A common question for kids to get asked by adults is, "What school do you go to?" or "Who is your teacher?" As a home school family, my kids often answer by saying they are home schooled and then they point to me as their teacher. All of that is fine but what always bugs me beyond words are the often blank stares they receive from the adult. cricket....cricket...cricket... It seems like some adults just cannot figure out how to navigate the conversation from this point.
Another end to this type of awkward exhange, is when the above said adult has the guts to turn to the mom (uhh, hemmmm, moi) and ask how I socialize my kids. At to which I would love to give them the same blank stare, cricket...cricket....cricket and then grab my forehead exclaiming, "Oh no! I forgot to socialize my kids - thank you so much for bringing that to my attention!"
Like I said, I have often restrained myself from writing this post because I do not want to offend ANYONE. There is nothing wrong with public, private, Montessori, etc. - pick your favorite flavor when it comes to various types of educations. But there is also nothing wrong or WEIRD about home schooling. It is a great mode of education and socialization (since that must be addressed). For the record, there are also many different theories and approaches to home school.
Ten years ago, heck, five years ago I would have never seen our family as a home school family. I was teaching for our local district and my oldest was enrolled in elementary. But for our family, everything started to fall apart. Our son required extra attention and help that could have been handled by the right teacher with the right administrator but unfortunately that was not the case. I remember someone saying to me, "You know, public school isn't for everyone. Some kids just can't handle it." At the time, that statement pierced my heart. I was beyond offended! As the momma bear, I basically read into that statement as, "Your child is not good enough for public school." As the year unraveled (quickly might I add) we pulled our son from public school, I resigned from teaching, we became a single income family, and we jumped into home schooling. In the blink of an eye, a snap of the fingers, a true leap of faith clinging to God, our family and life completely changed.
In the beginning, I felt like home schooling was our little secret. I really didn't want anyone to know. I didn't want my son being asked, I just couldn't accept it. Looking back, I think that was because I always felt like we were kicked out of public school. Also, I wasn't educated about home schooling. I had no idea there were many other families homeschooling, as well. That first year, I felt very isolated. I only knew two homeschooling families and I flooded their emails and phones with daily questions. Now, going on our fourth year (crazy how time flies) I have such a different view. Home schooling can be such an amazing experience for kids, parents, families as a whole. In fact, I think the word family is the perfect definition for home school. It is not just your own family but the home schooling community is a family. I wish I had been informed about this avenue years ago. Now looking back, I can see our family choosing home schooling from the get-go. I applaud families that have run this race for the duration of their children's education. They are so brave to go against what some would say is the norm and pick the path that was/is right for their family. I view them as true trailblazers.
Last night, we attended a kick off event (for the new school year) for one of our local home school groups. I was amazed at all of the activities and opportunities that are available. We have been part of an incredible Christian based co-op for the past year and it has also really opened the door for my kiddos. And don't think these are rinky-dink groups. The organization we attended last night had over 225 families (well over 500 individuals) enrolled last year. That is a lot of people! They offer athletics (a student can actually letter in various activities), field trips, homecoming dances, proms, lots of holiday parties, graduation ceremonies, student council, debate club, cheerleading, the list is endless. Which is why I just can't seem to understand why people are still so confused and concerned that we are not socializing our kids. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! In my opinion, we have the best of both worlds. Our kids get fantastic education and the memories of sports and extra curricular activities, along and working side by side with their families.
This leads me to the point that I can not get over how involved the families are - EVERYONE volunteers in some way. I taught at a high school where I may have seen 10 parents (out of my 200 students) during open house. Please don't ever think that a home school parent is lazy and just doesn't want to deal with the morning rush of getting out the door, signing countless papers and homework folders (although this is a perk). Home schooling parents are die hard volunteers. Yes, I realize there are exceptional volunteers in schools, that is not my point. I just want so badly for people to understand the home school world. If you just can't wrap your head around it at least look at just a few of the facts.
HSLDA This is the link to the Home School Legal Defense Association. The statics in this article are astounding. For example, home schooled children perform 30-37 percentile points higher in all subjects. Also statistics show that home schoolers tend to score above the national average on the ACT and SAT. This site has an endless list of other statistics regarding the benefits of home school.
THSC Did you know that in the state of Texas (where we proudly reside), homeschooling is considered a private school? YES! Texas recognizes any homeschooling family in the same way it recognizes private schools. It is estimated that 120,000 families (over 300,000 students) across the state of Texas home school.
I encourage you to take a look at these sites and become better informed about home schooling (even if it is not for you, your child, or your family). I am not trying to make this a debate against public school, which is why I have hesitated about writing this post. I am afraid that is all people will hear. Public school can be a wonderful experience. I have many friends who are outstanding public school teachers. HOWEVER, I have many friends who are also outstanding home school teachers. I just want them (and myself) to be better understood. I want their kids to be recognized as hard working individuals trying to find their path just like other kids. I want both camps to understand, respect, and support one another. I want all parents to understand that we are all doing the best we can with these two topics of parenting and education.
We pray for the day we become parents. Then these tiny beings arrive without instruction manuals. We make mistakes...oh so many mistakes. But when it comes down to it, regardless if you are a working parent, stay at home parent, send your kids to public school or make the decision to home school, you are that child's parent. The parent paired with that child by God because He trusts each of us to do our very best. We should respect one another for that. We should support and lean on each other. We should cheer each other on regardless of what camp we are in.
So if you are still reading this ridiculously long post (which I love you for - thank you), let me leave you with this little tidbit and navigational tool in the event you encounter a home school family. The odds are high, we are everywhere. :)
FOR THE LOVE! STOP ASKING HOME SCHOOLING PARENTS IF WE HAVE SOCIALIZED OUR KIDS! If you want to talk to us about our kids and school, ask us (and our kids for that matter) real questions that pertain to actual education. I promise you will get a much nicer response and maybe, just maybe you will realize we are...are you ready for it?...you may need to sit down...
You may realize that we are normal..... :)