Happy Labor Day weekend!
I’ve just completed my first week of schooling my 9-, 6- and 4-year-olds at home. I plan to write each week about the experience of home schooling three youngsters, to share my triumphs and failures. This is my contribution to the discussion of whether we should bother to fix our failing public schools, which are costing way too much and doing far too poor a job. (See my previous essay, “Back to School?”)
First, let me address the few questions that most people ask me when I reveal that I’m a home-schooling parent.
- Where did you get your curriculum?
I got my materials, after a good deal of summer research, from several different places. I was inspired by some of the curricula that a local private school here uses for grammar, so I went to the publisher’s website and ordered the home edition – yes, just like a TV game show. For history and spelling, I took advice from one of the ‘bibles’ of home schooling, “The Well Trained Mind,” and other literature that advocates for a classical education. For math, I found some books at a bookstore on the recommendation of a friend. For science, I have an online source that my kids absolutely love. One of my guide books is from the series “What your ___-grader Needs To Know,” edited by E. D. Hirsch Jr. This series provides a nice overview to make sure I keep up with the public schools, in case we decide to reintegrate. Incidentally, that is a distinct possibility. In any case, there are a plethora of ways to go in developing (or purchasing) a curriculum that works for you and your child, including simply subscribing to a public online school.
- Is it legal?
Every state has different laws regarding children’s education. In California, where we live, the state mandates that every child of school age be enrolled in a school, but it allows me to establish a private school, for the purposes of educating my youngsters, by filing a PSA, or “private school affidavit.” I am also required to keep various records, although there is no compulsory testing.
Ah… the quintessential question. The answers are several a varied, so I will list my reasons.
- We travel. Last year we were probably out of school for a total of three months, due to my husband’s work. I became the substitute teacher (and you can imagine how that worked out for me.)
- I’m not convinced that the education system is exceptional. I want exceptional for my kids, and I hope I can better approach it with my one-on-one technique.
- My son was exhibiting some anti-family behavior (probably normal for school kids, but entirely unacceptable to me.) I believe school fosters an independence and desire to challenge authority, though that may be just for my kid.
- We did not have a terribly successful year last year, partly because of a. above and partly because the teachers were not as involved as I would have hoped.
- I worked out the timing, and if it’s true that home schooling requires a commitment of 3 hours daily, well, I was almost spending that in commuting and homework.
- What about MATH?
This is my favorite question, and perhaps why others see me as uniquely qualified to teach my kids. I love math. I was a calculus tutor in college. “Oh, well, then…” the inquisitor answers quietly.
I am hoping, with this blog, to shed a little light on what home schooling entails, mainly because I believe that we have a system in place which unreasonably fosters the attitude that others are indubitably better equipped to educate our young people than their own parents. Poppycock.