We are going on a new adventure, we have decided to homeschool our kids. It's a decision we are keeping very open minded about, especially in the light of our current illnesses.
I have been quite suprised about everyone's response to our decision. I had previously thought that we would have a lot of opposition, but the majority of people we have told are very supportive of it. I even had one friend who said that she had thought about mentioning it to us before as she thought it would suit us!
The negative or neutral feedback has come from friends who don't have kids or have a clue about education and from our parents, who's main concern is for our wellbeing, not our ability to provide a good education for our children.
If you asked us 12 months ago about homeschooling, i would have said "no way, i can't wait for the kids to got to school" But since J has started kindy, things have changed.J loves kindy, the kindy is fantastic, they are well organised, structured and the staff are very inclusive and good at reading kids and their abilities. The problems began when he came home. After a few weeks, J began to get really surly and aggressive towards us and his sister. His attitude in the evenings was terrible and i found myself thinking, what has happened to my kind little boy, he's turning into a monster!
After the weekends, he had returned to normal, but after his first session of kindy for the week, the monster returned.
This behaviour improved a lot when he got his glasses, but by this time, we had begun to explore other options.
In the last 12 months, we have met several people who either homeschool their kids or were homeschooled. It is amazing how God prepares you for things! The main thing that stood out to us is how strong the kids faith is, and that they are very well adjusted, well educated, socialised people.
The main opposition to homeschooling these days seems to be the socialisation factor. There must have been a time where all homeschooled kids were anti-social or had poor people skills. This has certainly not been the case for the families that we know!
The main reasons for our decision are
1. Behaviour management/socialisation.
2. The ability to provide a christian based education
3. Dissastisfaction with the schools in our area.
4. The ability to work at the children's pace.
1. Behaviour management/socialisation.
We want our kids to be confident in who they are and who God created them to be. There are too many examples of kids in conventional school with really poor behaviour which they have learnt from their parents and from their peers. This might sound extreme, but we don't want our kids to be teenage parents or binge drinkers or taking on any other dangerous kinds of behaviour. I realise that homeschooling will not guarantee that this wont happen but if our children's primary relationships are with their parents instead of their peers, then they will try to impress their parents and not their peers.
We understand that we will need to be deliberate with providing extra socialisation opportunities and i don't really think that church will be enough. I think it is important for kids to socialise with all kinds of people, not just ones that are like us. THey need to learn to deal with people they don't like and conflict.
2. A christian education
This initially was not a big concern for us as we believe that our kids learn from observing us (for better or for worse!). After having looked at the christian content in the curriculum we have chosen, we can see that there will be so many more opportunities to discuss God's place as creator and ruler of this world. All subjects have a christian focus and especially science places God as the creator of all things. Something that is not taught in schools!
3. Dissatisfaction with the school in our area
I do not want to sound too negative about the schools but we have a couple of friends who are relief teachers in both the primary and secondary schools in our area. The stories that we hear from them about how hard it is to teach, particularly in the primary schools and the difficulties that students have with learning because of poor diet and distraction by other students have really affirmed our decision. The culture of some of the schools is almost a hopeless one, even the kids who want to learn are often held back because the teachers are busy dealing with the "problem" kids in the class rather than teaching. It is unfortunate that in some of the schools, the teacher spends more time managing the class that teaching it! Not all the schools are portrayed as bad, but the issues are probably still there.
4. The Ability to work at the child's pace
This was an issue for both Simon and I, who in both primary and secondary school became frustrated and bored whilst we waited for the rest of the class to catch up. In a conventional school, the pace is determined by the majority of the class. In homeschooling, because of the one to one nature, students can learn at their own pace, if they grasp a particular concept quickly, they can move on. If it takes longer, then more time is able to be spent until the idea is concrete.
All of these things, and more, are issues that can be avoided or promoted with homeschooling. THe one on one contact with our children will enable them to learn at their own pace and to pursue special interests. The school day will be shorter due to the lack of other distractions and we will have flexibility to pursue interests or work on projects that are particularly interesting to our kids. We can also provide a well balanced education including a christian perspective to subjects.
I realise it will be hard work, there will be days when the kids wont want to do what i want them too, or days when i'll want to do something else, but with God's help, i think we can succeed.
We are keeping open minded about it, if it doesn't work, they can always go to school!