Friday, August 14, 2009

More from The Bitter Homeschooler

Another great article from the editor of Secular Homeschooling magazine, this one from Issue #7, the first to be published in the new bimonthly format.

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

by The Bitter Homeschooler, from Secular Homeschooling, Issue #7, July 2009

There are plenty of people who will tell you the cons of homeschooling. People who have never homeschooled, never plan to, and are terrified of the very idea of that kind of autonomy will be more than happy to tell you everything that could possibly go wrong with homeschooling: your kids won’t learn what they need to; your kids won’t learn anything at all; your kids will learn plenty but they won’t get into college; your kids will learn and will be accepted by a wonderful university, but won’t be able to afford to go because you won’t have any money because you spent all that time homeschooling them instead of selling your soul to the corporate devil; your kids will learn and will go to college, but will be bizarre asocial freaks who are only good at things like retaining information and writing original papers because they have no idea how to relate to their fellow human beings.

People who actually homeschool will be very happy to tell you the pros of homeschooling. No getting up at an ungodly hour to get the kids dressed, fed, and on the bus by another ungodly hour! Hanging out in your pajamas all morning if you feel like it! Plenty of time for life-skill lessons and baking homemade bread together (mmmm)! Going to museums, parks, and public pools whenever you feel like it, instead of on loud, crowded weekends and holidays! Taking a week off when you need to or want to or just because!

But have you noticed how hard it is to find someone who will give you the pros and the cons? You know, together? The anti-homeschooling brigade doesn’t know the good stuff; homeschoolers don’t want to scare you off with any hint of difficulty, and anyway we’re so sick of all the criticism we have to field from civilians that many of us are in Persistent Cheerleading Mode when it comes to the subject of homeschooling.

Well, sigh no more, ladies and gents. Your very own Bitter Homeschooler is here to help. And so, without further ado, here are:

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

Pro: Your kids won’t be bringing home lovely new words they learned from that adorable little sailor every classroom has at least one of.

Con: You will either have to make an appointment to go out and get some good swearing done, or resign yourself to never being able to ask your children with a straight face, “Where did you learn that word?” You know and they know that they learned it last week, when you accidentally slammed your hand in that drawer and didn’t get your lips shut quite fast enough and you got to enjoy the kind of “teachable moment” your homeschooling books never mentioned.

Pro: Unlike kids who are either at school or doing homework all day, your kids have the time and opportunity to learn the work that goes into running a household. If your local educational authority requires you to keep records, you can record time spent teaching them how to do laundry and other important household tasks under the heading of Social Studies, Health, or Life Skills.

Con: Your kids are not idiots, and don’t want to clean any more than you do. If you get tired of arguing and decide to just do the chores yourself one day, you’ll learn the joy of attempting to clean a house when it’s full of people being creative all over it.

Pro: You and your family have lots of time to just be together. You get to learn who your children really are: their interests, passions, hopes, and dreams. You’re all about family togetherness.

Con #1: It’s really easy for that other kind of togetherness to fly out the window, if you get our drift. And that’s if you already have a partner. If you’re single and think it might be nice to have a date once in a while — well, best of luck with that one.
Con #2: Shutting the door when you enter the bathroom will become a distant, wistful memory.

Pro: Your child’s social life will be just fine — better than ever, if you have the schoolyard jungle to compare it to. You’re right there to keep a sharp eye out for bullying and other problems. You can guide your little ones through successful conflict resolution by teaching them skills they’ll actually be able to use as adults.

Con: Wait — didn’t you used to have a social life?

Pro: Being a homeschooler can be a proud thing. More and more, the mainstream population is learning what homeschooling really is. You practically can’t open your car door without smacking some newspaper or magazine article about homeschooled kids being admitted to (or graduating from) top-notch universities, routinely out-scoring their schooled peers on standardized tests, winning spelling and geography bees, going into business for themselves in their teens, and just generally overachieving all over the place. And people are getting increasingly dissatisfied with schools — the bullying, the hours of homework every night, the low test scores, the teaching to the test. These days, you’re pretty likely to get a positive response from strangers who learn that you homeschool. And if you don’t, you have plenty of ammo to lob back.

Con: Exactly because homeschoolers are still in the minority and do often make the news with all their fabulousness, you’re going to be seen as A Homeschooler. It’s so much fun to be representative, especially on those days when the kids are feeling sulky about being out on an errand instead of home with their beloved computer games (and aren’t keeping their feelings to themselves), your eleven-year-old genuinely and audibly has no idea what the change will be if you give the cashier a dollar for that 89-cent purchase, and your nine-year-old asks with bright-eyed curiosity who those weird-looking guys are on the Presidents’ Day Sale flyer. Sometimes it’s best to just call it a snow day and call it a day.

Pro: No gloppy cafeteria food for your kids. No vending machine junk, no peer pressure to eat nothing but caffeine, sugar, and grease. You can feed your children wholesome food — and you know exactly what they’re eating.

Con: They know exactly what you’re eating. Keeping the good chocolate to yourself is next to impossible. (Our advice: hide it behind all that stuff you bought with such good intentions at the last homeschooling convention.)

Pro: Your principles, morality, ethics, and ideas about appropriate behavior have a really good chance of becoming your children’s, too. Your kids aren’t being fed the idea that their peer group is the arbiter of standards. You have the chance to model the kind of behavior and philosophy you want them to learn, and you’ve got plenty of time in which to do that.

Con: They don’t just pick up the good stuff. Even when they don’t look like they’re watching and listening, they are. Hard as you try to hold it together, one of these homeschooling days you’ll look down and realize that that’s exactly what you look (and sound) like when you’re in a snit. And you won’t be looking in a mirror. Except of course metaphorically.

Pro: You’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your children’s education. They can go at a pace appropriate to their wishes and needs rather than to a state-imposed idea of what should be learned when. You can enjoy child-led learning, if that’s what suits you. You can hunker down with some good old-fashioned basics, if that’s what your family likes and needs.

Con: There’s no school system, classroom, or teacher to fall back on or blame. You know exactly what your kids do and don’t know — especially what they don’t. And not only do you get to worry about it — you’d do that even if they were in school — you get to feel guilty with a side of panic.

Pro: No one’s telling you what to do. It’s all you.

Con: No one’s telling you what to do. It’s all you.

Good luck!


If you liked this post, you might enjoy "The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List"

1 comment:

  1. What a great list. And for some reason, the part about the attempts to hide the chocolate really hit home!