Books, books, and more books. It was pretty much the theme of my baby shower. My wonderful family and friends gave me tons of books that I would someday read to Nathaniel. To my delight, they gave these instead of greeting cards. This is not surprising, given who I am. I’m a reader and a teacher. I’ve been teaching since I was about four years old. Seriously. My dolls and stuffed animals were all lined up, and whether they liked it or not, they were going to learn about whatever I had just learned in school, at Sunday school, or from the session of “school” I had just played with my big sister.
Therefore, it is not surprising that I have already begun having the conversations with my husband about how, when, where, etc. Nathaniel will be educated. We have discussed public school, private school and even homeschooling as options. The homeschooling option tends to bring up the most emotion and debate. Assuming this is a topic many parents are pondering at the moment, I wanted to share our contemplation of homeschooling, other local moms’ decisions to do homeschooling, the facts about homeschooling, along with the pros and cons of homeschooling.
My Personal Contemplation on Homeschooling
First, let me say that we live in a public school district in St. Tammany Parish that I would be very content in sending Nathaniel to school. I taught here and know many of the wonderful teachers who live and work here. To be honest, that is one of the reasons we chose to buy a home here in Mandeville. On the other hand, it is very difficult to just throw all the benefits I see to homeschooling aside. I have LOVED being home with Nathaniel and teaching him virtually everything he knows right now. I was there to teach and witness him track an object, smile for the first time, roll over, participate in a shared reading, sit and play in his playpen independently, sit up on his own, turn the pages of a book on cue, hold a book upright, make his first vocalizations, say “mama” and “dada,” crawl, and pull up on his own. I was present when all these things happened. I clapped, yelled “YAY!,” celebrated with him, and then took pictures and videos to share with the world. This is a gift. This is the part of being a mother I cherish the most.
I can’t help feeling like I want to be there when he reads his first word or learns what an adjective is. I want to be there when he figures out division, and I want to jump up and down and celebrate the first time he correctly computes a four digit subtraction problem with borrowing. To be perfectly honest, part of me asks myself, “how can I send him to be taught by someone else what I am capable of teaching him myself?” I also think about the young, pre-school and elementary ages of children, and I think he might need a hug or need to hear, ‘I love you,’ from his mother during the day. Finally, I REALLY think about how in public schools no one will be talking about God or Jesus. The most important part of his life would be completely void of his day for eight hours a day, five days a week.
On the other hand, my husband helps me to see schooling from a different perspective. At a public school, he could participate in music, art, P.E., band, choir, etc. and for a much lower cost than if we had to hire a teacher/coach and pay for everything else that goes along with extracurriculars. In addition, he would socialize with many children and have the opportunity to participate in special activities and events, such as kindergarten graduation, science fairs and dances. Also, my husband is not completely sure we can teach the advanced math and sciences he’ll need to learn in his high school years. Another valid point is that if I’m homeschooling, I am not working, and, therefore, unable to supplement our household income.
There’s also the Christian/Catholic private school option, too. Which, if we chose this route, would ensure the building of Nathaniel’s spirituality AND the draining of our pocket books! I would, then, definitely have to work. I would probably be in a classroom teaching other children while someone else teaches Nathaniel. (I got sad just writing that last sentence!)
What Local Moms Had to Say
Having the discussions about Nathaniel’s education led me to look further into homeschooling. What did I do first? I asked other local moms that I knew were homeschooling their children. This is what they had to say:
Samantha, a local mom of three children from Mandeville, said, “Homeschooling to me and my family means freedom. Freedom to share and teach our beliefs, morals and values. Freedom to teach what we want when we feel it is appropriate. Freedom to teach in a way that meets my children’s needs individually. Freedom to feel safe with them under our care. Freedom to let them experience life, explore nature and develop relationships outside and in the community instead of inside four walls. Last, freedom to remain childlike away from the pressures to grow up so fast.”
Monica, also a mom of three, said, “Never, EVER, in one million years could I have imagined that I would be both mother and teacher to my children, yet, here I am! My husband and I chose to homeschool for many different reasons, but primarily out of frustration and disappointment with our oldest son’s former school situation. So, out of our commitment to provide our children with the best possible environment to thrive in, we elected to educate them at home. It works for us because we can incorporate Biblical principles and reiterate the depths of Christ’s love in every aspect of their studies, tell them I love them and hug them when they fail, succeed, or just look especially huggable and move at a pace that is right for their individual needs. The whole child gets nurtured, and occasionally I get to do all of this and more, having never changed out of my pajamas.”
The Facts About Homeschooling
I have to admit, hearing this feedback from my fellow moms got me inspired. They added to and didn’t detract at all from the reasons I have been feeling homeschooling might be the best option for Nathaniel. With that being said, after I brought up the subject again to my husband and the new, more inspiring reasons it might be a good idea, he wanted facts. Of course! So, I got on the computer, did some research.
I found that there are between 2.5 and 4 million homeschoolers nationwide. It had seemed to me that the number was increasing, but I was actually surprised to see the number that high. Reading further, I discovered that the first batch of homeschooled children in the United States is now in the workforce. This group of 7,000 was studied and compared to their traditionally educated counterparts. The findings showed that children who are homeschooled do grow up and know how to socialize, know what’s going on in their communities and the political world, and not only get into some of the most prestigious colleges in the country, but also graduate from them. In addition, there was information about resources, such as state laws, online resources/communities, co-ops, and support groups to assist parents who are homeschooling their children.
Pros and Cons
In summary, I think through my own feelings, the opinions of local moms who homeschool, and reading the facts about homeschooling, there are strong, definite pros to homeschooling. Parents can be there to teach and witness accomplishments. Children can learn about their spirituality throughout the day, as well as get words of encouragement and physical affection as needed. In addition, children can be taught according to their specific and unique needs and learning styles in their safe home environments. Finally, parents have more control over when and with whom children socialize, and children can do more learning in their communities.
However, homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and there are aspects of it parents must consider (the cons) before making the decision to educate their children in this manner. First, it is a big time commitment, and it requires an amount of personal sacrifice from the parent doing the homeschooling. The parent and children are together 24/7. Next, homeschooling does put a certain amount of financial strain on a family. While it costs less than private school, it costs more than public school, and the realization that the homeschooling parent will not be able to work. Finally, one of the most talked about considerations when discussing homeschooling: socialization. With homeschooling, there is the need to pay a lot more time and attention to how, when, and where the children socialize with other children.
Our Final Decision
We still have no idea how Nathaniel will be educated. We are still weighing the pros and cons of homeschooling and whether or not it is the right thing for Nathaniel and our family. But that’s just it, I guess. Like with many, many other decisions when parenting, it’s not whether it’s right or wrong, it’s whether it’s right for YOU and YOUR FAMILY!