Saturday, December 31, 2011

Courage and Homeschooling

Years ago I read in Home Education Magazine, a request to think about what it takes to homeschool and what makes homeschooling parents different from other parents to allow them to take the plunge and do such an alternative thing.

I think it takes real courage to homeschool. Courage is the thing that is most necessary.

It takes even more courage to pull a child out of school if the situation is non-emergent. There may not be enough pressure to fix the situation to push a person over the tipping point from "think we really should do this" or "homeschooling could be better" to "we're going to start homeschooling now".

The parents facing some crisis have it easier as they are reacting to a bad situation and no matter how alternative or strange homeschooling may be if it rescues the child then they do it. The urgency to fix the issue overrides the weirdness or scariness of the concept of homeschooling. They can also tell themselves that it is just temporary and they can always go back to school again later so they don't feel they have made a long-term committment, so jumping in is easier.

Those who entered homeschooling in their children's early years won't need as much courage to begin as they will need to continue, especially through the upper middle school and high school years. The higher the stakes get, the harder it is to stay on track. As children grow from happy little kids who like to play for hours every day start to change into independent young adults life gets more complicated. It can be draining and stressful to parent a teenager and to handle that and the administration of their home education can get to be too much for some mothers to handle.

I've been worrying about homeschooling my older son lately, mostly worried that our best efforts won't be good enough to prepare him for what he wants to do with his life. I've been asking myself, "Who do you think you are to think you know enough about high school academics to plan a course of study let alone to teach or facilitate most of it?"Some days I tell myself, "You are winging this too much."

A mother of always-schooled kids has been talking to me about the desire to start homeschooling, it's something she's thought about for a long time but she is not quite ready to jump in. The fact that there is no ideal perfect thing established to move right into that would be a guarantee of a successful outcome is too scary to her, so I believe that they will not wind up homeschooling. Despite dissatisfaction with the school's curriculum and the lack of academic rigor, the devil she knows is better to tolerate than the devil she doesn't know. While speaking to her I realized yet again that courage is vital and that stepping off into unknown territory is what we are doing. We have to be able to handle facing that fear and to keep moving forward, to keep pushing through the fear, in order to continue.

My self-doubt has largely been fueled by the long distance move and losing all my contacts, my support network and losing the old good learning opportunities, as well as my kid's negative emotions regarding not being able to see their old friends on a frequent basis. (Keeping touch on Facebook and xBoxLive is just not the same thing as face to face experiences.)

If I try a little harder I think I can find some local resources to hire to help us. I think I'm going to look for a math tutor so my older son can have a live person to ask questions of face to face, and to check his progress on a regular basis such as weekly. Perhaps I could hire a science tutor to run biology labs with my son. Now that he has started doing the robotics team he will make more local friends from the area also.

Regarding boosting myself up to keep going with homeschooling, all I need is a small bit of encouragement to stay the course, which is not hard to muster up.


061dad02-3344-11e1-95ac-000bcdcb2996 said...

What took courage for me was sending my kid off to full time school. My son's first school was a particularly bad fit. He was placed in Advanced English and did very well at first...but felt increasingly overwhelmed by the tone of the course, which contained books like "Schindlers's List" and relentlessly dark fiction in which the characters were often trapped in situations from which they could never escape. I explained to the teacher why my son, who was reading at a very high level and had accumulated an enormous fund of factual knowledge from his reading, had difficulty with her "relationship" novels. (A couple of years after he took the class, I found out that there's a whole movement devoted to making literature classes more appropriate for and appealing to boys.) Her response? "I'm not going to coddle him." I wasn't surprised that the teacher couldn't adjust her syllabus, but I was astonished that she considered my son's sensitivity to other people's distresses a defect. The problem would never have arisen in our homeschool because I've never tried to tie his moral development to his reading list.

ChristineMM said...

So what you are saying is it may be equally courageous to start using school after homeschooling first as it is to quit school and start homeschooling?

I think what I'm saying is I don't think it takes as much courage to not change what is done as to make a change.

Hope I'm making sense.

Deborah said...

You're right...change in either direction can be difficult. I'd guess that it is harder to leave the structure of public school, where kids are supposedly in the hands of educational professionals, and strike out into unaccredited land, than send a previously homeschooled kid to public school. I sent my eldest to ninth grade because I thought maybe he needed to "be with his own kind" and experience the structure of school, and I wanted him to be able to get into college easily. When he was in high school, he got the odd idea that "if you have to study for a class, you're too stupid to take it" although he got into the college of his choice, UT Dallas, it would have required us to take out loans...and I thought that with his attitude, he could easily flunk out in the first semester. I sent him to a much less expensive state college near home that almost anyone can attend, a place which has turned out to be one of those hidden gems that has the feel of a private liberal arts college. He loves it there and is doing very well..and he's figured out that he has to do the homework.

(It has been interesting to see him change from "homeschooling ruined my life!" to saying that he'd like to homeschool his kids through the eighth grade.)

My middle child took two classes as a seventh grader (band and extracurricular jazz band), and it worked really well. (The next year we moved to a place where homeschoolers cannot take classes in the public schools.) She did tell me later that some of the girls in band made comments about her clothes (she loves black and thrift shop chic) and made other personal comments, and told me that if she'd been around that kind of pressure all day, she'd have given up her personal style to "fit in". That surprised me, because she seemed to adapt so easily to school, so much so that at the time I'd been planning on enrolling her in more and more classes every year until she was a full time student...because by that time I'd seen the "total immersion" method not work for my son.