My friend Cathy homeschooled her five daughters until they were of high school age. I remember being surprised when she told me of her plans but I’ve never really asked her about her experience until now. So Cathy, why homeschooling?
I had always wanted to be a teacher. We even played “school” in the summertime. I had not heard of homeschooling, though, until the mid-80’s.
What was the hardest part/biggest challenge?
The hardest part is that the buck stopped with me. I HAD to do school, or it didn’t get done, and there was too much riding on it not to do it. Another challenge was that I never was home alone. Never.
What was the biggest reward for you?
The biggest reward for me was watching the light bulb turn on when one of the kids got a concept. Also, even though I was never alone, that was one of the rewards, too. I got to know my kids and do fun things with them that would not have happened with a traditional school calendar.
What advice would you give others who are considering homeschooling?
Stick to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Everything else will fall in to place. Don’t feel like you have to replicate a school day.
How do your children feel about their homeschool experience?
They have told me that they enjoyed it very much. They loved the field trips and car trips that we took. They entered traditional school in the ninth grade and constantly talked about how much time was wasted.
What did you do so your children could socialize while being homeschooled?
Of course, they were always with me, so when I had to run errands, they were by my side. This enabled them to engage with adults and not just those in their peer groups. They learned how to grocery shop, go to the bank, and go to Home Depot. They were involved in Girl Scouts, Tae Kwon Do, church activities, music lessons, as well as a local homeschool support group that had regular activities and field trips. They took some lessons, such as science, from other teachers as they got older.
As a matter of fact, when one of our daughters was considering going into school in the ninth grade, one of the reasons AGAINST it was “Because I won’t have time to do everything I do now.”
One other thing we did was homeschool PE. A group (rather large……over 200 kids) got together every Tuesday morning at a county park to participate in the Presidential Fitness Program.
What is the biggest drawback to homeschooling?
There are things that a local school can offer that a private home cannot. Chemistry labs, TV stations, etc. However, I found that if there was an area of interest, I could usually find a way to expose them to it. And, homeschool students are allowed to play sports at their local schools, so we took advantage of that.
What is the biggest advantage?
The time spent with my kids. As much as I enjoyed a day off now and then, that much time doesn’t have a price on it. Also, they were allowed to learn at their own pace. If they ‘got’ a concept, we could move on. If they didn’t, we could spend some more time on it. A teacher in a traditional classroom doesn’t have that luxury.
Did you have any negative experiences related to homeschooling?
The only ones that I can think of are (and this was not often) when people would make rude comments to me or the kids when we were out and about.
Do you think your children missed out on anything important by not attending school?
I think because they all attended traditional school in high school, that they had the best of both worlds. We still bought school supplies, which was always fun for me as a child, and they still bought new clothes, although they were shorts and not school uniforms.
Is there anything you’d have done differently knowing what you know now?
I am sure that there must be something, but I can’t think of anything right now.
Where would you send parents interested in homeschooling for more information?
As far as resources, in the county where I live the School Board will send you a packet of information about the legal requirements as well as a list of local support groups to contact. These days, one of the easiest ways to find out info in other areas would be to ask on a FB post.
Thank you, Cathy, for sharing your experience as a homeschooling parent. I feel I should mention an ironic twist: Two of Cathy’s daughters are now teaching in public schools.