A local homeschooler asked these questions of the members of our homeschool support group's chat list. Here are my answers.
Why did you decide to homeschool?
My husband wanted a superior education for our children, whatever the method is, that is what he wanted them to experience. We had discussed, back while we were dating, that he wanted kids to go to parochial high school-- the same one he went to (and was serving on the board of directors for, and I agreed despite me not being Catholic). He felt at the time that the parochial high school was a more rigorous education than public high school. But we were going to use public school for grades K-8.
Then the notion that HSing was possibly superior to private and public schools was spawned by a March 5, 1997 Wall Street Journal article (scroll down to read the WSJ article) that reported that a study showed that homeschooled kids did better on testing than public or private schooled children. He thought perhaps homeschooling would be best for our children. So, it was my husband’s idea. He also knew a business acquaintance, from Texas, who homeschooled their children. My husband said the kids were smart and polite and friendly and would actually talk to him, which was a first. He couldn’t pinpoint it but said they were different than other children in a very good way; they were more able to talk to adults and were nice, good kids. I didn't know that family. So when the article came out he phoned me at work and proposed this idea to me. Given the fact that I was just four months pregnant with our first child at the time, I thought he was nuts. My mind was on completing my bachelor’s degree (which I was doing at nights and on weekends), getting through the pregnancy and working at my career. Thinking about homeschooling was not at all on my radar screen of things to think about at that time.
I myself got curious when my oldest was just a baby. We had a bunch of issues regarding bad advice from experts (hospital staff, doctors, etc.) and I got the impression that perhaps the mainstream way of doing everything was not always right and best and following my heart and doing things the old fashioned way was better. Due to doing alternative things like breastfeeding (it felt that BF was alternative at the time) and nursing beyond 6 months and co-sleeping...all that alternative stuff was working for our family, and it was apparent that the mainstream was not on the same path, so I wondered if education in a non-mainstream way also could be better.
I also had negative memories of public school, for me, burnout and boredom past 6th grade and also I had good observation skills and I was sensitive and witnessed a lot of problems other kids had with learning (it was always easy for me). So I began opening my mind about homeschooling, but still felt I had a long time to think about it. I then realized that three moms I knew for many months, whom I met through La Leche League, were homeschooling, I never knew it all that time (or I may have made some judgments about them) and I already liked their kids, thought they were normal and nice, etc. I approached one mother with questions and she lent me a stack of back issues of Home Education Magazine and Growing Without Schooling, which I read from cover to cover. Thus began the research and here we are...
I also realized that in our area, stay at home mothers commonly use preschools beginning when their children are two years old. Therefore I realized that the preschool issue needed to be addressed when my child was a baby or one year old. I also knew that some preschools had waiting lists, so it is not a joke about some children being put on preschool waiting lists when they are just infants.
What method will you follow, i.e.- unschooling, eclectic, classical?
We started off doing very unstructured and loose learner-driven learning aka interest driven learning aka natural learning aka unschooling until my oldest was close to six years old (the end of Kindergarten), at which time I put structure into our day and began using Charlotte Mason methods.
I think the labels sometimes overlap. I am inspired by Charlotte Mason’s method, which is a classical curriculum with a specific teaching method. Since I create our own curriculum for some subjects, and use packaged curriculum for other subjects (i.e. phonics, math, grammar), that qualifies for the eclectic label. We don't do everything that the classical model recommends and we don’t do everything that Charlotte Mason recommended. For example, students of Charlotte Mason learned the history of their own country and world history, at the same time as learning the Old Testament and the New Testament. So that is actually learning four periods of history at the same time. We are learning one world history period at a time and my children attend Sunday School for their main religious instruction. Another example is that students of Charlotte Mason were learning English, Latin, and two other foreign languages, all at the same time. My children are only learning English right now.
I use some of the frameworks as outlined in “The Well Trained Mind” by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. However I don’t do what they say exactly and I don’t do everything they say to do. For example, with my older son I did not follow their plans for preschool and Kindergarten as I felt they were too rigorous and too “school-y” for a child who seemed to want to “just play” (which has its merits but that is a topic for another day). However with my younger son, I followed his lead and that meant a more rigorous formal academic schedule. That son began a phonics curriculum at age 4 and finished at 4.5 and was reading fluently at 4.5. At 4.5 he has completed Math U See’s Kindergarten math curriculum. The fact that he insists on listening in on his older brother’s studies means he is getting second grade science and second grade world history.
Are you nervous about taking on this endeavor?
Not anymore, things are going well. My children are learning so I know what we are doing is working!