Over the last decade, homeschooling has exploded. There are over two million home educating students and the numbers continue to grow. As the method has increased in popularity, the number of people who are unaware of the positive benefits of homeschooling has decreased. However, there are those inevitable moments when an assumption about homeschooling is brought up in conversation. This can happen anywhere – at the grocery store, hair salon or sporting event; when the topic of how my children are educated comes up, common misconceptions arise.
One of the most astounding questions that I have heard is, “What about homeschooling socialization?” I don’t even know where people learn that word, and I wonder if they know what it means? How many of us, when we call up our friends to get together, say, “Hey, want to be socialized with me?” It also isn’t a question we ask any new person we meet, “Um, excuse me, but are you properly socialized?” However, the question does arise, and although I am tempted to reveal my true feelings about not wanting to socialize with people who ask such dumb questions,
I generally answer with a list of the classes and activities that my children participate in. Community activities such as martial arts and ballet, family outings to museums, youth camps, art classes and community college classes, are all examples of “socialization” that my children participate in. Socialization might be just another way of saying “culture development” and, as a parent, I love the opportunity I have to expose my children to the culture that I value. I want my children to love art, music and the natural world, but with pressures to test, those things aren’t well represented in classrooms. I also want my children to appreciate different kinds of learners and classrooms often have to undervalue more active students, simply because they have so many kids to manage. So, yes, my children are being “socialized”, I just choose a different path to accomplish it.
Another myth that I have heard is, “Homeschool kids stay in their pajamas all day”. Although I live in a town where it is common to see people at the store in their pajamas, our family culture includes getting out of bed, making the bed, and getting dressed in the morning. As homeschoolers, we certainly have the freedom to stay in our pajamas all day, but since I also put a high value on good habits, that isn’t normally the way we do things here. There may be an occasional exception, such as this morning when I am sitting on my unmade bed, in my P.J’s, typing, while my youngest son plays nearby. That is the exception, rather than the rule.
A misconception that I have heard, which would actually have weight if it were true is, “How can you educate your children if you aren’t a teacher?” This is a question that I am still pondering over. You see, because I was a teenage rebel, with hippy parents, I quit school when I was 15 and took an exit exam. This means that I never did algebra and I had merely a year of high school English. However, when I had my own children, I purchased a homeschool curriculum, read voraciously about education and did my best to create an atmosphere that valued learning. As my students grew, we had some meltdowns over math, and I have often wondered if I was doing enough school with them, especially in comparison to the hours and hours that public school students spend in classrooms. As my students have moved into college classes, both as dual-enrollment high school students and as college students, I have seen that my fears were unfounded. My normal learners have consistently gotten the highest grades in their classes and been recommended as tutors for other students. Research confirms the truth that homeschool students do well, regardless of their parents education level.
Another misconception that I often hear from moms is, “I could never do that”. While I realize that homeschooling is not for everybody, mostly anybody could homeschool. In fact, most parents are doing at least some of the work of homeschooling already. When a child brings home a packet of homework at the end of the day, most parents have to sit down with the child and make sure they complete their work. This is essentially what homeschooling looks like. Most families buy a curriculum, consisting of instructions and worksheets, which you use to instruct your child. By the time your children reach high school age, they, like most regular high school students, can read the instructions in their textbook and complete their assignments. As a homeschooling parent, it would then be you, instead of another teacher, who would grade their work using the teachers manual. The only difference between families who send their children to school and those who homeschool is that the homeschoolers have more time for fun with their children. We get our schoolwork done in a few hours and then have the rest of the day to pursue an interest, or hang out with friends or attend an enrichment class. Homeschool children also have time to just be kids. They have time to create imaginary worlds, delve into art or simply read a book. Their childhood isn’t stolen by a bunch of bureaucrats who push developmentally inappropriate academics as a carrot, so that teachers can obtain classroom funds.
Ultimately, as homeschooling grows, so does the realization that it is a beautiful education option. While it may not be for everyone, it is an option that has greatly enriched the life of our family.