I don’t believe in homeschooling for my children. That’s not to say that I don’t believe it is appropriate for other people’s children, but it isn’t right for mine. Does my child advance academically when I have one-on-one time? Yes! Homeschooling has been beneficial in several ways. I’m finally teaching my son to slow down and take care in his writing. I am able to give him individualized attention. Yet there is some things that are missing for me, and I feel a great sense of loss that he is going to be missing three months of his kindergarten year in a public school. I’ll admit that I am mourning this loss for him.
Shared Experience with Same-Age Peers
I am not a person who believes in worksheets. I constantly think about how we can learn from nature and the world without traditional assignments. And we do these lessons together. Yet in the early primary years, I see the value of some worksheet-like/activity book assignments. Students are able to practice writing and learn skills that help them with more advanced work. I am able to pull out a journal and ask my son to write because I know that he has the basic concepts of writing down. We are completing the worksheets that his (amazing) teacher has provided, and they are helping him. But there is something lost in the experience when it is just him and me (and his brothers). He isn’t able to sit beside his peers who he has grown to love and watch them complete the work, too. Instead, he sits at our kitchen table and dutifully completes the work next to me. Yet he lacks the life that he has that I’ve seen when I volunteer in the classroom. He isn’t beside his friends—in it together.
I can put my son with his brother and ask them to complete a group mission/project, yet it is his brother. There is a certain dynamic between brothers that is not the same as putting my son with a peer he doesn’t know well. He isn’t able to negotiate group roles in the same way that he would with a peer of the same age and who is less familiar. He isn’t about to talk to someone at his age and ability level who can work towards a solution. Instead, my choices are: a) allow him to work independently with minimal assistance to build up his ability/confidence (this is not group work, though), b) work with him and try to be similar to a peer (disingenuous, and he knows it), c) allow him to work with his brother (different age and dynamic as a peer). We’ve been participating in a virtual book club which captures this need in some ways, but there is something that is lost that just can’t quite be replicated in the homeschooling experience.
Varied Work and Varied Passions
There are things that I value in education. For instance, I love to have students make predictions when they read. I feel that this builds their capacity to engage in creative writing of their own. Another first grade teacher might have students make predictions but might value a different skill that is entirely different. In another example, I’ve worked hard with my son to learn place value and addition. His kindergarten teacher has been teaching the kids to count by 2s, 5s, 7s, etc. This is such a great skill that will help them with multiplication, yet I never thought too hard about how often I should be doing it with him until he came home with a lot of work that engaged in this concept. I love the fact that my son will have dozens of different teachers who all value different things. Instead of him learning what I, his mom (who happens to be an educator) value, he will get a smattering of values. He might learn from a teacher’s love of art history or engage in a critical reading of body image or learn to create advertisements or learn euphemisms. And as long as the teacher brings passion and energy to the teaching of the material (as teachers do), I am thrilled that he will learn from so many others and not just me.
The Magic of a Classroom
I’ve visited over a hundred different classrooms as a teacher educator. Every classroom has been different, and they’ve all had a touch of magic specific to that teacher. The ways in which kids move around a room independently of their parents and develop an identity outside of their families—that just can’t be matched in another setting. I can bring my son to his sports activities, art class, etc. and drop him off and can operate in that space for an hour or so. Yet there is nothing like a sustained space in which my son can grow in ways independent of me. The buzz of a school just invigorates me, and I hope that it will do the same for my child.
Mom as Teacher
I cannot count how many times that a parent told me, as the English teacher, “My son would never have done that for me.” I feel that there is value to having a sustained figure who is not me who teaches my son. I can do everything in my power to support him in that work at home, yet I have to be honest with myself that my child will learn best from others.
I don’t care how many dozens of activities that my son did before he entered kindergarten. There was nothing quite the same as the lessons he’s learned socially in this first year of elementary school. He’s learned what it means not to be picked for something. He’s learned what it means to have friends choose others for partners. He’s learned the excitement of being chosen by a child to eat lunch with their parents. He’s learned to negotiate relationships with children who are mean or cruel. Without school and being around the same kids in a classroom for long periods of time, I don’t know if he would gain this. He has neighbors that he plays with daily, yet something is different in the 8-hour day of school.
Do I think homeschooling is bad for all kids? Absolutely not. I know some parents who homeschool will read this post and disagree with me, and that is okay! That is why we all can choose to educate our children. There is value in homeschooling—I can individualize instruction and we can move through work at his speed. I am a person who has a lot of opinions as a teacher educator, and I certainly have ideas of how I’d like my son to learn and be taught (and I am aware that he will not always have a teacher who matches those ideals). Yet the benefits of homeschooling simply don’t outweigh the loss that I feel my son experiences when he is not in a public school classroom.