Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Homeschool II: Advantages and Disadvantages

Okay I know it took a while for this post but I've been reading a lot (4 books) for research! There's a lot of great info out there. I'll put a list of references at the end of this post.

One of the few homeschooling families I knew growing up, I knew through church. They have 4 children, and the oldest is now attending a private 4-year college. His name is Jonathan, and he agreed to answer a few questions about being homeschooled. He was homeschooled all the way through high school.

How much input did you have in what you studied?
"I had a fairly substantial degree of input in what I learned. Of course, core subjects such as math, science, and English were required but in many ways I could shape my other courses to reflect my specific interests."

What would you have changed?
"I would have had a little more structure. Personally, I need a lot of structure; I perform best in a highly structured environment. That being said, I really appreciated the flexibility of my schedule. I do need a certain amount of that as well."

Would you recommend homeschooling to parents?
"Yes, in general, particularly through the middle school years. But as strongly as I would recommend it I would caution parents: it isn't for everyone, both parents and children. As beneficial as it is for some, it can be equally harmful for others. It really should be evaluated on an individual basis."

What was the best part about homeschooling?
"The best part? I would have to say the relationship I developed with my family, especially my Mom. It shows an incredible amount of love to give up a career...to teach one's children. I have the utmost respect, love, and admiration of her because of it."

Wow. Wouldn't you love to hear your teenaged son say that about you one day? That leads very well into the advantages of homeschooling.

Advantages of Homeschooling:
  1. Closer family bonds. You can see evidence of this by Jonathan's answer above. He thought the BEST part of homeschooling was his relationship with his family. I didn't expect that answer at all, quite frankly. I thought he'd say the best part was all of the traveling they did, or the flexibility of his schedule, or how he got to choose what he learned. Homeschooling can be a great way to create a closer family unit. Did you think that it's just normal for your teens to pull away and rebel in high school? It doesn't have to be that way, clearly. More on that later...
  2. Overlapping disciplines. Is your child obsessed with dinosaurs? Trains? Horses? Planets? Use that to your advantage! Studying dinosaurs, for example, can be a history lesson, a science lesson, a math lesson (if you have 2 T-Rex's, and 3 Triceratops, how many dinosaurs do you have?), a biology lesson, and an art lesson (drawing pictures of dinosaurs, making dino-crafts, etc.) How cool is that?
  3. Confidence. Students who have individual attention, room to be creative, and have the liberty of shaping their own education have higher self-esteem. Also, the active participation from parents in their child's education is the best gift. It lets your children know you care about their education, which will make them want to work hard to make you proud.
  4. Freedom. Freedom from a traditional school schedule, from a restrictive curriculum, from the competitive nature of grades, and from constant standardized testing. This means field trips whenever you want, spending more time on some subjects than others as needed, and being creative throughout the day!

Possible Disadvantages:
  1. Giving up a source of income. In order to homeschool, obviously one parent must stay home full time. This doesn't mean you can't find a way to work at home or during times your spouse or partner isn't working. Luckily, homeschooling doesn't have to cost a lot. In fact, there's an entire book dedicated to combatting this issue. Homeschool Your Child for Free, by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski. Also, you may think that if you're a single parent, you can't homeschool. This may not be the case. I've read about many single parent households that homeschool. In the book listed below, The Homeschooling Book of Answers, there is information about this specifically.
  2. Difficult transition. This could be an issue if you're taking your child out of school to start homeschooling. There will obviously be a transition time where your child will need to adjust to a different lifestyle. This can be either fairly easy, if your child hasn't been in school long, or wants to be homeschooled. However, if your child is afraid of missing their friends at school, the transition may be more difficult. This can be eased by finding time to be with those friends outside of school. And, of course, you'll need no transition time if you homeschool your child from the beginning.
  3. Lack of support. Sometimes you'll find that there is some resistance from your friends or family about your decision to homeschool. This can be frustrating if they don't understand why you're choosing this path. You can try to help educate them about homeschooling and help them understand where you're coming from, but in the meantime it's also a great option to find other homeschooling families and find support from them. Everyone has different reasons for choosing to homeschool, but you will all be able to share experiences and advice. There are many resources for this, which I will list below.
Homeschooling Books and Online Resources:

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