Ever since I learned what homeschooling really is (eg. it’s NOT creating a little teeny classroom inside your living room) I have been interested in doing it. I love the idea that a child’s curiosity and desire to learn doesn’t have to be stomped right outta them before they are in grade 2. I love the idea that kids can direct their own courses of study, and that I don’t need to be a University Professor (oh wait, I am one, lol) to “teach” them – I just need to be able to point them in the right direction to resources (hello Library and Internet). And most of all…I love that dealing with the shark-infested waters of bullies, cliques, and nerds doesn’t have to be the legacy of my children, like some rite of passage that can’t be avoided (more on that in a subsequent post).
But I also believed that in order to homeschool, I would have to remain a full time SAHM with no career for myself. So I always figured that we’d end up sending our kids to some alternative school, like Windsor House (mentioned in a past post) or maybe now my new discovery, Life Song School, which sounds just as great as WH but is not in a suburb and is thus closer to us. But three things have made me reconsider homeschooling. First, I’ve figured out what I want to do with my Life in terms of career, and through my business and part-time teaching can have a satisfying job AND be home with my kids when I want to be (i.e. most of the time). Second, I pulled DD out of preschool and am able to look back on it now and see that this was almost bound to happen sooner or later. And third, I just finished re-reading Hold Onto Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld.
Homeschooling recreates the natural social groupings in which young children have, for millenia, learned how to be adults. There are large numbers of adults present, and relatively small groups of kids of mixed ages. The importance of mixed ages cannot be overlooked: the social dynamics of a such a grouping are markedly different from peer-groups, where cliques naturally develop along artificial boundaries (since age is no longer a variable). Why is this so important? Well, what mother would not want to have her children avoid the pain of modern school social dynamics, with their cliques, their pressure to conform, their ability to stamp out any semblance of individuality?
But it’s more than wanting to spare your child that horrible experience. Being free to develop as an individual has benefits. Before I read the book Emotional Intelligence, I used to joke that it was a book meant to make “dumb people feel better”. But actually, it is one of those books that present its case so clearly that you wonder why you even had to read a book to figure this out. As it turns out, “emotional intelligence” will get you much farther in life than a high IQ (particularly when you consider how many high IQ folks are crippled by their “emotional ignorance”). So homeschooling, with it’s natural group setting for the development of children as individuals with healthy psyches, becomes even more appealing.
I think the reason DD started to dislike preschool is she is moving away from the “parallel play” stage of development, and beginning to get interested in group play. For some kids, the skills involved in playing with a group come more easily, but still they are not simple. For other kids, such as my daughter, I think it is a bit more difficult for her. Thus, I feel she needs to be close to me more than ever, and needs me to be by her side acting as a guide, an aide, an “emotion coach”. Homeschooling will allow me to do this in settings that are more natural and thus, more helpful to my daughter.
Even if she were in preschool I’d still be spending most of my time with her. But by Kindergarten, kids are spending 20 to 30 hours a week away from family, in large peer groups with few adults around them. It’s the blind leading the blind. I know some people think of this as the kids “getting a life of their own”, but is this really necessary so young? Am I the only one who thinks giving a 5 year old a 20 hour “work week” is a bit much? Even the schools above I listed have full-time Kindergarten, with Life Song approaching a 30+ hour week. That seems crazy to me. Why do 5 year olds need to be away from their families that much? To teach them? To teach them what? I mean, it’s one thing if you need a daycare, but it’s just a given even for SAHM’s that their kids will be “going to school” from age 5 onwards. Before you know it, your 7 year old is living a life of which you know very little. And we wonder why our teenagers are such a handful.
Anyways, I’m going to stop my ramblings here. Suffice it to say we are homeschoolers by default for the rest of the year, and just may end up being so for the next couple of years until I feel better about sending my kids away from me for so long each week. Problem is, when I ask myself how old they’ll be before I think they can (or should) be away for a full work-week, I’m unable to answer with an age that doesn’t have two digits, at least. Which kind of makes me think we’re going to be homeschoolers after all. At least well past Grade 1. We’ll see.