As a mother of three small sons, I want only the best for my children. The best, whatever it may cost, in time, money, or commitment.
For me, this best does not include sending them to the local school, where they will spend the day sitting at a desk, dealt with not as individuals but as part of a mass. Every child is different, and every child has different ways and paces of learning, as well as different talents and interests. The classroom model is not a teaching model chosen because it generates the best results, but simply because it offers convenience—convenience for the parent, convenience for the educator. Is it fair to put our own convenience so far ahead of our child’s needs?
My oldest son is a kinesthetic learner. He has a hard time with memorization, easily zones out when given long verbal instructions, and needs to ‘do’ to really learn. Because I teach him at home, I was able to take into account his own special learning style and find curriculum that would use his strengths to cover his weaknesses. With kinesthetic learning material he blossomed quickly, and now is academically well ahead of his peers.
His little brother is very different—quick to memorize, verbally gifted, but with a low tolerance for seat-work and a short attention span. While working on those weak areas, we are not limited by them, and we have found ways to enhance his strengths—memorizing while exercising, listening to audiobooks while going to sleep—while at the same time not neglecting to work on his ability to concentrate on long assignments.
When you choose homeschooling, you choose to give your child a chance to develop his greatest potential, to learn to exercise his or her intellectual abilities fully, and to acquire the ability to think outside the box.
Why do you find homeschooled students at all the top universities and Ivy League schools today? Because these schools have discovered that homeschooled children are those who have learned not only how to memorize and fill in the correct box on a test, but, even more importantly, are able to take initiative and think critically and for themselves.
I was homeschooled myself through all twelve grades; my first official ‘class’ was taken as a college freshman in a top university. Many of my classmates came from the best prep schools in the country. All had worked hard to get there. Yet, I found I was under no handicap; rather, my habits of independent work, problem-solving, and my love of the subject gave me a huge edge over those who had spent the last twelve years in what can scarcely be considered more than educational drudgery.
The ability to think independently and take initiative is part of the essential makeup of any of those men and women who changed history or made landmark scientific discoveries. And yet, these are the very qualities which are most squashed out by the waffle-mold of the school system. This is not to say that there are no traditional school children who are original thinkers. However, the public school system as currently run tends to encourage conformity, discourage original thinking, and stifle the innate desire for knowledge that every child is born with. Those children, who come out of public school with a love of learning, a desire to find things out, and a capacity to think outside the box, are this way in spite of public school, not because of it. Homeschooling, on the contrary, encourages these characteristics and gives practice in them every day.
Homeschooling also has a hidden bonus in the quality time you get to spend with your son or daughter. You would hate to be away when your little one took his or her first steps— but what about the moment when he sounds out his first words? Or does her first long division? These are special moments, too, and sharing them with our children sets the stage for a strong relationship that nothing can break. There is no-one I’d rather be with than my three sons, and though they are well-socialized and have many playmates, I am still their #1 friend.
Not all of us are able to give up our careers to homeschool. Not all of us are equipped for this challenge— teaching every grade school subject for twelve grades. But no longer do homeschool parents have to do it alone. Bringing in outside expertise— a practice called outsourcing—allows you to give your child the absolute best. If you feel weak in math and science, there are wonderful programs and teachers ready to help your child in those subjects. If you child shows an interest in music or has a desire to learn Russian, find a teacher in those areas. Two or three families with similar interests can team up in a small, informal class to share costs.
Mothers or fathers with busy schedules often utilize parent assistants, too, so their children receive necessary supervision and tutoring even if mom and dad can’t be right there. You retain control over your child’s education, and she gets the one-on-one time she needs.
Homeschooling is completely legal in California. Your homeschool is considered legally to be a private school, and you’ll have to file a private school affidavit with the Superintendent of Public Instruction of California. Another option would be to join a registered umbrella school, an arrangement, in which you are provided with legal protection and some form of long-distance supervision and testing by the umbrella organization. Many school districts also offer public school independent study programs. Under these programs, your child will complete the same assignments as his public school peers, but he will be able to work at home with you as a teacher. This method gives less flexibility, but, if you are uncomfortable with choosing your own curriculum, it may be right for you.
Whatever you decide, you will find many support organizations ready to help with all aspects of the journey. Homeschooling is only becoming more and more popular in California as the years go by, and more and more ‘homeschool graduates’ are demonstrating its success.