I am not a teacher. If you asked me about homeschooling before I met Jeff, I would have brushed off the possibility. Why wouldn’t public school be good enough? I did fine with it.
Our history with public school
Jeff and I both attended public school and so did his older two sons from his prior marriage. For many families, public school is a fine answer to education. The parents have no will to educate their children and think public school does an adequate job. Or maybe both parents have to work full time to support the lifestyle they want and private school is expensive and deemed a luxury. This was my family growing up. My family always emphasized the importance of doing well in school, but public school was the best practical option.
My experience in public school
In retrospect, I think I did well in school because of who I am, not because the school was particularly good at supporting me. My school offered things like advanced placement classes and dual credit with a state college, but now I see how much I could have done if left more to my own devices. At the very least, history could have been less dry and I might have gotten into martial arts or biking earlier and been healthier as a teenager. (I hated gym class with a passion and I was always last to be chosen for a team.)
Jeff’s (worse) experience
Jeff’s experience with public school was very different, both personally and as a parent. He attended a much smaller school than I did and finished high school more than two decades before me. His teachers did not support his interest in music at all and he found the academics so severely lacking that he graduated a year early.
His older two boys attended a larger school, but that school handled his older son’s needs poorly and gave his younger son too many opportunities to find trouble. The school had his older son in remedial classes that he didn’t need. The kid became an electrical engineer, for Pete’s sake! He earned his degree despite having to work himself out of the academic hole that his high school left him in. His younger son dropped out of high school just to escape the bunch of delinquents that the school couldn’t control.
It’s funny that I hear from a lot of moms online who’s husbands are skeptical of homeschooling. Jeff is more adamant about homeschooling than I am sometimes. I guess I got lucky that way.
I started with no idea what I’m doing. All I knew was that I wanted to give my kids a good start in life without breaking the bank. As I researched homeschooling, I found a wide world of possibilities that allowed a lot more interactive, personalized learning and even opportunities for me to learn alongside my kids. That latter bit in particular drew me to homeschooling. Although mass schooling killed some of my innate interest in learning, I’ve been able to recover some of it the further I get from college. Part of my challenge with my kids is to make sure they never lose their curiosity the way I feel like I did for many years.
When my bigs were three, my middles were two, and my littles were still on the way, we hired an off-duty preschool teacher to come one day each week to do projects with them. I’m not a crafty person, so I hoped that she’d add a little fun creativity to their lives and maybe weave in light academics like letter and numbers.
She was, and still is, the biggest bit of bootstrapping we needed. We had just moved to a different state and a very different situation, I was pregnant with my third set of twins, and I was still working part time to finish the last project for my job. We had no time or energy to figure out homeschooling.
After my job ended and I settled in with my third set of twins, I started to work in some reading lessons with the kids too. Gradually, I became the primary teacher for them and the preschool teacher still takes over one day each week to do some extra fun stuff and give me time to work on non-kid stuff. With a little experience my reasons for homeschooling have changed and solidified.
Reasons for homeschooling preschool and kindergarten
In no particular order, these are our reasons for homeschooling at this point. Some may resonate with you and others may fall flat. Maybe you can add to this list. Let me know in the comments why you’ve chosen your schooling route.
1. It’s cheaper than private school
Preschool is expensive for two kids. Imagine four in preschool! It was actually cheaper to hire an off-duty 4K/5K teacher from a local private school to tutor the kids one day per week. At the nearest YMCA, I could register the bigs for afternoon preschool four days per week this year and the middles for morning preschool three days per week. They would attend 2.5 hours of school each day. The annual cost just for tuition would be nearly $7000.
Even purchasing expensive curriculum and paying our hired teacher weekly, I’d estimate we spent about $5400 over a year’s time including summer when the kids wouldn’t have preschool anyhow. Most of that money went to the hired teacher. If we count half of her pay during the school year and all of it during the summer as childcare, the cost drops to $2200. Using that number, we saved nearly $5000 keeping the kids home.
2. It is less hassle
In addition to the cost of preschool, I’d also have to drive them there and back, which is almost an hour round trip, and take all six kids along. So we’d spend almost two hours in the car, only eat lunch together one day per week, screw up nap time, and still leave me with no kid-free time. Gas would cost about $10-$20 per day, or another $2000. No thanks.
3. Academics are customizable and flexible
With only four students (or more later on), it’s much easier to fit the activities and materials to the students. I can choose curriculum that fits our entire family and move as fast as each child wants. Even within a specific program, I can skip or supplement as needed. The curriculum guides rather than dictates their education. If something isn’t working for a day or a month, I can change it.
Mass education can’t do that nearly as easily with classrooms full of student who have diverse families and needs. It’s not the teacher’s fault. There’s just no way to personalize education for a room of 20 or more students, especially since the teacher only gets to knows the students for a few hours each week.
4. Our schedule is flexible
If our family wants to take a day off to go to the zoo or a playground, we can. If some kids are sick, we can skip school or take it easy. When they get older, we can choose to travel any time of the year. It’s completely up to me when and how much we do school.
5. We choose what our kids learn
In mass schooling, either public or private, the school chooses the academics that the kids learn. If Suzy wants to learn about rocks but biology is slated for that year, she’s out of luck. The school and environment dictate the morals that kids encounter daily, for better or for worse. I’d rather keep a closer eye on the habits my kids learn and correct missteps early.
We don’t want to shelter our kids from the world. Rather, we want them to learn as part of the world instead of an artificial group of same-age peers who are still figuring out how to act like people. I can also add in subjects like meteorology that are most schools neglect. (I’m a meteorologist by training, so of course I think it is an important subject.) We can approach history through living books so it’s made of real people instead of the list of dates and names I remember from my schooling. Jeff claims he can even make advanced math interesting. I have not experienced this, but he still has students thanking him years later. I look forward to seeing what he does with math.
6. Our experience with public school was not inspiring
Jeff’s was downright bad and mine was… inert. I had some good teachers, but mass schooling was more limiting than inspiring. I took all the advanced classes I could in high school and started college with more than a year’s worth of credits. However, I still felt like the school had not prepared me for college or any other life beyond high school. They certainly did not discuss the real finances involved in college. I’m still mad about all the debt I incurred based on the counselors’ advice from high school and college. It’ll be worth it, they said. You’ll pay it off in no time after you graduate. Bullsh*t!
We see no reason to drag our kids through a similar experience. Jeff and I can prepare them for whatever path they want to follow and make sure they understand the cost-benefit analysis of education better than I did.
7. Mass schooling wastes time
It’s inevitable, really. If a teacher needs to have 20 or 30 students cooperate, it obviously will take time to coordinate them all. First, they all have to pay attention to the lesson. Then there are 20-30 students worth of questions. All the transportation time to and from school and between classes also takes up a substantial portion of the day. Plus homework and projects.
Why spend 8-10 per day when we could finish it in half that time? How much can our kids do with an extra 4-5 hours each day? They could pursue sports or personal projects, they could read, they could learn a trade, or countless other things that school doesn’t cover. So much time is lost simply dealing with logistics!
8. My kids don’t fit the traditional school levels
My big kids wouldn’t even be eligible for kindergarten until they are almost six years old. At barely five years old, they’re working on mostly first grade math and reading. They’re on target for handwriting. The rest of the subjects are extras at this age and don’t need organized instruction, in my opinion. I might add a little, but it’s not strictly necessary.
If I sent them to kindergarten a year from now, I think they’d be bored and possibly start to make their own fun. Whether or not that’s good depends on the teacher’s perspective and exactly what the kids invent. Regardless, a lot of their day would probably be scripted with no substantial benefit to them.
Our reasons will change
As our kids get older, I suspect our list will expand. For instance, I was teased mercilessly in middle school and went home crying at least half the time. Some people might see it as a right of passage, but I see it as unnecessary suffering. My kids will face plenty of trials in life. They don’t need that one.
Which of these, if any, resonates most with you? Have you considered homeschooling or decided another option fit your family better? Let’s chat in the comments.