Monday, August 27, 2012

My Thoughts on Homeschooling

Up until a year or two ago I admit that I had a very narrow view of homeschooling. It was reserved for those uber-conservative Christians who didn’t want their children tainted by “the world”. Homeschooled children were a little bit odd due to their limited social interaction. But in recent years my views have changed. It seems that more and more people are open to the concept. I know several moms who have decided to homeschool their children, even just for a time, for great reasons that I find admirable. I don’t think they are weird or overprotective. I actually really respect what they are doing and the wheels have started turning. 

I’m no longer against the idea of homeschooling my children. I know. Big gasp! I am a teacher in the public school system so why would I even consider such a thing? Well, there are several reasons. I think the public school system is fine. It’s not perfect but does well considering what it is. Class sizes are big and teachers are expected to cater to any number of learning styles and abilities. When I taught in a grade five classroom I had kids who were ahead of expectations and kids learning at a grade one level and I was supposed to accommodate for all of them. Easier said than done. There is only a certain level of creativity and experience you can supply in a public school classroom based on the limitations you have. You can’t just spontaneously decide you’ll spend the day at the zoo while studying animal habitats. Not that great hands-on learning experiences don’t happen but they are limited by time, money etc.

I also think that students are expected to learn WAY too much. I think the curriculum is a bit ridiculous. Teachers often have to cram in quick units to get marks for a report card and therefore, things are skimmed and not taught well. I think some things are essential, but many are not. Perhaps I just didn’t do it well but I have yet to meet a teacher that isn’t scrambling through something at some point in the year. It’s just reality.

I have nothing against public schools. My children will almost certainly go to them and they’ll get a perfectly good education. But I have a dream for something bigger. I have no desire to just teach my kids at home for years and years on end. My dream, at least for the early years of learning, is to have a little co-op style school. Several different families who want an alternative to public education, learning in someone’s home or alternate facility. Kids would learn through a ton of hands-on activities and much of the learning would be student-directed. If they are curious about dinosaurs, they can learn about dinosaurs. If they’re interested in planets, we’d create a space unit. Older kids would teach younger kids. After all, I think a great way to show you really understand something is to teach it to someone else. Parents who had interests in certain areas would focus on those subjects. Kids would spend a lot more time outside and on field trips...walks in the woods, exploring the ponds and fun things like tobogganing, picnics and swimming. And one of the biggest focuses would be on compassion. Teaching kids about things that really matter, like serving others, kindness and global education. Spend a few hours sorting food at a food bank or hanging out with seniors. Whatever. With more parents involved, I wouldn’t be teaching my kids a lot of the time, they’d have a lot of social interaction and they’d have great opportunities that just aren’t available in mainstream schools.

I know I’m dreaming a bit. There would be challenges and costs and various things that I can’t imagine right now. I don’t have the space to do it, and I don’t actually know anyone else interested in that kind of thing. And I would want my kids to experience the public school system at some point and certainly don’t feel qualified to teach much more than grade six. I kind of picture this being something they do for the first few years.

Our government is rolling out all-day kindergarten which my boys would go to in just two years. At this point my thought is to keep them home for at least the first year. That’s a lot of school for someone so young. I think I can teach them what they need to know and have a lot of fun doing it. I love creating learning activities and have found a ton of new ones thanks to Pinterest. That being said, we don’t know if our family is complete so if we end up having another young one at home when it’s time for kindergarten I may change my mind. And maybe by then I’ll think it will be a good thing for the boys. Whether or not any amount of homeschooling will be part of our family, I have no idea. But my little dream excites me and either way I know that whether informally or formally I will be a significant teacher in my childrens’ lives.

Thoughts? What are your views on homeschooling? Have they changed at all? Would you ever consider it?

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