Where does the “school” part of homeschooling come in? Here is where we get to what I imagine other parents are thinking of when they say “I could never do that.” In their minds, I imagine, my children are hunched over workbooks at the kitchen table while I quiz them on phonics rules, or demand that they recite their times tables. More than one parent has told me that they thought about homeschooling, but was afraid it would “ruin their relationship with their child.” In fact, homeschooling has been a wonderful way to cultivate my relationship with my children.
Many homeschoolers that I know consider themselves “unschoolers.” The follow no formal curriculum and trust that the learning will happen. Their children are bright, pleasant, and literate. I prefer to have a little more outside assurance that we are “on track.” I subscribe to two excellent, inexpensive web-based curricula. (There are dozens to choose from.) About three or four times a week, I help my kids log onto their sites where they engage in interactive lessons in math and reading. I’m available if they have a question, but they usually don’t need me. The content is explained to them by the animated character in the lesson. If they get an answer wrong, the animated character lets them know. Sometimes, there are tests are quizzes. I can go into our account later if I like and see how they did, but their learning is really their own. They can do it at their own pace when they feel like doing it. If my daughter is completely absorbed in a book (as she often is), the math lesson can wait until she is done. If a lesson is too easy, we can skip it. If it’s too hard, we can come back to it next week, next month, or even next year. The amount that I have to nag or force a recalcitrant kid to do something he or she doesn’t want to do is likely considerably less than the time other parents spending cajoling, bribing, or threatening their children to do their homework. When my son balks at a reading lesson, we can renegotiate. You can’t change a kid’s homework assignment, or decide that it would be okay to conquer it tomorrow when your child is less tired.
And the results? I’m not homeschooling in the hopes of raising the next Scripps Howard Spelling Bee champion. However, I went to Brown and Columbia. My husband is a Penn educated physician. Academics matter. While there might not be one right trajectory that my children must follow to be happy and successful, I certainly wouldn’t want to think I was closing any doors for them. And while the research done on homeschooling has consistently indicated that homeschooled kids perform better on standardized tests than their private and public school peers, what really matters is how my own kids are doing. My daughter tested above grade level in math and significantly above grade level in reading. My son who just finished kindergarten recently won first place in his first chess tournament, and is working his way through a second grade math curriculum.
So I think they are doing okay. And we are pretty relaxed over here, and having a blast.
Read: Why I Homeschool Part 1
Next: How about social skills?