completely learn a whole other subject area? NO F’ING WAY! It’s seemingly impossible to be knowledgeable enough or capable to teach and manage this many lessons, assignments, and students and it causes teachers to spread themselves too thin and get burnt out. Plus, needless to say, it’s not in their pay grade. But people do it, and they do it well, but rarely do you EVER seeing a public school secondary education teacher instructing more than two curriculums. And then we go back to the homeschooling parent, who is apparently managing and facilitating several different lessons per day, across several different curriculums, and you’re telling me this is as effective? I don’t know, that’s a hard pill for me to swallow.
So when you look at the data from homeschooled children from the National Home Education Research Institute you’ll (be shocked to) find the following:
- The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.)
- Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
- Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.
- Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.
- Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
- Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges
WHAAAT? It actually works? Assuming that the data is unbiased, this is insane to me! It ACTUALLY works. So, maybe this is the time I’m supposed to say, Yay, go homeschooling kids and parents!, but I’m not going to say that just yet. I will tip my hat and congratulate you homeschooling folks; I know it’s not easy, in fact, it’s incredibly hard! However, I think we need to use this information to reconsider how we go about public education…if something else is working, I don’t think we should argue it and put it down, we should take a look and see what they’re (homeschooling parents) doing and why what we’re (public schools) doing isn’t as effective.
So, I said my closing remarks may surprise you, didn’t I? Here they are:
I’m not going to take one side or the other, but I am going to point this out: I don’t think all the extra shit public school teachers are asked to do is helping. I think we need to get back to the basics and just let our teachers teach. Moms and Dads, who may not know shit about the content their teaching (no offense), are doing it successfully! They take the time to learn the content and help their kids in the best way they can and they are SUCCESSFUL, regardless of their economic status, demographics, or background…and we all know this is NOT the case for public schools.
I guess I just think teaching at a public school does not have to be as hard as we (the system) make it. I’ve said this during my whole career as an educator, Just let them teach! The data, the methodology, the evaluations, the paperwork, the meetings, and the initiatives aren’t helping – they’re taking away from planning time and hindering us from being able to create really impactful, effective lessons. If a mom of 6 can teach each of her children the same things I would (while in her pajamas) and do it just as effectively or better, then there is something REALLY wrong with our system. Don’t you agree?
And let me just finish by saying Thank you to every teacher out there, who is doing the best they can, because it’s SO hard. Aside from being a parent, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.
Keep working hard public, private and homeschool teachers. Keep putting in the time because it’s working and no matter what anyone tells you, you ARE making a difference.
I guess it doesn’t matter who is teaching what or where, what really matters is that the child is getting the best education possible. Right? That’s my two cents and I guess that’s also why I’m no longer a public school teacher (lol).
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Marjie @ Home Again Jiggety-jig!
We home schooled four of our five children. We would have done all five if I had known what I know now at the start. Both my husband and I are college educated and we knew from our experiences in public schools, that the education we received was not going to be good enough for our children.
We didn’t start formal education for the last three until they were eight. They learned a “bazillion” things way before they were handed a pencil or started phonics. Our main goal was to teach them responsibility and then to teach them how to read. Once you know how to read, the world is at your fingertips. Their vocabularies are HUGE. In college other students kept asking them to define the words they used in common conversation.
We chose curriculum that helped them learn how to learn. Saxon Math is one of those.
I never understood how having a five year old spend a lot of time around a bunch of five year old children would socialize them in a positive way. It taught my public schooled kindergarten child all kind of fun new ways to be naughty. It did not teach anything of social value for life. The high school years for our firstborn were horrendous with such fears about fitting in and having friends.
The peers that our last three children had were all ages and colors. They became fast friends with older people in our church family who shared life experiences and values that they couldn’t get from kids exactly their age. They made friends with those both younger and older than them,who have been the closest of friends and confidants, for much of their lives, we made sure that we knew those friends and their families well.
They also met new and different friends of all ages and all walks of life through an archery club they belonged to, and all found new lifelong friends in college (yes, they all went to college!) They are confident, creative (VERY CREATIVE!) and successful adults.
The trick to teaching them was to get them to teach themselves. As they continue on with life they continue to learn.
I absolutely loved reading this Sara, especially seeing as I have gone back and forth with the thought of going back to school to get my Masters in Education so I can teach. I also appreciate that you’re talking from your experience as a teacher. I am not a parent and therefore have never really formed an opinion on homeschooling, BUT I will say this .. High school (at least the one I went to) did not prepare me properly for college .. at all. Once I “outgrew” the high school curriculum, they shipped me off to dual enrollment classes off campus (and not a single credit went toward my degree when I got to college). I felt as though I played catch up for the first two and a half years of college learning how to properly take notes, study, catch up when I fell behind, study, ….did I say study?! You get the point!
High school, on the other hand, provided me with the cliche “best four years of my life” and lifelong friendships. Call me crazy, or one of the lucky few, but college was not where I had the time of my life, nor was it where I found friendships that will last forever. I found a few, yes, but the majority of my best friends today still come from good ole CPA. So to make my point, I can see where homeschooling enables children with the power and knowledge from the beginning on how to study, properly take notes and most importantly – use your resources and be lifelong self learners, things I wish I had learned at a young age rather than in my first 2+ years of college. Maybe its my specific high school that is at fault, or maybe it is “the system,” or maybe it was me, but I will say that the relationships and lifelong friendships that public schooling led me to made it all worth it – something that I’d never want my children to miss out on. So this may be a different take on the subject than what you posted, but I think it is all part of the decision on whether parents put their children in public schools vs. homeschooling. It may not make sense to some that I would choose the social benefits over the importance of education from K-12, but I graduated with my engineering degree and have worked as an Industrial Engineer since, so I’d like to believe I turned out just fine!
Jill – I really love the points you make here. I 100% agree with you that the social aspect of school is a HUGE component! I think pointing this out is really important. Out of the 1,000+ students I taught over the years, there were definitely a few who my heart went out to because somehow, I could just tell, it wasn’t the right environment for them. Seeing some students struggle over things that are beyond their control (difficulty mastering a subject, physical and mental disabilities, learning disorders, being bullied, etc.) would break my heart and I knew there had to be a better way. And I think the reason I’m so open to this discussion is that I’ve seen both sides so clearly and it really has opened my eyes.
I will also agree with you on the whole “not being prepared for college” thing. I was a “High Honor” student in high school and took all the advanced, “college prep” science classes. Then, I get to college and EVERYTHING I ever learned in high school was basically our “review” in my first week of my classes. It was really hard for me to adjust to the independent, critical thinking and study skills in my first year. So, when I used to teach, I would always keep this in the back of my mind and I would often teach and tutor (for FREE) about the study skills and critical thinking strategies that I had to teach myself while in college…and I was teaching MIDDLE SCHOOLERS! I wanted them to go to high school with the skills that I wished I had.
Anyway, I really appreciate your input on this conversation and loved what you had to say! Thank you.
Sara, just wanted to tell you that I LOVE this post. I think all too often on hot topics like this people feel so strongly on one side that it becomes “all or nothing”, and because of that mentality become blinded to real solutions that would actually help. You make excellent points – as well as recommendations. Great example of seeing the big picture!
Thank you @amacaluso29! You make a really good point – When hot topics come up, people like to choose one side or the other and judge before they fully understand. I mean, I kind of did that at first, I was completely shocked to learn that homeschooling was as effective as it is! Little did I know…right?!
Thanks for being a part of this conversation and I appreciate your input!
At first I was upset as I began reading your WIRL. But as I continued I became impressed. I get a lot of flack for homeschooling and sometimes its just hurtful.
I didn’t want to homeschool at first. But the Lord kept putting it right in front of me. Like a subconscious voice telling me. I pretended I didn’t see the signs for a while, then I started throwing fits to My heavenly Father. I don’t want to do this. NO!! I wanted that easy go drop your kid off ordeal. But thats was not what He wanted. I knew better than to disobey my Heavenly Father.
But now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Homeschooling has changed me. I think He wanted me to homeschool for me. I have these 4 little girls watching my every move. I want them to move and speak sweetly. So I have had to do so myself.
The girls learn everyday with everyday things in life.
One day a couple months ago, Ella saw me writhing in cursive. She asked me what are you writing? So I told her, and I bought a book on cursive. Now she almost always writes in cursive. She thinks its cool. Many “schooling” happens just this way. Its so flexible, so fluid. There is no timeline other than them taking the state end of year exams. This relaxing setting is what allows us to do it. The Hardest part is entertaining the younger ones while I’m teaching the older ones. I only “Teach” which is basically reading the teachers manual word for word for a several minutes. Then I leave them be to finish. As life changes so does the schedule. I sit with them at the table for all the meals everyday. They are learning table manners. We have homeschool communities that we are involved in and the socialization thing is not an issue at all.
on average this is what my day looks like
7 am I get up sometimes I work out. I need to do all the time! ha! I drink my tea, do my daily bible reading
as the girls trickle down stairs I let them play while I get out their breakfast. I get more done my keeping it simple. We do my homemade oatmeal bars (which I make Sunday evenings to last all week long). And a smoothie or fresh fruit, or greek yogurt with thawed frozen berries with honey and an oatmeal bar.
Then we get right into school which is about 10 am. I get Ella 2nd grade going and then I get Aubrey Kindergarten going. I homeschool in the kitchen which is where I am most of the day anyway, its near the laundry room and I’m doing dishes. Ava likes to color and cut paper and Everly usually plays with blocks.
I put out heavy snacks for lunch and we continue school during lunch time. I usually serve quesadillas and smoothies or pretzel sticks, fresh fruit and hard boiled eggs. They see school has fun usually.
By 1/2pm I put the baby down for a nap and I watch a movie and put the girls in their room for quiet time. This is mostly for my sanity.
3ish we clean up the house. Than go play.
The girls continue to play as I cook dinner.
We start bed/bath @ 6:30 and everyone is in bed at 8:30.
If i have the energy I clean up the rest of the kitchen and family room mess.
Friday we never school. Every other friday I do groceries. And the other every other friday we clean the house. like toilets and sheets and scrubbing floors.
This will change a lot through out the year, but its what we do now.
Homeschooling is beautiful. Sharing so many moments with them. Time is something I can never get make up for later.
Andrea – Thank you for your insight. It was very interesting to get an overview of your typical day. I’m knew I might upset some in the beginning of the WIRL, which is why I suggested you keep reading all the way though.
I appreciate you being part of this conversation and wish you and your family all the best. Only you know what’s best for your children, so keep working hard and giving them your all…they will appreciate it someday!
You make some valid points and observations Sara. I currently homeschool my 3 children and have been doing so for 7 years. My husband has a degree in Elementary Ed and my aunt is a retired school superintendent. I agree that teachers and administrators have a LOT of tasks forced upon them. It would be great if they were just allowed to teach, but unfortunately that is not the case. Homeschooling works for so many and is becoming more popular because it is not a one size fits all approach. Homeschooling allows parents to provide information and support in a matter and style that best suits them. Every child has a different learning style. There is plenty of new research that shows that the style of instruction/learning in elementary school is not optimal for boys. I firmly believe that if you teach a child to love learning and follow their interests, they will seek out information on their own. As a parent/homeschool teacher, it’s my job to not teach my child every subject, but to teach him/her how to learn and be self directed.
In your analogy, I see homeschooling more as that of a farmer. We can all grow our own food, because we all have the basic ability to do so. It comes down to a question of whether of not you have the tools or desire to farm. Parents are the first teacher a child has. I think that is often forgotten. We are always teaching our children, whether we realize it or not. When school age approaches, we all have to decide whether we have the tools needed (which are easily acquired) or the desire to continue.
I applaud public and private school teachers. They have so many demands placed upon them. It’s not a career I would choose for myself. As for me and my family, we’ve chosen homeschooling. Public school just wasn’t for us. My children are self directed learners and love what they learn. Like many homeschoolers, they are scoring high on standardized tests and are thrilling.
Nicky – I really appreciate and respect your response. I am so interested to hear from the homeschooling community because I’ve been reading so much about it lately. I am open minded about education, so I understand everything you’re saying and how choosing to homeschool your children was the right choice for you. Personally, I don’t think it’s for us, but when my son get’s to school age, I will be able to answer that question more confidently.
I also really love your analogy to the farmer, that is probably a much better way of looking at it. I was simply trying to express my original thoughts on homeschooling and I hope you know that I was making a jab at anyone chooses this route.
Thank you for being a part of this conversation. I think it’s so important to shed light on controversial issues so that people can be as educated as possible before jumping on any bandwagon. I really appreciate your input!
Sara, I thought you did an excellent job at presenting your background and a variety of points/information regarding homeschooling. I never thought I’d homeschool my children either. It wasn’t until my oldest was in Kindergarten, that I made the choice after speaking to many people, several of whom were teachers. In years past, there was such a stigma about homeschooling. I think that is lifting because of the diversity of who homeschools and the results many of them are achieving. Bringing up this issue opens up a discussion. Thanks for doing that.