While in the pool I began chatting with another mom playing with her daughter. Our conversation invariably lead to schooling.
“Where does your daughter go to school?” she asked.
I replied, “We homeschool.” and waited for the typical response.
“Oh, you’re brave. I could never do that!” she stated emphatically, like most people do.
I wonder why she and everyone else I tell that we homeschool say that they could never do it. And I wonder why they act guilty that they don’t want to do it.
Personally, I don’t care whether they homeschool or not. It’s not easy, but neither is sending your kid to school. Nothing is easy.
What I would like is for people to realize that there are many ways to learn. There isn’t a prescribed way to do it.
I believe that if parents are talking to their kids, reading to them, camping, hiking, visiting museums, travelling, etc., they are facilitating their kid(s)’ learning whether they homeschool them or not.
I reassured her with one of my pat general statements for these conversations by saying, “Yeah, it’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone. I think each family is different and has to figure out what works best for them.”
–And I sincerely believe that.
The woman’s next question was predictable.
“But what about socialization?” she asked while adjusting her swimsuit.
From experience, I realized that she imagined my kids and I isolated at home.
While she glanced at her watch impatiently I explained, “Our kids play sports, music, and attend classes and camps with other kids, and we belong to a homeschooling support group.”
My comment invariably lead her to question how we handled curriculum. She replied, “Oh—so you get together and do classes?”
I patiently explained, “The main thing we do is meet weekly in city parks.” and I added, “Some of us meet and do learning activities together. My sons have been in parent-led writing and science groups. I’ve lead insect, photography, print-making, music and film history classes in our home. We camp and backpack with other families too.”
I could go on, but I noticed she was loosing interest and I stopped talking.
I didn’t mention to her that, as homeschoolers, my kids have multiple opportunities to engage with children their own age in positive ways, and more importantly with diverse age groups.
There was an awkward pause until she asked, “How do you know how they are doing? Do you test them?”
As I wiped my sunglasses on my sleeve I told her, “Schools test children as a means to obtain funding and since I work with my children every day, I know the level they are at. And as a private school, I am not required by the State to test them. But when our son wanted to take the Star test, I ordered it for him and he took it. He likes filling in the bubbles on tests.”
I didn’t describe how I tailor learning to meet the abilities and interests of our children. I could go on and on about the learning theories of John Piaget, Howard Gardner and John Holt, but she didn’t want to hear about their philosophies.
I casually added, “I feel lucky we have the option to homeschool in California.”
Her daughter dunked her head under the water and blew bubbles. The mother playfully bounced her up and down on her knee, and then asked her to swim to the wall with a good strong kick. The child swam willingly.
I felt compassion for the tenderness between the mother and her little girl. I don’t think she realized she was what I would call “homeschooling” her child in the pool.
I wanted to tell her that by my definition, simply being engaged with your child is the essence of homeschooling.
Her family had chosen their path, like we had chosen ours. And they were both working! I’m not interested in imposing homeschooling upon her. I could have gone on, but her interest had waned.
She didn’t know that studies have demonstrated that the success of homeschooling has been attributed to parental nurturing. The educational background of the parent and the chosen curriculum are less important.
Each family does it differently. A few homeschooling families I know fit the image of a mother lecturing at the front of a room, but most do not.
I have met so many people who think homeschooling has to be the way they experienced learning. It doesn’t.
The whole wide world with its ever-so-many different people and the things they’ve created, as well as all the living creatures and plants provide content from which to learn from.
I view my role as a facilitator rather than as a teacher. I am not a subject specialist, but I sure know how to obtain resources. I design our own custom curriculum making sure our kids get the basics in a way they find meaningful.
It is my opinion that because of homeschooling: our two sons and our daughter enjoy each others’ company more than they would if they were in school, practically leading separate lives.
My goals are for them to be physically and mentally healthy. I want them to be independent thinkers. Most of all, I want them to love learning–throughout their lives.
Homeschooling is a successful educational option that is accepted in fifty states in America and it works for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
As I waved goodbye to the mother and daughter holding hands while they carefully walked upon the slippery deck by the pool, I was aware that we both were doing what we thought was best for our family.
All I have to say is thank goodness for parents who engage themselves with their child’s learning because that’s what matters.