Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A sappy post on being a homeschooling parent

As a parent AND my children’s teacher, I am very privileged as I get to witness every moment of progress and success my children make academically. (It is also a curse as I have to struggle through everything that is difficult myself, but that is a post for another day; today I want to focus on the joy.) At the end of the day, I don’t have to wonder what my children did in school or if they learned anything, if there were any problems, and if there were, if my boys overcame the obstacles; I know that they did well, because we never finish a day until both boys have done perfectly. We have a very rigorous curriculum, and sometimes it is hard for the boys to get through everything, but they always succeed, simply because there’s nothing else. Because this is a school just for them, there are no B’s, C’s, or D’s and certainly no F’s for fail; we work until the boys have reached an A-level every day. It is hard but also very rewarding, and I know they appreciate it. To see their faces and hear their, “Yes! Done with school for the day!” at the end of an extensive school day makes up for any struggle, because I know they are satisfied, and so, so proud of themselves. They know they made progress and that they are on top of their game. Of course, sometimes they have trouble learning something or they don’t get all correct at a test (just like any other child), but if they don’t, we’ll work through whatever went wrong, they’ll take another test or complete a worksheet until they know their lesson, and at the end of the day, they know they’re “100%.” They always get a small reward too; sometimes it’s a movie, some gaming time or something else they’ve been desiring, and sometimes it’s a small treat. We call it “after-school,” and everyone in the family enjoys it. Being a homeschooling parent is hard work, but so, so rewarding.


  1. Myself I never really attended nursery because my mom and dad worked from home – my family tended to a lighthouse. I grew up to make up my mind independently and not care for group pressure, which was positive, but I also grew up shy and not really good at socialising, not good at the superficial, careless relations, which is quite detrimental in a world that is built upon human relations. You are whom you know. I was initiator of many events and leader of many groups over the years, but I was not good at building personal relations.

    Secondly, schools are huge sites of cross-pollination. Children come from their various homes, with various knowledge, life-experience and behaviour, and it all melts together. Schools do not only teach the curriculum, they also distribute the extracurricular collective knowledge, and they teach human intercourse with people who do not necessarily love you, do not care about you, even sometimes plainly hate you. Home-schooled children in comparison will be like hothouse flowers, but you cannot supply hothouse for them for ever, or what?

    I started thinking about it more seriously when my younger one started attending nursery along with the older sister, at about 12 months, she barely walked. These were short days, of course, and just a few days a week in the beginning. She enjoyed immensely because by that time already she was bored at home. Her speech, her understanding and her behaviour all leaped forward from that moment – she began to use proper sentences in speech long before 2nd birthday and now at around 2.5 she already holds long intelligent dialogues. I learn Arabic from her, in fact, as she by and by expands her vocabulary. Because every day, she learns not only from the "teacher" but from everyone around her.

    I would not want to take that from my kids.

  2. It sounds like you had a bit of an isolated childhood, which can be difficult. One of my best friends grew up in a similar situation. She however, has chosen to homeschool her own children.

    You obviously do not know how our life is structured, and how homeschooling can entail a rigorous curriculum, AND a very rich social life and involvement (and I agree with you, children need to learn to relate to other beings in various ways). Playgroups, play-dates, social activities, after-school programs, sports, competitive sports, volunteering, traveling, and a lot of effort on our (the parents) part ensures that our children get the best from all "worlds."

    Thank you for your comment!

  3. I've written and rewritten several responses to this, but I've decided to just say this. There are always going to be people who have bad homeschool experiences, just as there are going to be many people who have bad school experiences. Some of how we turn out will be due to the way we were, or weren't, nurtured, some of it will be due to some hardwired way we just 'are'. All homeschooled children are not hothouse grown. Neither are all children who are sent to private school. The most 'hothoused' children I personally know are actually in public school and being drilled in homework and lessons after school as well. I don't think any of us want to 'take' anything from our kids. The fact is there will be opportunities your children might have in school that she wouldn't get at home. There will be opportunities my children get being homeschooled that wouldn't be possible if they were in school. They will both miss out on things, and they will both be enriched by things. Isn't it wonderful that we have the choices around how this all happens?


  4. The difference is that if children go to school, they still also have you and what you can give to them. While if they don't go to school, they have only you and what you can give to them. It is not about better or worse, or bad or good, it is about more or less (observations, opinions, experience...) Jennifer, what you list is what all normal kids do, just that most of them also go to school and interact with own age, their equals, daily. With someone else than their own "pod", daily. Knowledge multiplied by number of teachers, classmates, schoolmates...

    Because J. here was contemplating if she should let boys go to school if it will be paid for anyway, and I do think you should! It would free you to do something else than try to be a shool-in-one-person, which I think is too much hassle for too little (or dubious) gain. And introduce some variety into their lives. Then ask later, what they prefer... and you'll have the answer (have no idea, btw, which it will be). Because isn't all advancement about experimenting and trying the new, once in a while?

  5. Of course it is not true that you can be home schooled and go to school at the same time, because it is not about more or less but different lives. But not in the way you think.

    The things I list are indeed what a lot of children do, and yes, on top of that most other kids also go to school. My boys however get to interact with all ages, equals and unequals daily, in addition to spending time with the children they would have gone to school with, AND they get a much better education on top of that. That is the difference.

    For many years I worked full time and the boys went to school. I had a long, intense and interesting career, and the boys got to experience what it was like to go to school - a great school at that. They liked it, and I enjoyed work. When we finally were in a position where we could homeschool however, we were overwhelmed by how much we liked it.

    We re-evaluate the situation at the end of each semester, and agree every year so far that this is what works for us. The benefits are anything but "little or dubious gain," but rather so, so noticeable and great. I have yet to find a school that comes anywhere near our curricula and rigor; my boys are happy; they have friends; an active social life; and have a more varied life than most other children I know (who spend most days getting up, going to school, stopping by the playground on their way home, doing homework, having dinner, an hour of screen, and then going to bed). In all, I don't really think the boys' life is that much different from other children's lives, however that which is different, makes all the difference.

    Thank you for your posts innovatsioon. I hear your exact comments often here in Lebanon in the streets by well-meaning neighbors or strangers, and most of the time the boys answer for themselves, however since they have yet to use Blogger, I'll have to address your concern. I'll use their words though, "Mam, we are perfectly sociable - we have friends of all ages - we know what it's like in school and we feel we learn so much more at home, which makes it so that we can focus better on our social life and other activities."

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