When I have coffee with my girlfriends, one of the first things we talk about is our children. We discuss sports, disciplinary problems, chores, and school. My kids go to school on the installation, and my oldest has gone to the same school for the past 2 years. Our school experience hasn’t always been positive–we’ve had good teachers and bad teachers. We’re on our third year at this school, and our third principal, as well. Choosing the best school environment for our children is one of the hardest decisions a parent has…and one of the most consistent.
My husband was homeschooled. He shook my preconceived notion of homeschool kids early in our relationship. He’s incredibly intelligent, well-read, and formulates good debates. He’s social, responds well to all age groups, and has a great job. So when our kids hit the magic school-aged years, we considered homeschooling. My husband gave it more consideration than I did. My argument was always, “When you stay home with them you can homeschool.” It wasn’t completely fair, but it was just inconceivable.
But constant discussions with my friends have opened my eyes to the wonderful world of homeschooling; it is certainly less scary with all the curricula available. The homeschool groups, the co-op experiences, the online schooling–it is certainly easier than my dear friend Victoria had it when she was homeschooling four children in Europe, before the internet. (And Pinterest!)
Why I Should (Maybe?) Homeschool My Kids
My dear friend Linds has always homeschooled her oldest, who is seven. The main reason she decided to homeschool was because the curriculum being taught in schools were inconsistent with her faith. She and her husband also knew they wanted their family to have a handful of kids. One big concern for Linds was the social aspect, but not in the way we usually think of socializing homeschoolers. “I didn’t want to rip my kids out of their social circles every few years,” she explained. “And if it wasn’t us moving, it was somebody. I wanted more consistency for them.”
She finds that social aspect in homeschool groups, neighborhood friends, and a variety of other ways. “We have interactions with people all the time,” Linds told me. “My kids are probably socialized more because they aren’t just around the same age children, every day.”
The various methods of homeschooling make it something that could easily adapt to the various family lifestyles we have in our community. Linds buys one packet of curriculum and supplements with other things. It can be expensive to buy a complete, prepackaged program, so building up slowly is key. She’d like to do a co-op as the kids get older, and have them learn from others as well.
The flexibility is so desirable; you aren’t held to a school’s schedule. You have the opportunity to school year-round, and work at the pace of the child. You can take some time off to visit family when airfare isn’t sky high and enjoy those post-deployment vacations without any guilt or pressure to finish homework packets. The scheduling possibilities are endless. Linds usually sticks to the local school calendar, “It’s ingrained in me to stick to it. The past two years we’ve started in October and finished up late June. We take a break around the holidays and the summer,” she explains.
So why don’t I homeschool my kids?
Because right now, we need the separation. My kids love school; they listen better to the teacher when it comes to instruction and discipline in the classroom. They love being around the other kids, and they like telling me about their day when they come home from school. I like that I have time away from them during the day to miss them and appreciate when they come home. The weekends and days off are nice–it gives us all a break.
I knew the first few years of elementary school would be extremely important for my children, both educationally and socially. I made a deal with myself that when they moved from 2nd grade to 3rd grade (which involves a switch in schools here), we would reconsider. Or if the teacher’s couldn’t do anything with them anymore. Or if we moved overseas. Or. Or. Or.
I haven’t completely ruled it out!
No way! Last year my son asked to be homeschooled, and I thought long and hard about it. I think it boiled down to jealousy. My daughter was finishing up her pre-k year at home. She kept telling him she was “homeschooling pre-k” and he felt left out.
I have a great relationship with both of their teachers, and the staff at their school. I volunteer in the classroom whenever possible. I cut laminated things galore. I make copies. I consider chaperoning field trips. I enjoy spending the summers and breaks supplementing what they’ve learned. We pick a topic, hit the library, play, and research. We learn about sharks one week, fire the next, and food the week after.
When Linds told me her favorite part of homeschooling is watching her kids learn, I felt a little sad. I was lucky enough to see my kids learn to read when they learned before Kindergarten. But to hear her describe watching her oldest decode the words and take off reading made it sound so magical.
But the benefits to public school outweigh homeschool. For us. For now.
Did you choose homeschooling for your military kids? How did you make that decision?
Posted by Rebecca Alwine, a military spouse of over 8 years. She enjoys traveling the world, learning about herself, running, lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Follow her on Twitter.