Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Journey to Home Schooling

This coming year in our life is going to be very different from any before. We are about to jump, both feet, into home schooling come September, schooling four of our seven children. We've given it a trial run, so to speak, with our daughter who was in grade five this past year, but now we've notified the school that we are going to take them all next year and school them ourselves. I'd never really heard of the phenomenon before 6 years ago, and at the time it seemed like an attractive idea, but not something that I was equipped to handle. Sometimes I still wonder! But one thing I've learned in the last few years is to let go of my hesitations before they stop me from doing something that I may end up loving.

I know that many people come to homeschooling as a result of poor experiences with a school, whether it be because of management problems in the school system itself or having a child whose needs were just not being met adequately in the school setting. We haven't had that experience. This is not a reaction against anything. This is us deciding to move to another model to see what benefits it may bring to our family. I have to say that all the homeschooling families we've met have great relationships with their kids. Not to say that there aren't problems, everyone has those, but on the whole the relationships are not as adversarial as I've seen in many other families. Their children are well-adjusted and get on well with people of all ages.

As I look into it more, I wonder whether the school model is really the best one for our children. To be kept in large groups of like-aged people is certainly not the way society functions, and yet we train children to only compete with - and learn among - their own peers. When I think of it this way it seems very limiting. Having looked somewhat into the history of the school system as an entity and seeing its roots in the Prussian model which was set up to train soldiers and then the industrial revolution where schools' main function was to train people to be factory workers, I didn't really want to subscribe wholeheartedly to either of those philosophies. Admittedly most people don't. But if the system was set up to be ideal for those circumstances, what did it leave out? Now that we have the implementation of the whole day kindergarten coming in our province, I see even more the hand of outside philosophies taking a formative role in our children's lives.

When we had our first child I took maternity leave from my job, figuring that I would most likely need to go back to work. As that time came my heart really ached at the thought of handing my child over to someone else every day. Someone else would see their firsts, fill their days and teach them so many things. We knew about the stats that simply having a parent in the home with the child brings down the risks of all sorts of problems, and contributes to better outcomes in school etc. So we decided at that time that I would stay home with our child(ren). We believed it was the best thing we could do for our kids.

As we came to make the decision about homeschooling, I felt conflicted. I didn't have problems with the school, and I felt like I needed to justify the decision to whoever might critique it. In talking it over with the TiPSI Dad, I realized that this was just what I had come to believe was best for our children. In so many ways I felt that the school schedule was interfering with a lot of the life lessons I wanted to give my kids. When was I to teach them all the things that I dearly wanted them to know? Mornings were devoted to the rush to get out to school on time. Afternoons were filled with homework and evenings with dinner preparation which finished with time to eat and then start the routine of getting little ones to bed!

So next year we're going to try doing it differently. To be honest I'm quite daunted by the amount of self-discipline this will require! I don't think I really have it! On the other hand I know there's no other way to get it than to require it of myself. You never gain muscle by just waiting for it to grow without working it. I'm not making any grand predictions, or claims that we'll do a perfect job, but I feel like if I don't try, I may miss out on the best parts of my kids' lives, and they won't have the opportunities that thinking outside the box can provide.

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