Homeschooling: Thoughts On The Past and Present
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I was homeschooled from 7th grade on. With so many people faced with homeschooling children during Covid-19, I think it is a good time to write a little bit about this. Just fair warning, the first part of this article is just me talking about my own experience so if you don’t want to hear about that, then you can skip on to the second part.
There are many different experiences with homeschooling. Some people really love it while others find it problematic. Usually, there is a mixture of feelings that result. I am going to talk about that in this post.
First of all, let’s go over why I was homeschooled. It was a choice. I was bored and tired of the cliquish atmosphere. You didn’t want to be one of the upriver kids at the junior high school that was 10 miles away in the larger town. They looked down on us no matter what. Kid’s from some of the logging towns like I lived in tended to have a bit less and not come from one of the cool families. It is the same general story in a million places in America. There is a hierarchy of class that is impossible to ignore and it is hard to change anyone’s perceptions of you even if you are clearly not that yourself.
But I am getting ahead of myself a little bit.
My grade school was small. We had grades K-6 but some classrooms were split because sometimes there were a few extra 3rd graders so they picked some to be taught in the 4th grade classroom so a few of us would have the same teacher for 2 years. The most the school ever had was maybe 130 students. When I was kindergarten age there was no kindergarten and my Mom had just abandoned us for the most part. There were a few months when no one knew if she was even alive because she just disappeared. I was pretty upset at least in part because some things were kind of hidden from me due to my age. So I started school a year late but well ahead of the game. I already knew how to read and add up large numbers.
My Dad and Grandma taught me. I learned to read on a McGuffey Reader from the 1930s. See Jane run and all that. My Dad had always made up stories and told them to me or read them aloud and I really didn’t want to have to wait around on him to do it for me all the time. He was trying to support us and working at a sawmill, coming to terms with the fact that he was going to be on his own raising a daughter with the horrors of the TET offensive only 20 years in the past.
Jumping ahead a bit now.
After I learned to read, people couldn’t hide things from me anymore. That used to bother me a bit that my Mom’s side of the family really didn’t want me to know somethings. Books and a library card made that impossible to do. The exception was my Uncle Bill, my Mom’s brother who separated from his significant other not too long after my Mom and Dad officially split. Learning to read back in the late 80s was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. Uncle Bill moved in with us and so here I was a little girl with 2 bachelors in a house. It was actually pretty cool at the time. Uncle Bill always had a huge pile of paperbacks. I am sure that I read through part of Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels when I was really young. Rolling stone and other magazines were around the house too and I could always read those.
Lyman, Washington was about 4 miles away and I had to ride the bus to go to school. It was ok at times and at others, it was really annoying. I was wasting at least an hour of my life each day on a school bus. I usually just read a book or talked to others. Sometimes I would do homework but there wasn’t much of that since we were just in grade school.
We had a lot of interesting programs at my grade school. They would pick some of us that had an interest and allow us to do special programs. I did the poetry writing one with a few other kids. There was a young authors program that anyone could participate in but I only did it once because I had the age-old problem of writers at a young age. I hated a deadline and I always questioned if everyone would think that what I wrote was dumb. I was also trying to write fiction. One year I lost my manuscript too.
Since I was a year older and bored they let me skip 6th grade and catch up. Others didn’t really see it that way. After all, that was one less year of school than other people would have to do.
7th grade was boring too. The classes were not hard and the social atmosphere was awful. So my Dad pulled me out of school.
My education after that was mostly through small workbooks that were mailed out. It was expensive back then and limited. $400 a year was a lot back then. But at the same time, I was reading a ton of books. At 16 I moved to North Carolina and got a job in town at a fast-food restaurant, raised and managed a small herd of goats, and raised Great Pyrenees. I was accepted into Warren Wilson College. Apparently my cheap drugstore developed photos of my farming enterprises and essay combined with a reasonable ACT score did the trick.
My Dad thought I would go to college because I wanted to but there was no real pressure to do so because no one on either side of my family had any formal education beyond high school.
Homeschooling: Thoughts On The Past and Present
One thing that people, especially critics of homeschooling like to point out is that kids are not properly socialized when homeschooled. I have to say that homeschooling did lead to a lot of free time for me as a younger teen and I could get pretty lonely at times. There was not a lot of other things to do and I lived in a very small town.
I think the lack of socialization is less of a problem than it used to be because kids can at least talk and chat online even if they have to be apart. We increasingly isolate ourselves by choice in modern times so in some ways people are more used to it.
So what did I learn about homeschooling from 7th-12th grade?
It is way more time-efficient.
I had time to grow as a person while still getting an education. There is a lot of wasted time at public schools. All the busing everyone to and from the schools. Nowadays parents seem to be scared to let kids ride the bus so they spend an insane amount of time dropping off and picking up. This adds up to less time for parents to do other things. Granted there are some that have similar enough work schedules to the school schedule that it is not that way but there are plenty of families that spend a ton of time commuting to and from school.
Homeschooling allows kids to learn at a pace that is right for them. Instruction can be customized to focus on areas that each child has trouble with while allowing less time for those that they breeze through.
The idea that all kids should be treated the same is crazy to me because all kids are not the same. Sure there is a basic level of compassion and treatment that applies to everyone but kids have different talents, interests, etc. We all have our strong points and weaknesses and that is a good thing. It is far better to have people that have different strong points than having everyone know how to excel at the same thing.
Some kids are more visual learners or hands-on for example. Public school doesn’t always do a good job of allowing kids to learn in a style that is suitable for them.
When I was growing up everyone wanted their kid to be a doctor, lawyer, etc. Well, we all can’t do that and the world would be in a real mess if we tried. There is immense value in a variety of interests and skills and people should not be disrespected just because they don’t become some specific job or go to an ivy league school.
Kids often excel that have trouble in regular school settings.
Sometimes kids have trouble in school because they are exposed to an awful environment. If your kid is getting bullied and doesn’t want to be there or they are bored, you may be surprised just how amazing they do when you instruct them at home. When all that drama and garbage is not hanging over their heads they may be a totally different student.
When I was school age things were just starting to get to the point in our corner of Washington where there were metal detectors and police officers. Personally I had no interest in being treated like an inmate or being in an environment where I had to be concerned about gangs and petty disagreements.
Unlike public school, you can incorporate your faith into your curriculum if desired.
I have heard people complain about some things that are taught in schools go against their religious beliefs or they are offended that prayer is not part of the school day.
While I can understand the frustration of feeling like your values are not being taught, I have to say that it would be simply impossible to take into account everyone’s religious beliefs and values in a public school. At the same time, I don’t think schools always do the best job not promoting an agenda of one sort or the other depending on where the district is.
If you homeschool, you have more control over the values and faith that your children are taught than you do when they attend public school. If you want to start the day with a prayer or meditation then no one is stopping you.
I also want to point out for those that prefer secular curriculums that most homeschool programs are not faith-based like they were in the past. The program I used was. I actually read the entire Bible in high school. Many parents that homeschooled in the 80s and 90s probably remember that the faith-based curriculums were also more affordable. That is not really how it is now.
Homeschooling during a pandemic and in modern times is different in so many ways.
For starters, we did not have the internet when I was homeschooled. It was still one of those things that only a handful of people had and it being dial-up meant it was very limited. This made the cost of education much higher because you had to search out a program.
Kids are also going to be under significant amounts of stress. Some will be more stressed out than others just like adults. I know I would be worried about all the older people in my family and missing seeing others my own age. Kids that participate in organized sports are going to experience missing out on all the exercise and companionship that they are so used to.
Quarantine situations vary but if possible, get outside and get some fresh air. Have recess periods and gym classes.
Exercise and fresh air are good for mental and physical health. Kids don’t get to move around enough in public school settings most of the time. This has an effect on learning and behavior. Kids are not meant to sit still for long periods of time. A lot of parents that I have talked to express that boys are affected more so than girls but that doesn’t mean girls don’t need some exercise and fresh air time too.
As a parent that is homeschooling, you have the advantage of letting your kids take breaks when needed. If their attention span is waning, maybe it is a good time to move around some.
I guess is if your school is trying to do virtual live classroom experiences at particular times that you may have to work around that. Different states and school districts may vary a lot in how they proceed with home education.
If you are in an apartment or other high-density living situation then there may be times when you need to exercise inside. There are video games that instruct kids in dancing and even let them compete with others. I saw my niece do this during the holidays and it definitely gets kids exercising while having fun. Of course, there is always Youtube to the rescue with all kinds of exercise videos.
If kids are missing their friends a lot and each family has a webcam, kids may be able to talk and exercise together. Coordinating with other families virtually may be worthwhile and make the isolation easier to bear.
Incorporate more educational programs and videos.
Many people are very visual learners. We are so lucky to have so many educational shows and videos at little to no cost. If your kids are studying biology then maybe find an interesting video to complement that. You may find they retain a lot more knowledge by adding this into lesson plans.
Check your local library website out. Many have ebooks to lend and other online research tools that you can use for free by logging in with your library card number!
If you have a backyard or patio area, then why not encourage school work to be done outside if the weather is good enough. If you have a screened-in porch and places to sit and lounge, then that may be a nice option too.
Plenty of kids and teens show amazing responsibility when it comes to getting their school work done. Some will require less watching over than you might expect.
I know that when I was homeschooled I just tried to get things done as soon as possible. If your child is already the type that doesn’t need much persuasion to do homework, enjoys learning, etc, then you may not really need to do much except be there to answer questions if they arise. Since most homeschooling that is happening now is due to the pandemic, there are teachers available online to answer questions so you may find that you not required to do all that much in terms of teaching.
It may be a bit hard to get used to a new educational routine at first and there may be times when everyone’s patience wears thin. It is important to remember to take a deep breath and cut each other some slack during these hard times. Talk about things that are working and not working when it comes to homeschooling as they come up rather than letting problems fester.
I think that in the future that a lot of kids are going to continue homeschooling even when classes go back. It affords a lot of opportunities that don’t exist in public school. Teens that are old enough to get a work permit may be able to get some jobs and earn extra money and get work experience for example.
Labor laws may have changed since I was a teen so that is something that you will have to look into. I remember that homeschooling allowed me to work different shifts than what other teens could work so it was easier to gain a position at some places. Teens may also want to consider apprenticeships or taking college classes online so they can be ahead of the game when they are adults.
In closing, I want to say that while I am glad I went to college after being homeschooled, I truly believe that college is not the best choice for everyone and that there are plenty of skilled trades that are worth pursuing. For me, college made sense because it was the best opportunity for me to get out on my own.
I worked over breaks for the college so I could support myself when school was not in session. It got me out of a living situation where I didn’t even have a bedroom of my own because I had moved from Washington State with my Dad and we were staying my Grandma’s crowded house.
There are plenty of great jobs that someone can get through apprenticeships and trade schools or certificate programs. Sure some may take a year to complete but that is more sensible than 4 years of college for some people.
The people I went to college with that got degrees in things like Outdoor Leadership or Art spent a lot of money on degrees when they could probably have achieved the same career goals with a shorter degree program and internships.
I just couldn’t see then nor now racking up $50,000-$120,000 dollars in loans(early 2000s dollars) to do that. The college I attended was private and expensive. The only way I got to go was because they had a ton of grants and scholarships for poorer kids and tried to accept a few and I still came out owing over $17K for my degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Forestry.
Skilled workers in a variety of fields are what keeps this country running. We need to appreciate those jobs and not just tell kids that they need to pursue a handful of jobs.
How has your homeschool experience been so far? What challenges have you faced? Do you think you will continue homeschooling even after the pandemic is no longer a threat?