8 Reasons to Homeschool
I was pregnant with my first child in 1988, and I had never heard of homeschooling. One day when I was in my 9th month of pregnancy and in my usual spot lying on the couch, watching TV, and feeling like a beached whale, I was watching the precursor to Oprah, which was a popular talk show hosted by Phil Donahue. On that particular day, he had on the Colfax family from Northern California who had successfully homeschooled their four boys, two of whom were their own biological children, and the other two of whom were adopted and of different races. Clearly there was not a purely genetic edge with this family; they were doing something really interesting and, at that time, cutting edge. At the time of the show, their oldest three had gone on to Harvard on full-ride scholarships, with one becoming a doctor and the other two on their way to becoming lawyers. The fourth was interested in becoming a chef, so he was on a different path.
1. Interest-led learning
The Colfax family had thrown the rule book in the trash and built their children's education around real life experiences and classic books (you can read their story here). They were building a house in a rural area that didn't have water, sewer or electricity running to the lot, so they had to figure out how to do that. The parents didn't just hire that out to other people; they had their kids help figure out how to do everything and help as much as appropriate. They opted to not own a TV, and in a small town with few activities, amusements were of their own making. They learned an enormous amount of math and engineering as well as improving their reading skills while figuring out how to build their house. When that was done, they learned more through other projects like planting a garden and raising animals.
In my own homeschool, I decided to do some structured things (like math), but I left a lot of space for interest-led learning. When my children were little and we were first starting out, I seeded the atmosphere with lots of great books on my coffee table that we would read aloud from for a couple of hours every morning. As they got older, their interests led them to mastering things such as origami, guitar, vocal harmonies, photography, computer programming, rebuilding engines, designing clothing, drawing, painting, and more. The fact that we had free time available in the day made it possible to do a deep dive into each of these things in the pursuit of mastery.
One of my favorite parts of homeschooling; reading aloud. It's so much fun to share great books together!
The Colfaxes didn't do structured 9am-3pm schooling, and yet they earned full-ride scholarships to Harvard! I was so intrigued by this, as I had many memories of staring out the window bored out of my mind while in certain years of my schooling. If I could help my kids avoid that, I was all in!
The more children I had, the more I realized just how unique and different each one is. They each have their own combination of personality traits, their own learning styles, their own natural strengths and weaknesses, and their own unique mission in life. It became quite clear that it was my job to help them find and fulfill their potentials. The flexibility of homeschooling allows just that. There is time to go off on tangents to pursue new interests, or do a spontaneous field trip, or celebrate the first warm day by going to the park, or whatever strikes your fancy!
There is also the flexibility to schedule doctor and dentist appointments in the morning when it's less crowded.
Taking some time out to play on the beach when we lived in Malibu
3. Individual Pacing
The ability to set the pace to the child's needs is possibly the #1 benefit to homeschooling. In a classroom, it's really difficult to account for 20 or 30 different learning paces, and all too often, the gifted kids are bored while the kids who are learning at a slower pace fall through the cracks and get further and further behind. With homeschooling, you can set the pace to match your child's learning ability. If they are gifted, you can zoom ahead as fast as they can handle it. If they are avid readers, you can practically live at the library and explore every topic under the sun. Conversely, if your child is dyslexic or having trouble understanding math or just isn't quite ready to learn to read, you can adjust the pace to whatever they need and/or seek out help when necessary. No one needs to be left behind.
I had some early readers (3 and 4 years old), and I had some late readers (7 and 8 years old). I didn't push any of them along; I let them set the pace, and now they all read quite well. Some of my children grasped math and spelling with ease, while others couldn't spell to save their lives, and others really struggled with understanding math concepts. So with the strugglers, I have had to use more intense spelling instruction and for math, I found it helpful to use manipulatives (wooden blocks, rods, fraction tiles, etc). Even if you never used any of these items in your own learning, they all come with directions, and you may be surprised at how easy it is to explain a math concept using something you can touch and see concretely. I was very good at solving equations as a child, but I didn't really fully understand what some algebra concepts actually meant until I started teaching them to my own children using blocks. All of a sudden it all made sense!
4. Take Back Your Evenings and Lose the Stressful Mornings
This was a big one for me. My husband worked long hours every day, and I wanted my kids to have fun daddy time in the evenings instead of making every night about the pressure of having to help multiple kids with homework, get them to bed early, and then get everyone up early and make all those lunches and run them to multiple schools with different start and finish times, not to mention all the volunteer hours that I would be expected to do at each school. Whew! I was exhausted just thinking about it.