I’m a home-school convert. I used to think it was strange: Why would you choose to shelter your children from all the social and educational opportunities school has to offer? We sent our daughter to two full days a week of junior kindergarten, but when it came to five full days for SK, my mama heart couldn’t bear the thought of so much time apart, especially since I was already home with my younger kids. We decided to try home-schooling and we haven’t looked back since.
This fall marks our sixth year, and I’m teaching grades five, four, and senior kindergarten. I can give each child one-on-one attention while the other two do independent work. (And my two-and-a-half-year-old keeps me running in between lessons!) School happens around the kitchen table, and we finish just after lunch. This is one of the joys of home-schooling—in only one third of the time, we cover what a typical classroom covers. This also leaves us plenty of time to work on social skills (a lack of socialization is a criticism often lobbed at home-schoolers). We have a great home-school community around us and friends of all ages.
I love that my kids have the flexibility to learn at their own pace and that I can adapt lessons to suit their individual learning styles. We cover the core subjects, but they’re also learning a lot of amazing life skills: growing food, cooking, knitting, stick whittling, comic-book writing and whatever other interests they want to pursue. Most important, my children are instilled with confidence—they don’t have to fit into a certain box.
Read more: How to raise a confident kid>
It’s not all sunshine and roses. There are certainly days I question my sanity in choosing this lifestyle. But there are so many moments that make it worthwhile: seeing my kids conquer reading, or watching them break out of mundane schoolwork to have a spontaneous dance party, or when everyone hunkers down together to work on what would be a “snow day” for other kids, knowing we’ll be rewarded with a “sun day” of our choice later.
I no longer consider home-schoolers sheltered or deprived. My kids are free from pressure and expectations to learn or act a certain way—free to be exactly who they are.
“No, I would never home-school my kids”
Emma Waverman, mom of three
I’m slightly awed by anyone who home-schools, because they’re doing something I could never do. I don’t have the patience, the commitment or the confidence to home-school my kids for a week, let alone years. But even if I were the world’s best teacher, you wouldn’t find me setting up a blackboard in my home. I firmly believe that home-schooling isn’t in the best interest of my kids—or most kids. (I do think that home-schooling benefits some kids who can’t fit into the system.)
Why? I don’t want to be my kids’ “everything.” I’m their mother. That means that I can advocate for them when I think they’ve been wronged, support them when they’ve failed and applaud their achievements—all from the sidelines, with my clear bias.
Read more: Should you teach your kids to fail?>
My kids don’t need any more time learning how to negotiate with me—they need to learn to communicate with other people, from all walks of life. Sure, they will occasionally run into teachers with whom their personalities might not mesh, but even those bad experiences hold life lessons not found in textbooks. I hope they’re also lucky enough to get a teacher who inspires them or gives them a new outlook.
It’s true that home-schooled kids often perform higher on tests than mainstream kids—I’ve seen the studies. But learning is about more than test scores. How can kids build emotional intelligence when they only encounter family and other like-minded home-schoolers? Continued exposure to annoying people who are not your siblings is an integral part of growing up. Some of the most important rites of passage happen outside the classroom: learning the rules of four square, how to stick up for yourself on the playground, how to cheat without getting caught—and what happens when you do.
Of course my kids are amazing, special snowflakes. But I don’t want to send them the message that they’re too special to participate in society. There are days I want to keep them home, safe from outside influences, but that instinct is really more about me than them. Eventually, they need to get out there. So I load up their backpacks and push them out the door—off to school they go, with hardly a glance backward.
A version of this article appeared in our October 2014 issue with the headline “Would you ever home-school your kids?” on p. 122.