Ah, homeschool myths. Are there any home educating families who are immune to their consequences? I’m going to say no.
As we start our 11th year of homeschooling tomorrow (yikes!), I thought I would commemorate this occasion by dedicating a post to some questions I think every single homeschooled child has heard at some point in their lives.
While the topics of these questions run the gamut from academics to extracurricular activities, they all have one thing in common: they’ve been perpetuated by some insanely false notions about what education and real life actually look like.
Here is my attempt to briefly explain why these inquiries are completely off the mark, and why people need to stop asking them.
Yesterday my kids and I watched Wonderfor the umpteenth time. As with what usually happens when I’ve watched something once too many times, my mind started drifting and ended up – you guessed it – focusing on how this movie perpetuates some common homeschool stereotypes.
I’m guessing it’s happened to you at least a few times.
A few months back, I was binge-watching homeschooling videos on YouTube. (Hey, I do that sometimes.) As I was scrolling through the comments, I came across one in which the author was adamantly opposed to homeschooling because, once again, “parents aren’t qualified to teach their kids.”
That one comment really got me thinking – and a little fired up – about how ironic that mindset is.
Being a homeschool mom takes a certain amount of diplomacy.
Although we unquestionably have it easier now in the 21st century than the homeschool pioneers of a few decades ago, there are times we still get bombarded with the same sorts of questions over. and. over. again.
Whether we’re at the store, the dentist, a party, or with extended family, it’s inevitable that there will be curious people who want to know more about what we do, and who have never really looked beyond the traditional school model.
Yep. It’s time to address those pesky homeschool myths again.
In this day and age, homeschooling, while certainly not considered to be mainstream, has gained some ground in credibility and acceptance with the general public. Despite this fact, however, there are still some pesky myths about homeschooling that just don’t seem to go away. Unfortunately, some of these myths are being perpetuated by well-meaning friends and family members. This is one homeschooler’s attempt to put these rumors to rest- for good.
-‘Homeschoolers can’t go tocollege.’– Yes, this rumor is still making rounds. In fact, the mother of one of my daughter’s friends decided to tell my daughter this was so. I assured my daughter that quite the opposite is true. Colleges are actively recruiting homeschoolers, and not just any colleges, but Ivy League colleges.While students in traditional schools have been learning how to follow directions and do what they’re told for 12+ years, homeschoolers have been busy learning how to think for themselves through self-directed learning, apprenticeships, and even entrepreneurship.
-‘Homeschooled kids don’t learn right.’– This is actually a direct quote from a family member to, again, my daughter. (Poor girl. People always seem to pick her to unload their grievances about homeschooling on. Interestingly, the relative who made that statement didn’t say it in front of my mother or myself.) I don’t really even know what this is supposed to mean. ‘Don’t learn right?’ Is there one right way to learn? If there is, let me in on it, because I’ll start training my kids on it stat. 😉 Whatever was meant, the notion that homeschooled kids aren’t getting a proper education is still quite common, despite all the evidence to the contrary. For example, my kids always used to sit outside and read to each other at our old house. Our neighbors would often be in their yard at the same time. This didn’t stop the husband from one day questioning my 12-yr.-old daughter about whether or not she could read. I’m not kidding. When she told him that she could, he went in his house, brought out a book, and told her to take it home and read it because he would be questioning her about it when he saw her again. We had a good laugh about it when she got inside, and we never really interacted much with him again. And she did NOT read the book.
It boggles my mind that people are so preoccupied with bashing the education that children receive at home. Just today, someone followed me on Twitter who seems to focus solely on criticizing homeschool parents and advocating for more state regulation of homeschooling. Sorry, buddy. I didn’t follow you back. The school district that we live in has teens graduating with a 7th grade-sometimes lower- reading level. Maybe people should start focusing more on that. As it stands, the logical conclusion is, if Ivy League schools are seeking homeschoolers, then we must be doing something right.
–‘Homeschooled kids don’t know how to act around other people.’– I have to laugh out loud at this one. If you have any questions about the social interactions of homeschoolers, I invite you to come to my house at 7:30am and observe the kids walking to the school up the street. Bad language? Check. Fighting? Check. Screaming and carrying on? Check. Holding up traffic? Check. Inappropriate behavior? Check. Hmm…maybe they were talking about public school kids. Yeah, that must be it.
–‘Homeschooled kids won’t know how to live in the real world.’– Newsflash: They are living in the real world. While most kids are learning about the world from textbooks while being confined between four walls, homeschoolers are learning about the real world by being in it. They don’t need to count money on a worksheet. They’re counting, and using, real money. Instead of learning about banking, they’re going to the bank. Instead of completing a reproducible about reptiles and amphibians, they’re going to the creek and finding the real thing. I could continue like this all night. Suffice it to say, if the real world is going to be a shock to anyone- and it often is- it will be a shock to those kids who only know about it through books and power points.
-‘Parents aren’t qualified to teach their kids.’- If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that…Actually, some people have gone so far as to call parents who choose to homeschool their children “pompous” for assuming they can do the job that teachers are trained for. People who take this stance simply don’t understand how children learn, and they clearly haven’t been versed on the history of compulsory school. The routines and methods practiced by public school teachers are simply not necessary in a home environment. As many a teacher with an education degree will tell you, they were mainly trained in classroom management and how to follow the script of a curriculum. Unless you are the parent of 20 children who are all the same age, this won’t be necessary.
As the homeschool movement grows, it will become less and less of an oddity and will eventually be seen for the advantage that it is. Until then, however, it is up to us to lay these false notions to rest, and now is a great time to start. 🙂
Worried about your qualifications as a homeschool, or future homeschool, parent? Join me as I discuss the characteristics of great homeschool parents!
Two years ago when my daughter was seeking a scholarship for a local art school, I had a somewhat uncomfortable conversation. In the midst of the interview, the subject of homeschooling came up. The registrar looked at me quizzingly and asked, “Do you have an education degree?” I replied that I did not; they aren’t necessary for homeschooling in PA. She grew completely perplexed and replied, “But how do you teach things you don’t know?”
This question caught me rather off-guard for two reasons:
I had honestly never even thought about it, and
Does having a degree automatically mean you know how to do everything?
The registrar is not alone in asking this question. In fact, the idea of a parent not being qualified to teach his or her children has crossed the minds of many would-be homeschoolers and scared them away from ever going through with their dreams of homeschooling.
Realistically, however, most homeschool routines don’t even remotely resemble a typical school day, so the qualifications needed in a traditional classroom are somewhat different than those necessary in an at-home setting.
My hope here is to encourage those of you who are doubting your ability to homeschool by listing the characteristics of a successful homeschool parent because, as you will see, they are probably nothing at all like the typical idea of what an average teacher looks like.
1.Receive questions with open arms. Unlike traditional school teachers who must often stick to a script, homeschoolers have the freedom of drifting away from a discussion or lesson if more intriguing ponderings arise. Just today I was reading Madelinewith my younger children. A book that would normally take five minutes turned into a twenty minute discussion about Paris, old telephones, appendixes, scars, nuns, steamboats, and- my children’s favorite- retellings of their own experiences with hospital visits. A discussion like this would most likely not have happened within a school setting because of, among other things, time constraints, but at home we have the freedom to explore ideas with our kids as they arise. Questions are a blessing. Delight in inquisitiveness!
2.Encourage their children to learn how to discover answers for themselves. While it is, of course, necessary to help your children when the need arises, it is also so important to help children learn where and how to find resources for themselves. Although my children and I visit the library regularly, the other week I took them there for the main purpose of explaining the Dewey Decimal System to them and taking them on a tour of where to find specific types of books. Giving them opportunities to research online is also something that is necessary in this day and age. I know that many parents have mixed feelings about Google, but I consider it to be hugely beneficial to our learning endeavors.
3.Give their children plenty of time for exploring interests. Some of the most crucial and most important learning does not come from books, but from life. Learn to see the world through your children’s eyes, instead of through the schoolish lenses most of us possess, and you will find value in just about everything your children do. Keep in mind that the hobbies of your children now may well be training for their future. Kids who like to play school may become teachers, and those who insist on taking everything apart to see how it works are likely to be budding engineers. If your children are actively exploring life, there is no such thing as wasted time.
4.Have a plan for those occasions when they don’t know how to help with a certain subject. As the saying goes, the world is our oyster when it comes to information and resources in this day and age. The most common piece of advice for situations like this is to hire a tutor, but many one-income (and some two-income families!) simply cannot afford it. Thankfully, there are plenty of other options for getting help with those difficult areas. A short sampling would be:
The options are really endless. Just keep an open mind about how learning happens, and you’d be amazed where the help can come from!
5.Let their children have a say in what they’re learning about. Think about it. Can you concentrate on something you have no interest in and no need for? Me neither. My older children all give input on what their learning plan will consist of. My oldest daughter loves psychology and will be taking it for a third time next year (her senior year). This could never have happened at our public high school, as they only offer one half-year course on it. Why force her to take a Social Studies credit that she’s never going to need in real life? It just doesn’t make sense. I guarantee your kids will put more effort into work they consider to be useful and interesting.
6.Know when something isn’t working and be willing to change it. Sometimes a particular curriculum may look phenomenal to us parents, but when our children set out to doing it, they don’t feel the same way. If your child is struggling to the point of tears or complete apathy, it’s time to ditch the book and move on. This is one of those other areas that homeschoolers have the advantage. Since public schools have limited budgets and slews of students to purchase textbooks for, they don’t have the option of doing this. While I certainly do remember trudging through those dry textbooks in high school, I don’t remember one important thing out of any of them. I know sometimes it may seem like a waste to discontinue something you paid for, but it is so much more important that your children can learn well. Unused curriculum can easily be saved for younger siblings (maybe they’ll like it!), sold to other homeschoolers, or even given away for free to a family with a limited income.
7.Drop everything they know about “school” and design a plan that works for their family.I want you to close your eyes and remember what your school days were like. Crowded hallways. Cramped desks. Bathroom passes. Ringing bells. Do you have a clear picture? Now, push that picture out of your head because homeschooling does not have to be like that. Observe your children. Take notice to how they do things and what they spend the most time on. Only you can decide what is right for your family. And I’m here to tell you that you may not get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the third. 🙂 All kidding aside, you will figure it out, and your children will thank you for it.
I was going to title this post “What Makes a Great Homeschool Teacher” but decided against it because, to many of us, homeschooling doesn’t feel like teaching. It feels like life. It feels like family. It feels like love. That is what it takes to make a great homeschool parent. Are you qualified?
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