Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Homeschooling: Why Not?

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.
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Often when I meet parents at the park or around the city and they learn that we are homeschoolers, a common response is: "Oh, I could never do that!" To which I respond, "Of course you could! Why not?"

What follows is usually a litany of reasons including, "I don't have the patience," or "I need my breaks," or "I want my kids to learn from others," or "I wouldn't know what to teach," or "I can't give them everything they need to learn," or "We both have to work."

Homeschooling may not be the right path for every family for a panoply of reasons, but just as parents spend a lot of time contemplating and researching the public and private school options available to them, homeschooling should be another reasonable education choice for families to consider.

There are two hurdles, I think, that parents need to get passed to truly understand and fully consider the homeschooling option: the personal and the practical.

On the personal side, I find parents don't give themselves enough credit. They are often too hard on themselves. Parents don't need to be superstars, with limitless patience, boundless energy, and masterful creativity to help their children learn. They have been engaged in the important process of teaching and learning with their kids since birth, and homeschooling becomes an extension of this natural learning process. Homeschooling provides time and space for children to explore and uncover their own interests and talents. It strengthens family and sibling bonds, positioning family at the center of a child's life and learning, while also encouraging children to become vital members of their community through civic activities, community classes and local events. Homeschooling helps to slow down the increasingly frenetic pace of American childhood, helping families to simplify schedules and foster an environment of natural family learning.

On the practical side, there are many resources now available to homeschoolers that help to craft a homeschooling approach that is right for each family. Many homeschoolers purchase level-specific curriculum packages to provide structure to learning. Homeschoolers may hire tutors, participate in community classes or lessons, take advantage of online learning programs, use community college courses and a host of other learning resources to define or augment their homeschooling approach. Some homeschoolers use an "eclectic" approach to learning, perhaps using structured curriculum for certain learning areas but not for others. An increasingly growing number of homeschoolers, ourselves included, are "unschoolers," or those who don't follow any prescribed curriculum but instead follow our children's lead when deciding when and what to learn.

Given the wide variety of homeschooling approaches, it is not surprising that all kinds of families find ways to make homeschooling work, including families with single parents and those with two working parents. Creative scheduling, community classes, formal or informal homeschooling co-ops, and help from others can make homeschooling accessible to many families who wish to choose this educational option.

So, of course you can homeschool! In the end, homeschooling may not be right for every family, but for families who are interested in exploring this educational option, along with private and public school offerings, there are many personal and practical ways to make homeschooling work for any family that wants to give it a try.


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it's from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural - Just Don't Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother's groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the "Mommy-space" online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God's Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles... — Jenny at I'm a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents' worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting - Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she's learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others' parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can't — We've all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you're stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think "Gosh, I wish I said…" This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought "Gosh, I wish I said…"
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don't Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she'd want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying "I'm Right and You're Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won't care — Cassie of There's a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don't know what to do when you're confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky - Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert's Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.

22 comments:

  1. I love the fact that I am learning right alongside Kieran. I now know more about dinosaurs, sharks, and a variety of other things than I ever learned in school - and Kieran is only 4 years old! Thanks for sharing a non-argumentative way to respond to that common response to HS'ing.

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    1. Dionna, thanks so much for hosting this wonderful carnival. Interacting with other parents compassionately and diplomatically is such an important endeavor, particularly as we try to be good role models for our kids.

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  2. While not everyone can homeschool (single parents or couples with excessive student loans come to mind) and we should be diplomatic since it isn't always obvious why not, many more should consider it than do. While I feel for people who don't truly have it as an option, I am equally disturbed by the large volume of people who don't even consider it. Certainly it should be researched along with other choices at least. With the data so much on the side of homeschoolers, I think many reject it because in our culture what everyone is doing is assumed to be what is best or (the cynical one in me thinks) parents are afraid to be different from their other parent peers. Homeschooling has taught me to be skeptical about other areas of life where when everyone does something, I am more likely to wonder if it is the right thing.

    As far as the need for two incomes go, sometimes it is a reality and sometimes it is not really the case. Eliminate one car/use public transportation, elminitate cable, stop eating out (much easier with one parent at home), and use only the library for books/DVDs etc. Doing these things may get you the option of homeschooling. Yes, it may be the choice between your second car and giving your kids the best education possible.

    I know that this doesn't have the diplomatic feel of the carnival, but my intention isn't to make people who don't homeschool feel bad, but to make people who don't give it fair consideration something to think about.

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    1. Liz, great points. I agree that more parents should at least consider homeschooling as one of three education options, along with public and private school. And I do think that simplifying lifestyles and prioritizing can make homeschooling more accessible to families. I also know that there are families with single parents and two working parents who DO make homeschooling work. They rely on forming homeschooling co-ops with other local homeschoolers and other community resources. I really think that for many families who WANT to homeschool, there is a way.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  3. Yes, I agree many people may not consider homeschooling because there is a tendency to look to the experts (teachers, etc) as people who could do better than we could. But I am learning that the parent is usually the child's best bet, especially in terms of attachment, which is central to learning.

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    1. I completely agree with this. It seems that, now more than ever, there is a tendency to rely on "experts" for activities that were once the prominent domain of the home. I hope the pendulum swings back toward families reclaiming control over activities related to a child's development, health and well-being.

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  4. Some great points here ~ over here in the UK the competition for schools with a good reputation is fierce, and there's a part of me wondering if home-schooling might be an option for us. Your post made me feel like I *could* do it, if I choose to :-)

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    1. Good, I'm so glad the post gave you a confidence-boost! The point is not for every family to choose homeschooling, but simply to have it on the menu of options available!

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  5. Yes, I can't say a word about homeschooling without people telling me all the reasons they couldn't do it! While I respect their choice, I also can't help but answer their objections. Most of them don't have to stop them from homeschoolers, and so many are based on false assumptions about homeschooling anyway. For instance, when they say, "Oh, but it's so much work!" I say, "Eh, not much more than schlepping kids to and from school and worrying about their lunches and their homework and their parent-teacher meetings and everything else. You have a lot more freedom to do it on your schedule." Or, "How could I teach? I'm not qualified." I say, "I taught first grade. It isn't hard. Hate to break it to you, but there are no real prerequisites. And a couple of hours a day is enough to fit in all the stuff you need, since you don't have to worry about classroom management."

    Stuff like that. I just want to spread the word that it's not so weird, out-there, or impossible. They don't have to try it if they don't want to, obviously, but I want them to know they can if they want to.

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  6. Interesting. . . I have thought about homeschooling, but I think as long as I am living in an area where I am happy with my options for preschool/schools, Abbey seems happier in a structured, social, away from home environment.

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  7. Thanks for visiting, Amy! Yes, you hit the nail on the head: the key is not to suggest that every family choose homeschooling but rather to suggest that homeschooling is at least a considered option among other educational choices available.

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  8. I love your point that "parents don't need to be superstars, with limitless patience, boundless energy, and masterful creativity to help their children learn." I was far from perfect in my organization and record-keeping, yet by being relaxed homeschoolers, using unit studies, and following my children's interests, homeschooling through high school was much easier than I would ever have imagined.

    None of us have regretted it, and we have memories and a closeness that would have been hard to find without all the time we spent together. Homeschooling definitely isn't for everyone, but it's wonderful that we have the freedom to choose our family's educational path. I love that so many parents are considering homeschooling now - whatever they decide! :) Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

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    1. Deb, I love your blog and your inspiring homeschooling story! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  9. These are words I really needed to hear! I've been toying with the idea of homeschooling for awhile and the more I learn about other options, the more appealing homeschooling becomes. I think I still need to get past some of the personal and practical hurdles, but fortunately I have some time since my son is only two. Thanks for providing some food for thought...and inspiration!

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    1. Sylvia, I am so glad you found this post encouraging! Hopefully homeschooling can be one of many education options you explore for your child.

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  10. I've been pondering about this today actually, since my hubby and I plan on unschooling our children if we are not in an area that an established Waldorf school is located and the biggest hurdle for me personally is justifying it to our relatives. Not because we owe them an explanation or anything, but they will ask very valid and well-meaning questions and I am still unsure how to organise my thoughts to answer them. The main argument for questioning it so far is on being qualified enough to teach my children myself and so far all I can tell them is that there is no one BETTER qualified than I am and they just look at me blankly. It is hard to explain to someone the whys when they cannot even wrap their head around the concept that the majority of actual learning is done outside of educational institutions.

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    1. I think you are right that it is much harder to choose homeschooling when you feel unsupported and criticized by loved ones. Hopefully you can slowly and deliberately show your skeptical relatives that your job is not to *teach* but to help your children *learn* -- just as you have been doing, beautifully, thoughtfully, successfully all along....

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  11. Totally agree with you, I plan to homeschool my son and am already having to ward off the critics, and he's only 1! I think people criticise most often that which they do not understand, or do not know enough about. Well done for educating more people on the what a great educational choice homeschooling can be :)

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  12. Christine, thanks so much for visiting the blog. I am glad you are planning to homeschool. It is such a wonderful way to learn!

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  13. Thanks so much for this post! I've been thinking I need to have our homeschooling defenses (gentle ones, of course) ready, because people are already asking us why our 4-year-old isn't in school.

    I think homeschooling (and especially unschooling) is such a mind shift for people, that if they haven't thought about it before, it's hard for them to take in at one go. Articles like this will help nudge everyone who doesn't understand it one step closer. Obviously, that still doesn't mean homeschooling is right for everyone, but I'd love it if everyone understood that it's a valid choice for the families who choose it. And that more families could choose it, because it's not that hard! :)

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  14. Lauren, thanks so much for hosting this monthly carnival! I completely agree that homeschooling is a big mental and social leap for many people and it can take time for others to recognize it as a reasonable educational option, along with public and private schools.

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