Why I Homeschool

Boy swinging high on a swing and smiling. Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

Why We Chose Homeschooling

 

I’m often asked this question, and it’s never an easy answer. Responding to the “why do you homeschool?” question can be socially awkward, because it’s often asked in a pointed, judgmental way that sounds more like “what makes you qualified to teach these kids?”

But even when the questions is asked out of genuine curiosity, it’s still not a simple answer, because there are many, many reasons I homeschool.

Not that I have to justify my choices to anyone, but for those who are truly curious about how parents come to the decision to homeschool, here’s just our family’s experience and some of the reasons we chose this path. All homeschooling families are different, and I can only speak for our own experience. Here are some of the reasons we homeschool.

1. Homeschooling gives us freedom.

If I had to summarize in one word why I homeschool, that word would be freedom. Homeschooling allows us freedom of time and movement. We make our own schedule, enjoy the outdoors as much as we can, go cycling for three weeks in the middle of the school year, and travel in an RV for months all over the country(ies).

For each of these adventures, we have no one to check in with but ourselves. We don’t need to excuse our kids from class, because the world is our classroom. We don’t need to make sure we get class notes, because we are learning as we go about our lives, and if we miss a lesson here and there, we make it up later, together.

We don’t live by the bell and we don’t keep  a strict schedule. When cousins are visiting, we take days off school to enjoy their company. If the kids’ bodies are telling them they need more sleep, we let them sleep in. If they’re obviously not into a lesson, we switch gears. We have freedom not only of time and movement, but also to choose whatever curriculum works best for our kids.

2. Homeschooling gives our kids personalized education.

My kids don’t all learn the same way. My bookworm learns a tonne from the copious amount of books she reads; my child with ADHD learns best when he’s allowed some movement. My very talkative, very loud child learns best when she memorizes song lyrics.

I don’t use the exact same curriculum for all of them, and when I do, I adapt much of it. Yes, I know that they adapt lessons in schools as well, but with larger and larger class sizes and more and more crammed into the curriculum, true differential instruction is not always possible.

3. Homeschooling gives our kids one-on-one instruction

My kiddos basically have a private tutor. For my child who has ADHD, is on the Autism spectrum, and has Developmental Coordination Disorder, this one-on-one instruction is key. He has a very difficult time focusing on tasks, so he needs that person beside him to help him through the more distraction-causing ones.

He is thriving in the homeschooling environment. If he were in school, he wouldn’t be getting this kind of one-on-one attention. Unfortunately, with all the cuts in education, he likely wouldn’t get an educational assistant that would work only with him, if he’s even lucky enough to get an EA in his classroom at all.

My girls, who don’t have as many learning challenges as my son, still benefit from private lessons from their mom (who, if you’re going to bring it up, happens to be a qualified teacher—not that you need to be one to homeschool). Smaller class sizes are better for learning, and one-on-one learning can be even better than small group learning, depending on the children’s personalities.

4. Homeschooling gives us more time together

Homeschooling means I get to spend a tonne of time with my kids while they’re young. It means that I get the best hours of their day instead of spending time with them when they’re exhausted after coming home from school. It means we can make the choice to travel long-term and see the world together, choosing adventures that suit our personalities and our out-of-the-box philosophies.

 

Why I homeschool, www.marianamcdougall.com. Photo of a father and three children standing in front of an artificial waterfall in Quebec City. Photo by Mariana Abeid-McDougall

 

5. Homeschooling allows our kids to learn what they want to learn

While we’re homeschooling, we can follow my children’s interests. I follow a pre-set curriculum for language arts, math, and faith formation (at the kids’ own pace), and we follow the kids’ interest for other subjects such as science, history, art, etc.

I do have a tonne of curriculum at home (and access to a gigantic amount of lessons online), and we pick and choose materials as the kids’ interests dictate. I’ve talked before about how what is chosen for the government-mandated curriculum could be debated for days, and I’ve recently broken ties with the Ontario curriculum.

It feels freeing to be able to encourage my children to pursue the things they love. Yes, you could argue that they’ll need calculus if they want to get into a certain program at a certain university, but our society has become obsessed with preparing kids as early as possible for things we don’t even know they want.

If my kids need certain subjects to get into a certain program they choose later, they will take those subjects when they need them. For now, while they are so young, my job is to help them develop a passion for learning. Mandated subjects can come later, when they have developed the passion that helps to push through subjects they’re not as thrilled about.

6. Homeschooling gives our kids the right kind of socialization

I’ve heard the argument that “kids need socialization and they need to go to school for that,” ad nauseam. Ironically, socialization is actually one of the reasons I choose to homeschool. Sure, school puts kids together with a bunch of other kids, but can that be called socialization, really?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines socialization as “the process beginning during childhood by which individuals acquire the values, habits, and attitudes of a society” or as “social interaction with others.” For those who are concerned about homeschooled kids having social interaction with others, fear not, we do get out of our house and see people. For those concerned about the first definition of socialization, consider the following:

In school, children spend hours a day sitting in a room with people of the same age, from the same neighbourhood, many times from the same socio-economic status, and with the same level of education (except for one person at the front). Where in our society does this kind of scenario happen, other than in school?

If the goal of socialization is for children to acquire the values, habits, and attitudes of a society, a school classroom is the least realistic place to accomplish this. As homeschoolers, we frequently go out into the world and attend programs where our children interact with people of different ages, different abilities, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and varying opinions—which is exactly what they’ll have to do as adults. Therefore, homeschooling provides the best and most realistic option for true socialization. So if you’re going to argue that children need to be put in school to be socialized… don’t.

4 children playing ball in a forest. Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

 

These are just a few of the reasons why our family chose homeschooling. I believe public education should be available to all who want it; however, ultimately, a child’s education is the decision of the parents.

Most homeschooling parents choose homeschooling because we want to be very involved in our children’s education, and most homeschooling parents do very well in exercising their right to choose their children’s education. I’m very fortunate to live in a province that honours my parental right to educate my children, and our family will keep homeschooling as long as it’s working for us.

 

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