I am passionate about every decision I make pertaining to my children, and this is especially true about my choice to homeschool. However, I am even more passionate about parents making educated and thoughtful decisions for their own families. I could happily spend a post telling you all the reasons why I think you should homeschool. Instead, I would like to help equip you to decide for yourself how your child should be educated.
In the United States today, there are basically three ways to educate your child: Public school, private school, or homeschool. Thanks to our current laws and amazing technological resources, all three are viable options for nearly every child. The most common choice is public school. To decide if it is the right choice for your child, you must ask a few questions. First, are you OK with the government being entirely in charge of your child's education? You can familiarize yourself with the education requirements of your state online to make sure you have no disagreement with what the schools will teach your child. Public school students must follow the school schedule and you will need to consider how that will affect your family life. Public education is also age segregated group education. It would be wise to look at the benefits and drawbacks of that method.
Once you have decided that you have no problems with the concept of public school, you have to look at your school system and the particular school your child would attend. You will want to take into consideration the location of the school. Is it in an area that you feel is safe for your child? How long will your child have to ride the bus each day? Take a tour of the school. How do they have the rooms arranged? What textbooks are they using? If possible, meet some of the teachers. It is also a good idea to talk to people who have children enrolled in that school. You can ask if they are happy with the policies, if there are any problems, and if the principal is responsive to parents.
Private schools are another fairly common choice. If you are considering private school, you really have to decide whether you want your child to attend a school that emphasizes a particular religious belief or one that offers a secular education. Within those categories, you can have everything from highly structured to simply supervised, class sizes anywhere from 4-30, schools that serve a small age range and others that run K-12. Each of the schools you consider will have a philosophy of education, a mission, and a vision. In addition to touring the schools, you will need to read everything they give you about their policies and philosophies. If you send your child to that school, you are agreeing to abide by the rules they set. A private school can dictate what your child wears, how they act, and their hairstyle. They may even have regulations about what your child does at home outside of school hours. When considering a private school you have to be sure you can afford tuition and expenses, but don't assume that you can't. Most private schools offer scholarships for needy or gifted students and some offer discounts to families with multiple children. You will also want to make sure that the school suits the needs of your child, whether he is athletically gifted or an aspiring artist.
When considering homeschooling, you have to ask yourself some different questions. What kind of education do you want your child to have? There are curriculums and courses to go along with every educational philosophy under the sun. Is your home conducive to learning? You don't necessarily have to set up a school room, but you will want to have a place where your child can sit and do his schoolwork that is relatively quiet and uncluttered. Is there someone available to teach? This does not mean someone has to stay home all day. Some parents swap days, some work swing shifts and sometimes Grandma does the teaching. However you want to work it, someone needs to be with the children to supervise and teach them. Are you willing to work? No matter how you do it, homeschooling requires some prep work. There are lots of amazing "box" curriculums that take nearly all the prep work out, but you do have to find one you like, buy it, open the box and read what you are supposed to do each day.
You also will want to make sure you have a support system. Homeschoolers face unique challenges and plugging into a support system keeps you from reinventing the wheel. That support system can make or break your homeschool experience. Thankfully, in the Fredericksburg area there are lots of formal support groups and you can find most of them online through HEAV. If you ask around, you might be surprised at how many homeschoolers you know. Friendly homeschoolers can also be found at church, the Y (two area YMCAs have homeschool PE classes), the library, playgrounds, and anywhere else children like to go. If you see a mom at a playground with four school-age children in the middle of a school day, chances are pretty good she is a homeschooler. Chances are equally good that she would be happy to chat with you and answer your polite questions. That might just be the beginning of a friendly support system.
From the moment we realized a child was joining our home, we have been making decisions for them. Thank God we live in a nation where every parent has the right to choose how their child is educated. If you have decided on public or private school, give the school a call, I'm sure they will be happy to take care of you. After a short break for Christmas, I will give you some pointers on how to begin if you have decided to homeschool your child. Ahh, now I can let my passionate side show again.
This blog entry was written days ago. In light of today's school shootings, I read and re-read it, trying to decide if anyone would interpret this entry as somehow judging parents who place their children in public schools. When the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary sent their children to school this morning, they were sending them to a place they knew to be safe. Sometimes bad things happen, even when we have made the best choices possible. A private school could have the same type of shooting happen and a home school could be the victim of a home invasion. We can not make our parenting decisions from a place of fear, trying to accomodate all the many bad things that might happen. My heart cries out with the hearts of the parents who could not bring their children home tonight. Something sacred has been torn and I am praying that God would comfort and heal all of our broken hearts and give us strength to persevere. We are all holding our children a little closer tonight.