Last May we made the decision that our children would not return to the local public school this fall where they had been attending a french immersion program. We had talked about homeschooling our children for some time but the benefits of our children being bilingual and my feelings being unable to teach them had kept us from withdrawing them. However, this year our situation and feelings changed. I have been asked a few times as to why we have made this decision so I wanted to share our reasons why we have decided to homeschool.
To give some background information for context I had a very traditional schooling experience until grade 9. I attended my local public schools but half way through grade 9 I switched to correspondence. Over the next 3 years I went back and forth between public school and doing correspondence. Schooling at home offered me many opportunities such as working full time, spending 4 months living abroad and the opportunity to graduate early. I knew from my experience that I would be open to various schooling options for my children as they went through their school careers. My husband also had a traditional schooling experience. He attended public and catholic schools in Fiji where the teaching style was very different from ones used today. He feels that the style of education that he had provided both some benefits as well as downfalls as he went on to pursue a post-secondary education and enter the workforce.
Our decision to make the switch to homeschooling was based on the following:
- Logistics. Our oldest son was set to attend middle school this year (grade 4- more on that below) and two of our other boys were to be at elementary school (grades 1 & 2). While the schools are right across from each other their start, end and lunch times varied quite a bit. This meant that I was looking at doing two drop offs and 2 pick-ups a day that were about 30 to 40 minutes apart. However, our school district charges a noon supervision fee of $255 per child. That meant we would be paying $765 for our children to remain at school over the lunch break on top of all the other fees (no food provided- just supervision). That’s a lot of money! Last year I brought my children home for lunch. This year, that wouldn’t even be an option with their varied lunch times. Even if I kept my oldest son at school and paid the fee for him and brought the younger 2 home that would mean 6 trips a day; something that is a huge pain with a baby and a toddler particularly in the winter time plus $255. I felt like it was just too much for me to take on; especially right after having a baby.
- Education. Teachers are wonderful and I have a ton of respect for them but I felt like my children were not getting the education that they should. My oldest son Joshua was learning a new way of doing math that left him unable to do simple addition and subtraction questions by the end of grade 3. At the same time, he brought a notice home in April stating that he had graduated from the home reading program. There seemed to be a general undertone of “If you have met the minimum grade standards then you are good for the year and don’t need to advance any further”. My middle son Tyler meanwhile was ahead in both math and reading and while he enjoyed school he was bored. Yet, at the same time my other son Nathan was behind and struggling with letter recognition and reading. His teacher kept saying not to worry though and I felt like she was too busy dealing with children who were struggling even more than Nathan. On top of this we felt that the kids were wasting a lot of time in school. Watching full-length Pixar movies and spending entire kindergarten days going swimming (at an additional cost to parents) didn’t sit well with us. We felt that there were much better ways to be using school time and that the individual needs of our children would no longer be met in such a large class setting. We also did not agree with some parts of new guidelines that discuss gender, sexuality and the fundamentals of who we are. They also limit what information is shared with parents regarding what their children are doing while at school and we could not support that infringement on parental rights.
- Emotional. One day I picked my boys up for lunch and one of them was very upset. After being home sick for a few days (he has bouts of bad allergies) it was his first day back at school and his teacher had sent him to another room to make up an art project he had missed. In the meantime, he missed snack time and was told too bad by his teacher (I’m sure it was nicer than in those words though!). By lunch time he was really hungry and seeing him so upset really tugged at my heart strings. I am all for children learning to be independent and problem solve but there is a limit to what we can expect from a 6 year old. I felt that like he had been left with no one to speak up for him. About a month before that my oldest son’s class had a field trip planned that was every day for a week. After discussing it with him he said that he didn’t want to go and would stay home that week instead. We told him that was fine. His principal however, spoke with him a few times telling him that he really should go on the field trip and he finally agreed. I felt like he had been bullied into the decision and once again there was no one there to buffer the ‘discussion’ between an adult authority figure and an 8-year-old. Another concern that we had was the age and developmental range of the middle school which is grades 4 through 9. There is a huge difference emotionally and socially and while they try to keep the younger kids separate they are still at the same school. In a nutshell homeschooling will allow us to meet the emotional needs of our children, be there when they need us and not worry about catching up after sick days.
- Family Connections & Time. Life is busy and we are feeling its effects. Between school, activities, lessons, appointments and errands- it all seemed like too much. I feel really strongly that homeschooling will strengthen the bonds between my children and foster a sense of kindness and empathy in our family. It will also allow for more family time and a more relaxed atmosphere at home since there won’t be homework in the evenings and some of the extracurricular activities will be done during the daytime. There are a number of habits, vocabulary, and attitudes our children have picked up from public school over the last 5 years that we have been less than impressed with and we felt that now was the time to make sure that they did not continue any longer. Religion plays an important part of our family’s life and homeschooling allows us the opportunity to incorporate that and talk about it throughout the day.
It has been very interesting as we share with others the reasons we are going to homeschool. The most interesting thing that I have found is that the first question is typically “what about socialization?”. Well, there are 7 people in our family and I have to say that provides quite a bit of social opportunities! 🙂 Really though between recreation activities, piano, cubs, church and time with friends and siblings socialization is a non-issue. What I am surprised about though is that no one asks about academics. Isn’t that kind of important?! Our children will be doing a ‘blended’ education meaning some courses like English and math will meet our local provincial standards while other courses are up to us to plan and arrange like science, social studies, art, music, French and PE.
I do have to confess though that I am terrified of this new direction we are taking. I never expected to be so heavily responsible for my children’s education. I have serious doubts about if I can teach them what they need to know, if I can have the patience and if I can make it work on top of all the other responsibilities that I have as mom, wife and chief CEO of our home. I know though that this was a decision my husband and I did not make lightly and while it may take some time (even a year!) to get into a comfortable routine that works for us it is the right decision for our family right now.
I plan to share some updates over the next 10 months on how the transition is going, what is working and what is not working for us. I also plan to do some curriculum reviews at the end of the year. In the meantime wish us luck and please send me all the positive vibes you can!
Do you homeschool? What questions do you have about families that homeschool?