Saturday, April 12, 2008

Misconceptions about Homeschooling


Homeschooling takes so much time!

Many years ago, I went to a home school conference to listen to Dr. Raymond Moore, one of the fathers of modern homeschooling. He said that half an hour was good for the younger ones (5-6), working up to an hour as their attention spans grew. An hour and a half a day of direct instruction and bookwork was enough for any kid under twelve. Of course, older ones may spend more time at it, because hopefully they figure out that there's so much more to learn!

Homeschooling takes very little time!

You have to be available for your children. That involves time. Even if you have a self-directed teen who has taken control of her own schooling, you need to be there for encouragement and discussion. Generally, the younger the child, the more time of direct teaching is involved, really. It also seems that some kids become self-educating for a while in late childhood, then regress to sleepwalking through life sometime in the early teens. This kid needs positive attention, and maybe a gentle poke to get them moving. In any case, they grow out of it. A good outside activity, like refereeing soccer or working at a food pantry can help.

Homeschooling is very easy!

It can be, at times. Occasionally it seems to fall into place like clockwork, and all is smooth.

Don't get comfortable!

Your kids will change, your life will change, the type of education they need will change...it's normal, and so are a few growing pains. Don't let them throw you. Give yourself a chance to acclimate to the new situation. And, if all else fails...ask the kids. They often know exactly what's needed.

Homeschooling is so hard!

It can be. But challenges are what make life the thrill that it is. When it gets to be that way, take a bit of time off. Have school at the reservoir for a few days, or study how to make igloos in your snowy backyard. watch some Bill Nye videos, and learn to make a new kind of fudge. You need a break, and it's okay to take one.

There are some situations which can make home schooling especially difficult. Moving, a chronically ill child, a new baby, other dramatic life changes can make it much harder for a while. That's when educational games, dvds, kits, and even workbooks can be useful. Or just make occasional forays to the library and come back with huge stacks of books. Do a few searches for and visit educational websites. Some are even recommended for bored kids. These are great for when you can't plan lessons, but want something 'educational.'

I have to teach them everything!

No...they will teach themselves more that you will teach them. Remember that reading is like having a conversation with the author. Remember that your kids think and absorb constantly. Remember that your kids want to learn...even if they complain sometimes.

Which they will.

They can teach themselves everything!

Maybe your teen can...if she's self-motivated and has access to the right tools. But even the most gung-ho kid needs a bit of encouragement and..dare I say...advice now and then.

Younger ones often need help with how to direct their energy, and guidance with discovering things that they've never considered. So even unschooling doesn't mean that they don't need you!

Homeschooling is so expensive!

While it is possible to teach a child right up to their admission to Harvard or Cambridge using only pencils, paper and the Internet, it's not very common, probably because most of us don't carry the entire structure of the Tree of Knowledge in our heads. We'd like a little help with the structure of our learning and with 'what to teach when.'



That being said, the books and tools we use don't have to be expensive. For instance, Amazon.whatevercountryyou'rein has used books for sale, quite often at less than half the usual price. I've bought hundreds of these books, and only rarely have I been disappointed.

Many communities have free or inexpensive programs for children that can be counted as part of their education. Clubs like Girl Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, Spiral Scouts, church and synagogue youth groups, library programs, youth sports leagues...they're all possibilities. Some colleges and museums have inexpensive classes for kids. Teens can take classes at local colleges, which can be cheap in the long run, when they get more scholarships and have credits already banked before they start college.

Homeschooling costs nothing!

While doing school with nothing but pencils, papers and a stack of library books can work fairly well in the early grades, it becomes a bit more problematic when you have to keep trying to renew the Chemistry textbook for the fifth time. Most libraries have limits on these things!

It can also be a bit problematic when you are doing history in chronological order and the books you would like to use are out, possibly until seven weeks from last Tuesday.

Children who grow up in an environment rich with books and learning materials tend to be more intelligent and go on to higher education with more ease. So a bit of wise spending is in order. But don't go into curriculum overload. If you do, sell the excess on Amazon and use the money for a museum membership, or buy other stuff that you need at our store.

Homeschooling has to be set up like a school!

Says who? It's your school. You're the teacher, or facilitator, or guide, as you choose. You design your school to reflect your educational goals for your family. For some families, this will mean a structured environment, though many who start this way loosen up as time goes by and the parents see that the children can take charge of at least part of their own educations. For another family, it may mean a loose, child-led approach, with hardly any textbooks at all, though many of these young people tend to structure their own educations as they get older and prepare for college admittance or other adult learning experience.

Homeschooling has to be totally unstructured!

It can be, but, here again, who says? What many call 'unschool' usually involves a lot of time spent with the child, using teachable moments, and educating them as a natural part of life. there may appear to be no structure, but there quite often is a rhythm to the flow of the days. Many parents also do 'semi-unschooling' (myself included), which incorporates a lot of free time for self-teaching, and a small amount of more structured learning most days.

You must have a classroom!

And sit at desks in a row, and raise your hand to talk...like the observation of the auntie who can't think of any other benefits to 'regular school' other than learning to stand in line, it's structure for the sake of structure. Part of the joy of homeschooling is the freedom to make learning part of your entire life, something that can be done outside in the treehouse, or under the table in your pjs.

You must do all classes outside or under the kitchen table!

Dining room tables work better for writing, and couches are really good for snuggling while reading. Get comfortable, and fit the environment to the activity!

They have to be kept in their proper grades!

All six-year-olds aren't ready to learn to read. Some are not quite mature enough, and some have been reading for a few years. It's all okay, they're just different types of kids. A child who loves science may need a high school or college level book at ten, but he may still be in a math book for kids ages 8 to 9. That's fine. The different parts of their brains mature at different rates. Give them a bit of space to grow.
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