homeschooler

We Chose Homeschooling

My soon-to-be sixteen-year old is just days away from finishing her high school studies.

As a homeschooler, she’s free to decide when she’d like to do her work – mornings, weekends, evenings – as long as she puts in the required amount of hours and covers the work we’ve outlined in our correspondence with the district’s homeschool director. To my amazement, my child has chosen to continue her schoolwork long past the end of the traditional school year. She has worked steadily since last September and has managed to complete two grades in that time.

I say this because I’m extremely proud of her. I also say this because, while we’ve been homeschooling for five years now, I’m still awed by the freedom, choices and possibilities associated with the process.

This is not for everyone and I would never say homeschooling is the BETTER option for everyone. I will, however, say it has been not only a better option, but the BEST for my daughter and my family.

Her traditional elementary school was wonderful. It was hard to let our little girl go there each day without us. Harder to know she was experiencing new and wonderful things, and we weren’t there to see the light in her eyes as she ‘got it’. But, it gave her a sense of confidence and independence that we admired. Add to that the warm, nurturing environment that was her elementary school, and it was – and still is – hard for me to see how homeschooling could be better or give her more.

In middle school, everything changed. The hours upon hours of homework after a full school day did nothing to help her ‘learn’ the subjects, but rather made her want to just “get it done”. Her friends were as overloaded with homework and projects as she was and so they barely saw each other. Homework was worse on weekends, as if the school had a policy declaring children should not be permitted any free time, ever.

The teachers were no longer nurturing. They were like drill sergeants. I get that tweens can be unruly and you have to maintain order. But I truly believe they’ll grow and learn better when treated with respect rather than contempt. I think of the bees-to-honey scenario.

It was the exhausted broken spirit I saw in my child that prompted me to, finally, make the move I’d considered when she was just three years old. Homeschooling.

It has worked for us in ways I could explain page after page. I will sum all of that up by saying my daughter had choices. She chose to work and to work hard. There are no ‘grades’, there is no competition, there is no principal’s office or hall monitor. There is only one child, one teen, doing her personal best because that is what she wants to do.

She’s fortunate to have had the best of both. I’m fortunate to have had the ability to provide that for her.

Have you made life or life-style choices for your children that could have gone either way? What were they? Given the same circumstances, would you make the same choice again?

Socializing the Homeschooler

Homeschooling in New York City may seem like a rarity but it has become quite the movement. Even I, a native New Yorker, originally thought of homeschooling as something done in more rural areas. Instead, many New York families have chosen to pull their children from public school and use the vast wonders of the city as their classroom. There are museums, science labs, historical sites, various cultures and cuisines. So much, that years worth of curriculum could be covered without traveling beyond a few subway stops.

“Great. But what about socialization?”

That question is the first in everyone’s mind when I mention homeschooling my teen. It’s a logical concern and, before we started the process, we wondered about it ourselves.

Recently, I was speaking with some new friends about homeschooling when the issue came up. I answered, saying how there truly isn’t much socialization in school during school time. The comment was met with amusement and I found myself confused. Then I realized that, of course, there is interaction in school, but is it really socialization?

Socialization according to Answers.com is “(psychology) The process whereby a child learns to get along with and to behave similarly to other people in the group, largely through imitation as well as group pressure.

Hmm. “Learning to get along… though imitation as well as group pressure.” Not sure I like that definition.

Let’s try another… from the FreeDictionary.com: (Psychology) Psychol the modification from infancy of an individual’s behaviour to conform with the demands of social life

“conform”. Well. I’m not sure how I feel about that either.

One more… from Meriam-Webster.com: the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.

Ah. Now that works for me. “Acquiring… through accumulated knowledge of society through education and training.”

No “imitation”, no “group pressure” and no “conforming”.

For many homeschoolers the difference between the first two definitions of socialization and the final one is monumental and is, indeed, the difference between socialization through public school versus socialization through homeschooling.

Most often, children in school interact with children their own age. Occasionally, there is interaction between grades but it is usually limited. They pick up on each other’s habits – both good and bad – fashion trends and attitudes. Homeschooled children regularly interact with children of all ages as well as with adults. During spontaneous and/or organized activities, the older kids in the group will look out for the younger kids, engage them and play with them. Not all the time, of course. Just enough to give the young ones a sense of comfort and security and the older ones a sense of responsibility, belonging… and independence. The kids often hold conversations with adults as well – parents of other homeschoolers, or, as in the case of my daughter, customers in our family photography business.

The socialization aspect of a homeschooler in this new millennium is a wondrous thing. Here in the city, there are thousands of homeschoolers and many belong to local homeschool groups. Curriculum is recommended and shared. Activities are organized and varied. Interaction with others is part of life and learning.

Of course, homeschooling is not for everyone. Some children might find it restrictive and suffocating, while others might find it exhilarating and liberating.

For my family, the words “exhilarating” and “liberating” hardly begin to describe the wonder that the process of homeschooling has brought to our lives.

I’m curious. What are some of your first thoughts when you hear a family is homeshooling? Or… if you’re a homeschooler, what are some of the reactions/responses you’ve received from people when you discuss homeschooling?

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