Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Low Down on Home Schooling

*This article is posted with permission from its author, Krista Besley, who wrote it when a friend asked for the "low down" on home schooling. It is based on her personal experience.

Homeschooling Pros

Free to do things on your own schedule. You can visit the zoo, go camping, go on business trips with dad, anything you want to do and not at the time when all the other families are doing it too. We love to enjoy vacations and things during the off seasons. This includes doctor's appts. You are free to go during the day instead of striving to get after school hours. If a friend passes through town, we are free to take a day off, knowing we can make it up another time.

It just seems natural. After your traditional schooling years, how do you learn things? I usually read online or in a book and gain the knowledge I need at my own pace. If there are some things I already know, I can skip over them. If it is something that is more difficult for me to grasp, I can dwell and reread, or find other sources, etc.... whatever it takes to learn it.

No worries about strict bedtimes and wake-up times, stressful mornings and hasty goodbyes. No getting back together late in the day when everyone is tired, stressed, hungry, and needing to do homework. This seems especially important during gospel meeting weeks or other things that take place in the evenings.

More efficient. The kids learn their new concepts amazingly quickly. They sit down, read the new lesson, ask me for help if they need it, and then do exercises that use the new concept. After that it is basically done. They will build on that concept each day. It was kind of neat to realize that we didn't need to do lecture type teaching. They learn it through reading and discussing. There is no homework to deal with later in the day. It's all done right after they learn it.

You can be very in tune with your children's attitudes, weaknesses, strengths, and work to mold him in the way you see fit. I would miss so much about what was going on with the kids if I was away from them for 8 hours a day. That is a lot of their waking time!

You know exactly what your child is around, is seeing, hearing, and experiencing. This way you can make the most of teaching him to think and evaluate the things of this world as a Christian would.
What better way to spend your time? I had already committed to being a stay at home mom, why not have them here with me?

More one on one teaching. I was told that public school teachers in AR have to be careful not to go over their limit of 150 students per day. That is just a lot of students!

We can be more involved in shaping our kids rather than letting them be shaped so much by their peers.

Now that some of them are older, they are able to take advantage of work or volunteer opportunities. Jehu is able to work every so often with a local Christian who is a handyman. He has learned so much! Carolyn is able to do some afternoon babysitting for another Christian who works part time. The girls volunteered for awhile at horse stables where they offer therapeutic riding.

Homeschooling Cons

The biggest con would have to be that you don't have 8 hours to clean and get your house back in order each day! Not only that, but the kids are there all day messing it up even more! Ha!

Great teachers. They don't get the benefit of those 3 or 4 great teachers that I did in my public school experience. Those teachers that loved and were good at what they taught. The ones that cared about the students and cared about the quality of job they were doing.

Expense. It cost about $500 per year for all 4 kids, until they started high school. At that point, I chose to get them Abeka's DVD program which is about $1000 per year, per child. It is excellent though and I feel like they get a lot out of it. There are many different routes to take with curriculum. You just have to feel your way along a little bit. Curriculum fairs and reading online can help you make a decision. I don't know how the cost compares when it's figured in that they don't need nice clothes each day of the week and various other public school expenses.

It may take more effort to expose them to all the different interests they could pursue. In public school it seems like all the different electives, clubs, sports and band opportunities are spread out before them to choose. In homeschooling, it depends on you to expose them to those things. This may be a pro or a con.

And really, that brings me to the biggest (I won't call it a con) challenge. It all depends on you! Oh dear! Your attitude sets the tone for your homeschool. And the kids will look to you and you alone for praise, encouragement, gentle correction, training, partner to chat with, shoulder to lean on, study partner, mercy for a bad grade, and on and on. I am continually having to straighten myself up, because the problems usually arise from my slacking off.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Some may worry about being a good enough teacher. I've had to relearn a lot of things through the years like various math exercises, historical events and parts of speech, etc. But it really has not been difficult to figure it out and move along. The textbooks you get are designed to teach and you can learn from them to facilitate teaching your kids. However, this gets more and more difficult as they reach higher grades. They have started to pass me up, and so, when they do have a question, I can't necessarily jump right in and answer it. We're figuring this part out now. Sometimes Carolyn can help Jehu figure something out. Carolyn usually gets all she needs from her DVD. We'll see what the future holds. She's only got two more years of school!

The stigma of homeschooling has really become a non-issue for me. I was talking about it to Jim and he compared it to the stigma of being a Christian. He said, "How much time to you spend worrying about the stigma of being a Christian? (Little to none) That's about the same amount of time you'll worry about it with homeschooling." I really have come to feel like this is the more natural and normal way to live life with children. It's similar to working mothers with kids in day care. While I know that it is necessary sometimes, I don't see it as the preferable way. It's not preferable to me to think of the kids receiving mass education. One on one instruction with a Biblical world view, in the privacy and comfort of their own home, with private transportation, under the direction of someone who loves them and will strive to see them succeed (academically and spiritually) is preferable to me.


*Me again. I just wanted to pop back in and note that everyone does NOT have to spend $1000 per child in the high school years. Please realize that this is what one family chose based on what was best for them. The thing to remember is that every home schooling family is different, and there is a wide range of how much people spend per year. Studies show that home schoolers excel across the board over public/private schoolers, and their performance does not seem to be tied to how much their family spends. (Just because you don't spend as much as the next family doesn't mean your kids aren't getting a great education.) You have the freedom to choose what is best for your family, taking into consideration what you can afford. Home schooling does cost money, so take that into consideration. But, as Krista mentions, it also saves money in unexpected areas. This includes certain school supplies and clothes, not to mention Mom's professional work clothes & gas for travel. Also, you can choose a curriculum that you can re-use with the younger siblings, so you're only buying most of the supplies once.

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