TPJ 64: The Question You Should be Asking Yourself about Homeschooling
When it comes to making a choice between homeschooling and sending your child to school, I believe many people are asking the wrong questions.
Because sending kids to school is often the default option, I’m often asked, “Why do you homeschool?”
But I think there is one question that we should be asking instead.
Home Education Program Disclaimer
Home education programs come in many forms (homeschooling, unschooling, Worldschooling, quarantine schooling, etc.)
Wherever you fall on that spectrum, this is not about judging you or making your choice wrong.
Instead of giving you some dogmatic idea of how we should educate children, I want to hold space for the wide range of right ways to do so.
I also recognize that many of you live in certain countries where it’s illegal to homeschool, and this is not an option for you.
For those of you who live in a country where you are given the option to homeschool, I want to offer some questions that I think are really helpful when considering home education.
The Opportunity of Quarantine Homeschooling
Right now, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves some real questions about homeschooling. As we evolve from the lockdown and consider the next iteration of our lives, this will be a perfect time to think about what are we seeking from these educational institutions.
When you really think about what your school provides (or doesn’t provide), home education may seem not as out-of-reach as you once thought.
[05:19] Why do I homeschool?
[08:00] Schools are a service, and we can decide if that service is right for us.
[08:50] Service 1: Babysitting
[09:29] Service 2: Education
[12:08] Service 3: Socialization & community
[14:11] With how much is at stake, the real question should be “why send your child to school?”
[16:06] You don’t have to be a trained educator to homeschool.
[18:01] There are other options if babysitting is the main reason you send your kids to school.
[20:00] Many schools push rote memorization, which isn’t effective.
[20:32] We can help our kids develop skills they might otherwise learn in school.
[21:01] There are ways to help homeschoolers make friends and build community with others.
[22:41] Schools often use extrinsic motivation, which isn’t effective.
[23:44] They learn to compete instead of collaborate in schools.
[25:11] It may require certain sacrifices and lifestyle choices, but it’s so worth it.
[26:41] It may not be for everyone, but if you want to do it, you can!
“Why Did You Choose Homeschooling?”
We were homeschooling our 4 kids well before all the cool kids were doing it (i.e. everybody!)
People often ask me, “Why do you homeschool?”
Because in our current culture, it is the less ordinary thing to do, right? It is usually the exception to the rule.
The default is sending kids to school. So then, why wouldn’t you follow that default?
My own thinking is that the real question should be, “Why do you choose to send your child to school?”
Schools are a Service
In my humble opinion, schools are a service that the government is providing to us, in exchange for our tax dollars. Or alternatively, schools are a service that a private company is providing to us in exchange for money.
We get to choose whether or not we want that service.
When comparing schooling to homeschooling, there are 3 main services I can see that a school provides:
School Service #1: Babysitting
Let’s just put it on the table. A school is caring for a child and keeping them safe for hours a day.
And typically, whether we are working or not, we all need a break and need our children to be babysat from time to time. That is a service that most of us are willing to pay for.
School Service #2: Education
The next thing that schools provide is an educational program. They (or their governing bodies) decide:
- Which curriculum will be used
- What it is that children need to know
- How they’re going to learn it
- How old they will learn it at
- What exact materials will be used
- In what way they’re going to be learning
- How their success is going to be measured
The calls being made around children’s educational programs are a service that is provided to you when you sign up for school.
You’re almost entirely handing over the keys to your child’s education and choosing to trust that your child will receive a cohesive education that will:
- Serve them in their future
- Shape them into critical thinkers
- Give them the facts and skills that they need in life
- Philosophize with them and teach them moralities, ethics, narratives and interpretations of whatever it is that they’re learning
And of course, I’ll do that at home as well. We can still have the conversations and I can still impart my faith, my belief, and my mindset.
But for four to eight hours day I will be employing someone else to do that for me.
School Service #3: Socialization & Community
School is also a social program. When choosing a school, we are making a choice about:
- Which kind of children our kids will be exposed to
- Which kind of parent body we will be associating with
- How that community behaves
- What kind of value system it has
- What kind of vibe it runs at, etc.
We are choosing to opt into that culture.
We are choosing a school that really molds and shapes our child’s way of looking at the world and at themselves, their own self-esteem, their own confidence, their own risk tolerance, their own capacities – these are going to be shaped within the school setting.
The Real Question We Should Be Asking
Given the magnitude of that service and all that is at stake, my own thinking is that the real question should be, “Why do you choose to send your child to school?”
Sometimes we’re in a position where we go to work and school provides babysitting. (And that’s a legitimate answer. We just have to know that that’s our answer!)
Sometimes it’s because the school provides an excellent educational program.
And sometimes it’s because you appreciate the way the school approaches inclusivity and diversity and shapes your child’s view of the world.
Let’s acknowledge now that we are privileged to be answering this important question – Why am I choosing to send my child to school?
Reasons People Could Never Consider Home Education
There are two main reasons that people say to me, “Oh, you homeschool? I could never. “
1. “I Am Not Qualified to Teach Home Education”
One reason people think that they could never homeschool is because they think that they have to be a trained professional to teach home education. Or because they can’t do math very well, or because they don’t have a degree.
I think this is a myth. I really don’t know math – I learn it alongside my eight-year-old.
You do not need to know the things that your child needs to know. All you have to do is be interested and be a guide that’s willing to come alongside them and facilitate learning together.
That’s the beauty of it:
2. “I Need the Babysitting that School Provides”
There are other options if babysitting is the main reason you send your kids to school.
People often say, “I don’t have the time, or the energy to homeschool.”
I get it. If like me, you need time to do your work, have time away from your children, and care for yourself, there are other ways to solve that problem.
Just as we outsource babysitting to a school, we could outsource babysitting in other creative ways as well.
There are homeschool co-ops, there is bartering with other parents, there is paying for a mother’s helper or for babysitters, switching off with a partner, involving a grandparent – school is not the only solution.
Feeling like, “I’m not qualified,” or like “I don’t have the time or energy,” – these are not necessarily things that need to stop you from becoming a homeschooler.
I feel it’s important to list some homeschooling advantages and consider what is really going on in most schools.
1. Home Education Curriculums Don’t Require Rote Memorization
Home education curriculums and school curriculums could very well be identical, however, many schools push rote memorization as a tool of learning, which isn’t effective.
In schools, children are memorizing rote facts only to vomit them up again on an exam, and then forget them promptly. So the facts themselves are not staying with the children.
Just think about yourself! How many of the facts that you memorized from your schooling do you today retain and use?
I would guesstimate that 80% of the information that we learn in school is not useful to us throughout our lives. So that can’t be why we’re holding school on this big pedestal. Right?
2. Home Education Resources are a Plenty!
With so many home education resources available to us, we can help our kids develop skills they might otherwise learn in school. Skills such as writing a report, learning to present in front of a class, etc.
If we really break that down, are those skills something we could easily acquire elsewhere? Or even, on our own?
3. Homeschoolers are a Community In and Of Themselves
There are ways to help homeschoolers make friends and build community with others.
Consider that in school, the social experience can actually be lacking. It can be harmful. It can be great in some schools, for some kids, and in others, you can have a lot of teasing or bullying.
Or you may believe the idea that you can only make friends with people who are the same age and gender as you because schools are often very segregated.
Homeschoolers are encouraged to form deep friendships and overcome obstacles with one another. They are able to actually experience real-life relationships that evolve and adapt, and that cross the boundaries of age and gender.
Important: Consider the Use of Extrinsic Motivation in Schools
If you look back at your own school experience, did you have thoughts like:
- I’m not good enough.
- I need to cram.
- I need to be pressured by a deadline to complete a task.
- I need to be scared of authority.
- I need to be quiet and sit down at all times.
- I need to wait for the bell.
- I shouldn’t be interested, curious, and fascinated.
- I shouldn’t try to educate myself cause it’s cool and important and the world is a fascinating place. But rather because I have to get a grade on a test, right?
School is all about extrinsic motivation, punishments, and rewards systems that actually minimize our children’s curiosity and their creativity. And that is shown in research that creativity in schools actually plummets throughout the years.
Children come in very creative and come out very non-creative. And the reason is because there’s a “right answer” on the test.
In Schools, Children Learn to Compete Instead of Collaborate
I feel that school is a very competitive environment. It’s a win-lose paradigm where only one person can be the valedictorian, there is controlling for grades and so on.
I truly believe that in school, our children are not really learning collaboration, teamwork, and what it takes to do a project in real life where people actually work together to create something great and play into their strengths.
I Am a Homeschool Mom
I own that I am a homeschool mom and as you can hear, I have a lot of criticisms for many of the school systems.
This is certainly not every school system nor every teacher, and I believe that some children thrive in school.
But when people ask me, “Why do you homeschool?” Well, that’s my response. “Why do you send to school?”
I Am Also a Send-to-School Mom
My kids go to a preschool (2 days per week) that has ticked these 3 boxes for me. I love the babysitting, the educational program, and the social program there.
But the time spent with my children is the most valuable to me.
My own feeling is that my children are only young once. They only do one childhood. And I have really jumped through a lot of hoops to set up my life so that I can work and have them home, do cool projects with them, take classes, and go on outings.
Home Education May Require Sacrifices
Home education may require certain sacrifices and lifestyle choices, but it’s so worth it.
I hire babysitting help, I switch off with my husband, and we’ve made life choices that have enabled us to homeschool.
For you it may mean sacrificing the size of a house or a specific area that you wanted to live in. Or it might mean living minimally in order to not work as much.
Or maybe, as many homeschooling parents I know, you find a creative way to work whilst you’re homeschooling!
Homeschooling May Not Be for Everyone, But…
I want to tell you that you can do it if you want to.
You don’t need to be a teacher. You don’t need to have some magnificent energy levels.
I think it’s a time in our lives to reconsider what these school services are providing to us as parents.
- Is it what we want?
- Is it what we’re hoping for?
- Does it answer our needs?
And if not, perhaps to really visit an area of trust in ourselves to be able to provide something even better.
Home Education Requirements
I have developed a self-confidence over the years that there isn’t some magical thing that school provides.
There isn’t some magical quality that teachers possess that I can’t grow into and learn.
There isn’t some mystical thing about teaching kids to read or teaching them history or math.
These are things that if we so choose as parents, we can most certainly enjoy, create, learn, grow into on our own terms.
If you have a loving home where you support curiosity, where you offer a lot of relaxation and free time, where you make the space for every person to be who they are and to show up with vulnerability, including yourself, then I think you’ll do just fine at homeschooling.
If you enjoyed reading this post and it inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about your biggest takeaway in the comments below! 👇
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- Latest Blog Post: How to Homeschool During Coronavirus: UNSCHOOL!
- Youtube Video: Dr. Shefali Tsabary on Education (Choosing NOT to Homeschool is OK!!)