Why We Are Homeschooling (From a Gal Who Tried Everything)

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At 5am on Sunday morning, my husband woke up our 3-year-old son, Benjamin, and took him on a surprise adventure. They drove away from the light pollution of the city and found a place they could watch the Perseid meteor shower. After laying out a blanket and showing him where to look, my husband got to witness the delight on our son’s face when he saw a shooting star for the first time. When they got home Benjamin was beaming and couldn’t wait to tell me all about it. He explained that “shooting stars are called ‘meteors’ not ‘meat-eaters’ like dinosaurs and I saw TWO. They went like this ‘WHOOOOSH!” He went on to tell me that he saw two planets, Jupiter and “Eunice.” “Venus?” I asked. “Oh, yeah, Venus! That’s right! And we saw a constellation: Orion! He has a belt made of three stars!

Benjamin called it “an adventure.” It was also homeschooling.

It’s the start of a new school year and since I posted this great article and mentioned on FB that we’re starting some unofficial preschool homeschooling for our 3-year-old son, Benjamin, I had some requests for a more in-depth explanation of my experience as a homeschooler and our vision for homeschooling our kids. I thought I’d start with the “why” and do some later posts on exactly what homeschooling will look like at our house.

I never attended a Montesorri or Parochial school but I tried everything else under the sun: private Christian school (Pre-K-2nd), homeschool (3rd-8th), private secular school (10th) and public school (9th, 11th, and 12th). I didn’t hate conventional school. I was a straight A student.  So why are we homeschooling?  Well, we can’t think of any good reason to send our kids to school! If you’re interested in reading about modern education and its many problems, please read Anthony Esolen’s amazing book: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. It is truly life-changing and expresses so much of what we believe about education.

As for the benefits of homeschooling, here are some of our reasons for embracing it for our children’s education:

1. We don’t think learning begins and ends in a classroom and we don’t want our kids to believe that either.

2. We believe that every child is unique and will learn best with an education tailored to their learning style, strengths, and weaknesses.

3. We want our children to be challenged, engaged, and enchanted by learning. In essence, we want our kids to love learning instead of becoming skilled at the “grade game.” (Daniel and I both were great at knowing what we needed to know for the test. We do great on tests. From experience, we know that’s not the same thing as learning.)

4. Because there’s no way our son could sit still in a classroom environment. If you’ve ever sat behind us at Mass, you will understand this. We want him to run wild and just be a little boy in addition to learning his ABCs, how to count, etc (which he already does).

5. We want learning to be naturally woven through our days. We don’t want a 7hr block of time devoted to “school” that feels like “work” to our children.

6. We want to teach our children things they won’t learn in traditional school: classical and biblical languages (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew), music, art history, the lives of the saints, etc. (You might be able to take some of those in high school but they weren’t available at our high schools).

7.  We enjoy our kids and want our family to be together as much as possible.

8. We want to be the primary influence on our children’s lives. I have lots of friends who are teachers. They are awesome. I have also had lots of teachers in my many years of different kinds of schooling: they were NOT all awesome.

9. We want the freedom to celebrate the liturgical year. The calendar we go by isn’t the traditional school calendar. We will be celebrating the Feast of the Assumption tomorrow. And nobody has to skip school to do it!

10. We’re not even remotely worried about “the socialization issue.”  The idea that our kids won’t be just like everybody else’s kids is not a negative for us.

11. We don’t want our kids to be bored because they are pigeon-holed into a certain “level.”

12. We want the freedom to stay home, go to the library, visit a museum, etc. Whenever we want to.

13. We want our kids to have time to study musical instruments and participate in extracurriculars like dance, art, and sports without being stressed-out, overwhelmed, and exhausted (as a ballet teacher I see far too many pale faces and tired eyes after a long school day and it breaks my heart).

14. We don’t want our children’s imaginations ruined by the school system. As a voracious reader my whole life, nothing could destroy my love for literature. But my high school English teachers sure gave me a run for my money! Really, if anyone could have killed my passion for books it was those four women. In fact, in all of high school, I can only think of two really excellent teachers that I would want teaching my kids.

15. I’m not prepared to send my kids off to have so much time wasted every day. Because I spent so many years in traditional classrooms I know how much time is wasted. Between the discipline issues, teaching to standardized tests, and just watching movies in class, so many of my days were wasted. I’m not going to let that happen to my kids.

16. No one cares about our children’s education as much as we do.

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  1. Ginger says

    These are the EXACT reasons why we plan to homeschool as well. It will be another year before we’re ready to start even unofficially, but I am already collecting ideas!!! I found a really cool website via Pinterest that has all kinds of cool ideas for teaching your child different things from birth through elementary ages. Here’s the link, if you’re interested: http://www.icanteachmychild.com/ 🙂

  2. says

    Aye! My thoughts exactly!!

    Can’t wait to see your plans :). Your Benjamin sounds like a little chatterbox, just like my Gray. I’m already praying about mass tonight! He is oddly quiet at mass, but sooo fidgety.

    • Haley says

      Plans coming soon 🙂 He is SUCH a chatterbox. Although he doesn’t “talk” through Mass, he hasn’t quite figured out that loud whispering is also not an option, haha.

  3. says

    I just stumbled across your blog and I have to admit, I’m hooked. Your philosophies about parenting are so refreshing, sensical, and grounded in faith. Good luck with homeschooling! Benjamin and Lucy are so lucky to have you two to teach them.

    P.S. Your list of books you must read to your daughter…perfection! 80% of that list was the literary soundtrack of my childhood. And, I’m definitely going to pick up ‘Till We Have Faces and Kristin Lavransdatter asap.

    • Haley says

      Thanks, Lindy! That is so kind and encouraging.

      I hope you love Till We Have Faces and Kristin Lavransdatter! Both are so complex and rich. The sort of books I have to re-read every couple of years:)

  4. says

    Love it! These are the exact reasons we are choosing to homeschool. You put it down in writing so perfectly. I cannot wait to hear more about and glean more inspiration from your “hows”!

  5. says

    I wish I could arrange a schooling system like we have for my sons daycare. He goes a couple days a week (alternating 2 and 3 days) when we don’t have family in town who want to watch him and the rest of the time is at home. I love that he gets to play with little friends and do projects that I wouldn’t think of and gets a ton of home time simultaneously. I wish I could enroll my kids “part time” at the local public or Catholic school so they could still participate in classes that I’m not a great teacher of (perhaps science or math) and could still participate in some of the large group activities (band, etc.) while still having the flexibility and pros of a homeschooling environment.

    Personally (just personally) I’m working towards a goal of being able to homeschool my children when they’re older. We have a lot of great choices for public and private school in our area for the younger ages, but I’d love to be able to take my children out of junior high completely and give them the flexibility of finding the right learning environment when they teenagers.

    • says

      P.S. I had the exact same thing happen in 3rd grade – I tried to check out a copy of Lord of Rings, a book we were reading at home, so I could read a little more during school. I was told that there was no way I was at that read level (I was atleast at a 6-7 grade “level” by that point) and given a stack of 10 page fairy tale books instead.

      • Haley says

        Although I don’t think we’ll participate this year, I know there’s a Catholic homeschooling co-op in my town that meets one or two days a week for classes and field trips. I wonder if there’s anything like that close by you? And sometimes public schools will allow homeschooling students to participate in extracurriculars, but I know that varies according to school and region. But it sounds like there’s lots of good options for younger kids where you are!

        If there is one age that I would most want to homeschool it would be junior high! I was homeschooled during junior high and had a great three years. Everyone I know who went to school 6th-8th was miserable. I think it’s a hard age.

        Argh! What is it with imagination squelching school librarians of our childhood?! “Oh you wanted to read that work of literature? GET LOST, KID! And grad a Babysitter’s Club on your way out!”

        • says

          The coops and public school options are why I want to work to be able to swing it when my kids are older, I know HS’s are able to participates in bands and groups like drama at the high school level at least. I’m 100% with you, I think junior high is probably one of the best times to have a homeschooling options. In our area (larger town surrounded by rural communities) it is the prime age where kids get “bored” and start to get into trouble. Did you know that some colleges now offer “high school” programs to cater to homeschoolers?

          Can I ask one extra thing? Why bother “pre school homeschool” anyways? Even though our daycare turns into a “preschool” at age 3 we’re not feel the push to really encourage the other preschool thing other than the games and activities (that have learning components naturally) that we’d naturally do? I might have a stricter idea of preschool homeschooling in my mind though, I really see formal preschool as something that could get in the way of natural play and development at that age. =)

          • Haley says

            Great question, Molly. I’m going to go in-depth in a post next week (hopefully) about what preschool homeschooling looks like for us. As you said, so much of it is just what comes naturally when you spend time with preschool age children. It’s very flexible and B doesn’t even notice that what we’re doing is “school.” I am so with you on formal preschool possibly getting in the way of the natural love of learning and curiosity kids have at that age. More about that soon!

  6. Amy says

    Yes! Yes, yes, yes!

    We are adding some “structure” into our lives these year – academic structure, I mean – beyond the gardening, meals, naps, stories, walks, swims, bicycle rides, etc, and I am so excited. I’ve always wanted to homeschool my children, before I was even, well, dating, actually.

    I just love them so much, and I can’t imagine anyone else getting to experience all of the firsts, all of the haunting stories and painting and gift-making and chopping veggies and baking and long, long bike rides (not that they do that in school…but you catch my drift.)

    We’re using the Christopherus Waldorf curriculum this year (kindergarten), a classical phonics book (Alpha Phonics), and a classical resource for literature. I can’t see how it will look all that different from our “regular ole” life, actually, and for that, I am thankful.

    I want to ask your advice. We don’t go to the library much, hardly ever, because they “advertise” all of the cartoon-y, trashy, comic book sensations and my boys, having no familiarity, go CRAZY! It’s all they want to check out. I hate the idea of censoring them in the library, so we’ve stopped going. I feel like, in the children’s section, I have to sift through so many clunkers to find something good. I order almost all of their books online, and they love opening the boxes, and don’t ask about the library. What do you think?

    (PS No one, save for myself, can read yet…so it’s not like they’re able to “use” the library, anyhow…)

    Great post!

    • says

      amy, if I may (as the granddaughter of a children’s librarian and future librarian myself) a few suggestions to, hopefully, improve you library selection. 1) go to the board of directors directly and let them know the children’s selection is not meeting your needs as a parent; get other parents on board to prove your point and 2) utilize your libraries interlibrary loan and book ordering system; often if a library gets enough requests thru ILL they’ll just buy the book. 3) consider, if it works into your schedule, offering a couple hours of volunteer work to create a repoire with the librarians and use that as a means to encourage alternate purchases. Public libraries are such a gift to the community, don’t give up on them! P.S. If you live near another town you can often get a limited check out library card for that library even if it’s not your communities.

    • Haley says

      Amy, I want a full report of how you like all your curriculum once you get in the swing of things with it! I love hearing about how you live life and learn with your littles.

      Great advice from Molly above! Sometimes we face the same issue, Amy. Benjamin wants to grab the absolute lamest books which are inevitably placed at young child grabbing level. One way that we’ve minimized the damage is to put all the books we want “on hold” through our library’s online system. Then we just pick up all bajillion of them up front at the circulation desk and never even brave the slew of trashy books awaiting us in the children’s/youth section. I say, see if trying to work with the library merits any positive changes and if not, keep doing what you’re doing since it seems to be working fine! Also, I have a lovely and resourceful librarian friend and I’ll ask her opinion next time I talk to her!

  7. says

    This is a great list! Homeschooling is some my husband and I are really considering. Our twins are 1 so we have some time. I really enjoyed this list. I just found your blog on Pinterest and I am really enjoying looking around!

  8. Sara says

    I plan on homeschooling and I AM a teacher! I think normal public and private schools definitely have a place, and I think they are fantastic for some families, but not all, and for some children, but certainly not all children. My beliefs about education are very similar to yours… I think the bureaucratic red tape surrounding education does more to stifle learning than to encourage it! What a fantastic list, I love it!

    • Haley says

      Thank you, Sara. I agree. Conventional schooling is necessary and a great fit for many families. We will just be taking it one year at a time (and child at a time) to figure out the best fit for our kiddos 🙂

  9. says

    Haley, I’m glad you reminded us of this post in your end-of-2012 roundup, because I missed it when you first posted it. I love your list and it is great to see these solid thoughts put together so well — I can easily imagine directing some folks to it when they ask me why I want to homeschool my future children!

    Regarding the socialization question: I was homeschooled (1st-6th [skipped 7th] and then 12th grade) and I never had trouble meeting people, making friends, or adapting to different social settings. For one thing, I was constantly learning how to interact with my many siblings! I took part in sports and other activities that provided me with peer interaction. I also grew up in a time and place where playing with neighborhood kids actually happened…

    My one follow-up question for you: do you have a sense of how long you will homeschool? I feel very confident about educating my young children and bringing them through middle school, but after that I’m not so sure. I could probably do high school level literature, writing, and language, but math and science would be another story… I’m curious as to whether you have a long-term plan as far as that goes.

    • Haley says

      Socialization was never an issue for me, either (I was homeschooled 2nd-8th grade), even though I only have one other sibling (who is 6 years older). I spent lots of time playing with neighborhood kids, kids from church, and kids at extracurricular activities like ballet, gymnastics, and art.

      I’m really not sure how long we’ll homeschool. It might vary depending on the particular child. I went to public high school (private high school for one year) and while I enjoyed all the musical theatre opportunities I had there, the vast majority of my classes were a huge waste of time. Sending our kids to high school is definitely still an option and I think will depend on the individual child and their interests and pursuits.

  10. Rachel says

    Yes, yes, yes! All the same sentiments here. My two-year-old and my baby on the way deserve so much better than the public school system. I want to be able to do for them what I have not been able to do as a teacher/tutor in a variety of settings. The system is not optimal for learning. Homeschooling does not mean staying at home — How boring that would be! It does mean increased opportunity for exploring the world, creating, and getting to know all sorts of people of all ages, not just the peer trapped in the next desk over. I only pray the Lord gives me the inspiration, insight, and energy I will need as our children and family size grow…

    • Haley says

      It’s definitely an exiting and sometimes overwhelming adventure! I feel like this year we’re just getting our feet wet (with our eldest barely four years old, I really wanted it to still feel like “playtime”). And yes! One of the things I love is that we can go on multiple “field trips” a week and the kids can learn as they run around at the zoo and the museum 🙂

  11. Kim Smith says

    Just found your blog and love your perspective! We’re starting year 3 of homeschooling via a public charter school that uses k12.com’s curriculum. It’s great but I’m considering diving into full homeschooling because of all the little hoops and testing requirements and etc.

    One other reason to homeschool: by the time you’ve roused your kids, made their lunches, shoved them into clothes, found their backpacks and papers, driven to school in the traffic or waited at the bus stop, and then done the exact same in reverse each evening, you’ve spent a good amount of the time you would have spent on homeschooling that day. It’s not a timesaver to send them to public school. The very thought of keeping up with fundraising sales and permission slips and “your child needs to bring a shoebox on Monday and dress up like their favorite book character on Friday” and etc– along with the daily grind of getting them there and back– is enough to make me run toward homeschooling with a shudder. I don’t see how all those public school parents keep from losing their minds. 🙂

    Really loved your “socialization? DON’T CARE.” attitude. We are not raising kids to be socialized with controlled groups of kids, exactly their age, who have been raised in randomly selected groups of their peers who rarely have to communicate with younger or older kids OR with adults. That’s a setup for weird behavior, if you ask me!

    Bookmarking your blog for future visits! Thanks!

  12. Mary says

    We just started homeschooling this school year (well, hybrid-schooling, which is kind of cheating, I guess!), and though our motivations were originally mostly negative (couldn’t afford the parish school anymore, not pleased with what my daughter was being exposed to by classmates and teachers, not pleased with the watered-down Catholic identity of the school, etc.), the many benefits of homeschooling have been a pleasant surprise. We’re having a blast! There are challenges, though . . . like teaching our 8 year old while also trying to live with two toddlers! We’re figuring it out a day at a time. But your post definitely confirmed for me what a blessing homeschooling can be when it’s the right thing for a family.

  13. says

    I have been following your blog for a while now but this is the first time I have commented.

    I love your reasons for homeschooling! Your little ones are so lucky to have parents who care so much about how they are educated.
    I will definitely check out “Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination Of Your Child”.

    I would love it if you could take a look at my blog: http://www.typewritered.com
    I have a few posts on alternative education and literature on there.

    Keep up the good work with your wonderful blog!
    Stephanie x

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