Homeschooling: it is what you make of it

I was trying to find a homeschooling URL today when I stumbled across a blog post from a very disillusioned father complaining that the teens he met in our local homelearning community were basically “dropouts” whose parents weren’t really involved, who were suffering from huge holes in their education, and in a virtual absence of any science teaching. 

I can’t comment on his experiences because I am not involved much in the teen homelearning community, other than to see some of them at local gatherings. I am much more involved in activities geared towards young children (3 to 9 year olds), and certainly I don’t see any of what he describes in our community. 

However, I wrote a comment in reply and I wanted to post it here because I think it highlights an important part of being a homeschooler, which is that the experience is what YOU make of it. I think we are so used to the institutionalization of education that perhaps some might enter the homeschooling community expecting that things will be set up for them, or that they become passive participants in a process driven by others. The truth is, homeschooling groups simply provide an opportunity to meet others with whom you stand a much better chance of sharing your values, goals for your children, and daily lifestyle. From those people you find your own community. There are some families who participate very little in their local homeschooling communities, and others who are heavily involved. The nice thing is that it’s entirely up to you to find what “fits” you as a family. Here is what I wrote:

I just stumbled across this post while searching for a homeschooling website and I felt moved to comment.

I’m truly surprised to read of your experiences as they are so counter to everything I have experienced in this community over the past 3 years we’ve been involved. Mind you, my daughter is only six so we aren’t involved with the teen community much. Within the larger homelearning community here in Vancouver are various subgroups that come together because of shared interests and ages of children. I have met wonderful families within this community who are now good friends of ours. Our children play and learn together and, at least in our group, there is a heavy emphasis on science as many of the parents and kids are passionate about it (I’m a PhD scientist myself so I can attest to the quality of the experiences the children have).

I can’t comment on the teens, but this young crop that I’m mostly involved with (3 to 9 year olds) are enjoying a wonderfully rich experience and I see a great deal of self-motivation and determination even in the younger ones. I am fully confident that their experience will only get better as they get older. But that’s because we parents will make it that way. If I found myself in a group as you describe then I would seek out the families who have the same interests and values and approach as I do and we would work together to provide great experiences for the kids.

Part of what makes the homeschooling community unique is that it isn’t run and regulated by ministry appointees and “experts” who basically set the rules and then let the parents have some involvement. We homelearning parents ARE the homelearning community and it is nothing more or less than what we make of it for ourselves and our children. The best thing about homelearning is you are not forced to spend the majority of your time with people you may or may not like, whose values may not mesh with your own, etc. Here, you build your own community and have far more freedom to do so in ways that work for you and your family than in any institutionalized setting. I’m truly sorry that your experiences left such a bad taste in your mouth, and I hope that over the last little while you’ve been able to create a community for yourself that meets your needs.

Categories: natural learning | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Homeschooling: it is what you make of it

  1. From what I understand, reading about unschooling around the web from families doing it, is that it’s pretty common for teens to go through phases where they don’t do anything remotely schooly for generous spans of time. They often are so very social at that age and for many of them, it’s social stuff that they focus on learning about, which looks like doing nothing to onlookers. The trick it seems is not to panic when this happens, no matter what onlookers, like that dude, think.

  2. He says the unschooling community there is hostile — perhaps it’s because he’s insufferably arrogant?

    We have a fellow like that in our local homeschooling community. The same teenagers who I think are lovely, friendly, well-spoken people doing interesting things, he’s “not impressed with.” It’s not just a difference in perspective and life philosophy, it’s his unwillingness to see past his prejudices and stop making superficial assumptions.

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