Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why we (still) homeschool...

Homeschooling entered into our life 4.5 years ago. It wasn't on our radar and, in fact, both boys were in public school. After a frustrating year, with lots of IEP battles and having enough of "teaching to the test", we though we'd try homeschooling for a year. Just a year.

While that first year was difficult, we LOVED homeschool so much that we embraced it fully. We still love homeschooling and, although our reasons that we continue on now are very different from when we began to homeschool, I'm so glad we stuck with it! We've grown and evolved over these past 4.5 years to learn why we continue to choose this form of education.

So here are our reasons we continue to homeschool...

It allows us to develop stronger relationships within our family. My boys have grown in this area greatly. There is still room for improvement but their relationship is neat to see. Having them together throughout most of the day allows them to work on and work out the often messy points of relationships. You know, hurt feelings. Harboring resentment. Forgiveness. Overlooking an offense. Those kinds of things that were getting squeezed in and, in actuality, glossed over in the small window of time after school and on weekends. Homeschooling allows us to deal with the here and now, well, in the here and now.

Different learning styles and attention spans are addressed. I love this! The reality is I have two VERY different learners on my hands - one is a "conventional" learner in that plop him down in a classroom or any setting (for the most part) and he'll retain information. The other.. not so much. He needs to touch, pick up and turn over, take it apart and ask 40,329 question before really grasping a concept. Let me emphasize - BOTH styles (heck, all styles) are TOTALLY FINE! However, one of these styles is addressed in a classroom setting. So, at home, we try to have lots of hands-on activities, for both of them, to help solidify learning.

A Biblical worldview can be incorporated into their learning. I know this isn't a priority for everyone but it IS for my family. Chris and I love to analyze culture, media, trends, behaviors and topics and look at them through a Biblical lense. We are teaching our boys to do the same. Homeschooling allows us the time and space to do this.

Character is a daily subject. And not just any character building. We work on a virtue each week with We Choose Virtues (see sidebar for more info.) as well as work through Proverbs and scripture memory work - all, usually, addressing character qualities God would like to see in us. Yes, I said us because I learn with these lessons too! Our nature is to sin. It's our default setting but we are to put off our sinful nature each day and choose God's character. It's not easy and sometimes we fail. Sometimes it gets messy but that is our calling and goal. Homeschooling allows us to focus in on this in a way that was difficult in our public school days.

It allows us to step off the well beaten path and journey at our own pace. Instead of trying to cram a bunch of facts into my sons' brains for the standardized test, we are learning, more organically, in a slower pace. A pace prompted by their interests at times. A pace that doesn't make them feel like failures or be flustered as though they are rushed. Our educational choice has allowed us to make lifestyle choices that have helped slow our pace of life down. And we love it!

We get to do lots of field trips. I know this isn't the deep-thought reason you'd think it might be but this is important to me. My son did not get his learning style (you know, the one who has to touch, feel, explore) out of the blue. I, in part, enjoy learning in this way and I think it does wonders for our creativity.

It's fun. Well, some days, not so much but for the most part, it's FUN! I mean, I get to spend lots of time with my kids, we get to learn all kinds of neat things together, we play games, we watch neat documentaries, we go on fascinating field trips... we love it! They love it!

Stress levels diminish. One of my children has Asperger's Syndrome and in the 4 years we've homeschooled, his stress levels have diminished significantly. His Pediatric Neurologist is so impressed. This was a child who, each year of public school, struggled with the rushed pace of the school work, hated school with a passion, had difficulty with focusing, and felt like a failure that his stress level was too high for someone his age (a 3rd grader) and had ulcers and nervous tics from it. He was dismissed from therapy 3 different times - not because he didn't need it, he very much did - but the therapists said he was failing to thrive in the therapy due to his attention span and his anxiety. Now, you'd never know he has Aspergers (well, occasionally, you can) and this year, we removed him from all therapies because he no longer needs them at this point. This is a child who has been in multiple therapies since he was 2 years old. Occupational. Speech. Social Skills training. His neurologist is THRILLED with his progress and so are we! I attribute it to our homeschooling life and a calmer pace of learning. He's still being challenged and stretched but in a totally different environment now.

These are some of the reasons that we still continue to educate at home. We don't homeschool because we believe that God requires it of every Christian. No, we don't believe that to be true at all. We don't do so because we want to insulate our boys from the world. Nor do we do it out of fear. We do it because it just makes sense for our family. Chris and I felt that we could offer our boys a better learning environment than the local school could.. and we still feel that way.

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