Thursday, September 29, 2011

To homeschool or not to homeschool?

That's the question I have been asking myself even before I became a mother. I hoped to be blessed by motherhood one day and I did want to make sure I covered all my bases. I'm sure, many women would be able to relate with me on this one - we want to make sure we know what's ahead of us and we want to be properly equipped. This gives us security and peace of mind, does it not?

Educational options in America are numerous and that might be confusing to some people. Especially those who grew up in a different environment. There are public schools, private schools, charter schools, oh and homeschool too. I grew up in Russia where approach to education was simple - public school, same level of education for everyone, no options - period. It wasn't until I moved to the US that I even heard of homeschool. I was quite astonished by the idea. It seemed like an almost impossible task to me. Even though I did get my degree in teaching ESL, isn't that ironic? I'm a teacher by profession and I want's sure I was up to the task of educating my own children.

It seemed to me like the idea of homeschool was a bit excessive. It's way too much pressure on the mom, I thought. Having to deal with kids after school is hard enough, dealing with them all day while being their mom and the teacher seemed very stressful. I spoke to some moms who homeschooled their 4 or 5 kids and did very well, and I spoke to those who couldn't handle it after trying for a year or who and were happy with their choice of private or public school. I left the whole search at that point but ever since our little girl was born this question became more pertinent. And even though she's still a baby it seems like a good idea for me to begin looking into options for her education. After all, time flies so fast... In other words, I'd rather be prepared.

My husband and I have recently watched 'Waiting for 'Superman'. This film is a good summary of the current education crisis in the US. It was quite a wake up call for us as parents. For those who have kids and are at least somewhat concerned about their education, it's a documentary that should be on your 'must see' list.

On the one hand, homeschool seemed the stressful and the hard choice. Kids do need exposure to other kids, they need to develop their social skills. But I sending my kids to a public school didn't seem like a great option either. I have worked at a public school, I know what it's like. Having my precious little ones exposed to the peer pressure, naughty kids and oblivious teachers just isn't worth it. I am not saying that all teachers don't care, in fact, there are many great teachers out there. But the chances that there will be a bad teacher or one that simply doesn't care are much higher. I know from my own sad experience that one bad teacher can really discourage a child and do some serious damage to their desire to learn. 

The are a lot of problems with our education system but the biggest one of them all, in my opinion, is the unions. Maybe back in the 1940s unions actually helped and protected teachers. But I don't think that they are necessary any more. In fact, I believe they contributed enormously to the fact that the US education produces poor results despite of being among the most expensive ones. Thing is that thanks to unions bad teachers are still working out there and there's no way for a school to fire a bad teacher. And the good ones cannot be rewarded for their performance either, also thanks to the unions. Anyway, I am going too much into details here and that is not the point. Since I don't want to take the chances of exposing my kids to people who don't deserve to be called teachers teaching them myself seems like a better option. After all, who else would be as concerned about the quality of my kids' education as their mother? 

Having looked at all the options, considered their pros and cons I came to the conclusion that homeschool might not be a bad idea after all. What really gave me some confidence and encouragement was some practical advice from those who have done homeschool successfully. I am glad that there are moms out there who like me decided that educating their children themselves was the best option for their family. I am also glad and very grateful that they are not keeping all this rich experience to themselves and are readily sharing knowledge with others. A series of posts on Simple Homeschool blog was the last thing I read and it did give me so much hope and encouragement. Now I am looking forward to the time my girl reaches school age instead of dreading it :)

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