When we last chatted about homeschooling, I was freaking out and you, dear Internet friends, were giving me a paper bag to blow into so I wouldn’t pass out. Well, what a difference a week makes.
First, thank you so much to everyone who reached out, either with personal stories or with resources and information about school safety policies, nut-free classes, and homeschooling in the modern world. I know so much more than I did last week and that’s a very good thing. I admit that I’m a little overwhelmed with all of the info, but it makes me glad that we’re really tackling this conversation now when Eva is just about to turn 3. At the moment, she is registered to go back to preschool next Fall but we’re keeping an open mind about whether or not that’s a good idea.
10 Things I’ve Learned this Week:
1 /// Much of modern day homeschooling bears little resemblance to the homeschooling I was picturing while freaking out. Many parents are taking a relaxed approach to education by pushing experiences instead of curriculum and letting the kids learn at their own pace. In general, test scores for homeschooled kids are very high and many go on to college after having awesome, interactive childhoods. Check out the Orange County Homeschool Group to see examples of amazing (social!) homeschooling in action.
2 /// It would be possible to make Eva’s local public school nut-free if I went through the proper channels and got started now. It involves a lot of paperwork that would officially make her a disabled child in the public school system, but it would create a much safer environment.
3 /// Most of the teachers that I’ve chatted with or read statements from say that they go out of their way to keep their allergy students safe and they haven’t had incidents in their classes. I do say most because I managed to find a few that say they don’t get paid enough to manage allergies on top of everything else. I think the key seems to be area and the quality of the school (sad but true). Some schools have great teachers and other schools…not so much. We happen to live in an area where the local schools have great ratings and we’ve heard almost nothing but praise from local parents.
4 /// Private schools are a common choice for allergy parents who can afford it because the administration is often easier to work with and the class size tends to be smaller. Charter schools also came up a lot, but I couldn’t find a whole lot online about them and the ones in our area are mostly pretty new. I also found good things about Montessori schools, but Eva was at a Montessori when they gave her peanut butter so I have mixed feelings about that. (Again though, that was a situation with the teacher, not the school policy.)
5 /// There are a ton of people who homeschool for reasons that have nothing to do with food allergies. Many of them are parents whose kids were in public school and it didn’t work out, either because the local schools weren’t a good fit or because they needed more flexibility for the kids. I’ve received a whole lot of info from people who dislike the new Common Core state standards for education, which change the way students learn core subjects and make it harder for parents who want to help their kids with homework. (By the way, the amount of homework was one of the top reasons I’ve seen for people leaving traditional schools.)
6 /// There are a lot of free resources and social groups out there, so homeschooling could be as free as public school in theory. I think that’s an unrealistic thought for our family, though, since I know I’d want at least a few tangible learning aids and we’d be adding things like music lessons and museum memberships to our family budget. So even though homeschooling could be free, we’re thinking it might cost us anywhere from $200-500 per month if I was homeschooling both kids and we had them in lessons and other paid activities. Cheaper than private school, but not by too much which is making us think twice about whether or not we should completely dismiss the private school option.
7 /// I know more than I thought I did. Homeschooling moms have been very good at talking me away from the ledge this week by pointing out that homeschooling is all about taking a year at a time and as long as I learned the stuff at some point I will be able to teach it to my kids. Right now, the thought of teaching them geometry and geography and chemistry and all the other things I stunk at is overwhelming but I do have about ten years before we’d have to tackle any of that. Plus, I’d be able to sneak subjects in that I didn’t get at school including html coding, alternative medicine, photography, personal finance, etc.
8 /// A lot of homeschooling is still religious. Our homeschooling would probably not include much religion, if any. I’m not sure where this leaves us, but it seems like a lot of the homeschooling groups in our area are based in certain religions (none of them being ones we’re involved in) so I might have to look harder or start my own group if we were really going to do this. Not a deal breaker, but also not a huge motivator.
9 /// An interesting argument for socializing being a more positive experience for kids who are homeschooled came from someone who compared public school to being in an elevator with a bunch of random people (you might become friends but mostly you’ll just go on a parallel journey and never connect) while homeschooling is like being at a dinner party (you’re there for a common purpose so you’re going to go out of your way to become friends with everyone you meet). I like the argument, but it leaves a lot of questions for me. On the one hand, it’s true that I only ended up with a handful of long term friends out of the hundreds of kids I met in public school, but it’s not like all those other interactions weren’t important. However, I was closer friends with people I knew from socializing outside of school. I don’t know…jury is out on that one.
10 /// Homeschooling = freedom. Here’s the weirdest shift in perspective. Last week I was feeling like homeschool was going to trap me in our dining room for the next 18 years. Now, with all of these stories I’ve read, I really appreciate how nice it must be to not be tied to a school schedule, to pick and choose what you’re going to study, and to not answer to a new set of adults in charge of your kid’s education every year. If anything, I’m cautioning myself against getting too excited about all of the possibilities that this opens up because I want to make sure we’re making this decision based on what would be best for the kids, not what would be best for my schedule. (Although, homeschooling on the road with all of those trips and never ever getting up for a 7:30 AM school bell? Tempting, tempting…)
So that’s where I’m at. I think this is going to be a rolling conversation, but I am much, much calmer this week. I don’t know if homeschooling will happen, but if it does I think we’ll be OK. It might even be a bit of an adventure…