Home Education Magazine
March-April 2003 - Articles and Columns
Questions and Answers - Laura Weldon
My husband and I have made the decision to homeschool our two children. But am I missing something by denying her an official preschool experience?
What Makes Us Different?
Given all our cultural conditioning, what is different about parents who make the decision to homeschool?
My husband and I have made the decision to homeschool our two children. Our daughter is two and our little boy just three months old. All of my friends with two-year-olds are enrolling them in preschool programs. Since I'm going to homeschool, I really would prefer to teach our little girl her colors, numbers, alphabet at home. We belong to a playgroup where she is learning to share and play with others. But am I missing something by denying her an official preschool experience?
-- Jean Hershner
? Yes, your children will be missing something if you deny them 'official' experiences. And, yes, this will make them different. And, yes, they will become more different with each time you make a decision like this one -- each time you decide that you can offer them something more appropriate than what is provided by the 'official' systems being chosen by your friends and neighbors for their children.
When our son was the age your daughter is now, we had no way to know that he would ever understand the choices we were making for him. We had no way to know that he would eventually choose for himself paths that continued to build on his unique aptitudes. We had no way to know that he would find friends who value his uncommon outlook on living and learning. All we knew then was that we were his parents and that we were personally responsible for making choices we believed were in his best interest.
We did not get to make just one decision, 'We are going to homeschool Jonathan.' Instead, we decided over and over again on individual issues that we either were, or were not, going to go along with the choices being made by our families, friends, community, and country. Each and every time we chose something other than the majority's way, we widened the gap between our son's life experiences and those of his more conventionally raised peers.
Your decision today about preschool is part of a very long series of similar future choices. My wife and I have only gotten our son to age 15 at this point so I can't tell you where or when the series ends. But I can tell you that the choices do not get easier (dating? driving? college?). Each of these decisions re-challenges our reasons for staying personally involved in our child's development. Each one carries consequences our son will have to pay and benefits he might obtain.
Your children are fortunate to have parents who want to personally participate in their development. Please trust that they will grow up to value your active participation in their lives more than anything they might get from 'official' experiences.
-- Jim Atwood, Missouri
? You aren't missing anything! Children at this age don't need to be doing any formal learning. They need to be playing, pure and simple. Play is how children learn. Our society leads many parents to think their children will be 'left behind' if they haven't had the experience of a structured learning program. Don't believe it! Small children need LESS interference from adults, not more.
They will learn colors, shapes, letters and numbers in the same way in which they learned to talk and walk. You did not have to plan out a curriculum to teach them how to walk -- they had an inborn drive to learn. In the same way, they will want to learn how to label and make sense of the world around them as they grow and have need for that information. Don't force it onto them before they need it. This is all common sense, but our society has so frightened us with the idea that our children need to 'keep up' that for many of us, it seems scary to just let them be children.
I urge you to check into a La Leche League group -- they are a wonderful support system and are rich with resources. Buy a copy of Mothering Magazine. Read everything you can about child development. Most importantly, trust your own instincts, observe your children, and have faith their individual nature will unfold in its own way.
-- Joanne Comito
? I too worried as I watched my other mommy friends enroll their children in preschool programs. I did not know about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling back then, but I did apply many of her ideas without that knowledge.
Charlotte Mason was a British educator who founded a teacher's college and had correspondence-type homeschool in the early 1900s. She stated in her writings that 'the Mother is the best Kindergarten' and that young children should spend as much time outdoors discovering their world in a natural way. In a time and society that seems overly interested in separating parents and young children instead of building them up, her words and thoughts are refreshing.
I was also involved in a wonderful mother support/playgroup that had little 'field trips' and other such fun activities that were low stress, economical and simply fostered the natural curiosity children have. Out of that group I made friends with two other moms who were also considering homeschooling. When our oldest children were three, we met once per week and took turns planning the 'lesson' which consisted of reading a story, learning something interesting, sometimes doing a craft, and having a snack.
There are many good resources on the market should you desire to use something 'formal' which, in retrospect, is not necessary, but you might prefer to have something at your fingertips, as did I. Two suggestions: Playful Learning by Anne Engelhardt and Cheryl Sullivan, and Early Education at Home by M. Jean Soyke.
It can be hard to walk down a different path from the masses, but under your care and love, and with your relaxed yet purposeful guidance, your young children will thrive, you will have fun, and nobody will miss out on anything.
-- Adrianne Elbe, Waukegan, IL
? My wife and I homeschool our four children and work as well. We found it helped us give our older children focused attention by putting the younger children in preschool starting at age three. It is only a few hours a week and is a real help to us.
? Experienced homeschoolers told me my son was too young to worry about homeschooling yet, but everyone else was 'doing school.' Maybe my experience, your letter, and the numerous people showing up on e-mail lists with young children should be a wake-up to the homeschooling community. We need to welcome these people in, even though their children are not yet school age, because it's lonely bucking the trend alone.
-- Brenda Leonard, U.S. military family in Friedberg, Germany
? I too am a mother of a two-year-old child and a nine-month-old baby, and have made the decision to homeschool. The more I see preschool programs, the more I'm happy my children are not a part of them.
I have been a preschool teacher assistant prior to becoming a mother, and it was in The best preschools. After witnessing the behind-the-scenes happenings of that high quality preschool, I would not ever want my child to experience it. The teachers are typically young, inexperienced and extremely underpaid. When I studied child development, I remember being told of a psychologist whose theory was: 'All children need in their lives is somebody whose crazy about the kid.' Well, if I, as their mother, can't be that person who is crazy about them, who else can?
? I once read an anecdote from a homeschooling book that has stuck with me. A parent and teacher are talking at the end of the first day of kindergarten. As the children are scrambling to the door, the teacher turns to the parent and says, 'I can always tell which ones have gone to preschool.' The parent replies, 'Oh really, are they that much more academically advanced?' The teacher says, 'No, but they know how to line up at the door.'
Our family has found play groups and Scouting to be very valuable. This also offers an answer to the well-meaning (?) people who ask, 'What about socialization?' When I tell them we have play group, Scouts, soccer, etc., they seem satisfied. Of course, you will want to make those "extra-curricular" decisions based on the needs of your child, not on the needs of others. But it doesn't hurt to share what you are doing when your mother needs to know.
You might also want to try to find a homeschooling support group, even though your children are not 'school' age. You can get a lot of different perspectives on homeschooling and freely share your concerns with sympathetic ears. It is quite inspirational to meet with other families, observe their older children, and know that it is the norm for kids who have been homeschooled their whole lives can be happy, healthy, well-adjusted people!
-- Lisa from Illinois
What is different about parents who homeschool? Given all our cultural conditioning, that of our parents, and the school structure, what are the reasons that make some of us jump ship even at great sacrifice sometimes?
-- Jean Reed, co-author of
The Home School Source Book
? There are many distinctions, but maturity is one. Homeschooling parents have to be able to delay their own gratification (for their own free time or additional income). The delightful twist is that this decision brings much greater rewards -- family closeness that can't be achieved with the distractions of school, PTA, homework and peer pressure.
-- B. Wilkes
? I think the biggest thing that sets parents who decide to homeschool apart from the rest is that they look around and find out that not every 'expert' really is an expert. They have run into people 'in authority' who really don't have a clue sometimes. They have stopped believing that 'the system' is completely working for everyone's good. They realize that it's not up to 'the system' to educate their children or do other things for them. This is not that they have grown completely cynical. In fact, I think they feel that they are doing something positive -- not just for themselves but for others too. Their reaction turns into action.
Some parents get there faster than others. Some personality traits that lend themselves to 'faster' are not being very worried about what people think of you, standing up for yourself and others in important matters, and being a risk-taker (not necessarily in all things). They have a deep sense of the importance of their children to them and to each other and are usually very conscience of the passage of time. They think of themselves and their children as individuals rather than 'one of many in a crowd'.
There have usually been some defining moments in their lives when they have to 'do something immediately' when confronted with a situation. Perhaps it was standing up to a bully (facing fear) or fighting a traffic ticket (bucking authority). They put that into the back of their minds and pull that experience and the feeling that went with it to the forefront when they need it. Once empowered with that feeling, they use it often and find themselves making decisions to not just go along just because everyone else is doing it. This leads to an 'unshackling' of sorts -- a type of freedom they like the feel of.
-- Teresa Steven
? There are probably as many reasons as there are homeschoolers. In this 'age of thinking outside of the box,' many people are questioning basic assumptions that have been in place since the Baby Boomer generation. The need for masses of manual labor and corporate 'wheels' have been replaced by a need for creative thinking and the ability to find new answers to situations that didn't exist 40 years ago.
Security issues as well are often high on peoples' lists. Forty years ago you didn't hear of school shootings or grammar school drug dealers. Add to that the failing state of many schools, the drastic upsurge in drugging children with Ritalin, and other issues such as these.
Once the assumption was 'you have to get an advanced degree from a good university to be successful.' Now the definition of success as well as the route to achieve it is more a personal choice rather than a societal one. Someone who chooses to run a home-based Internet business is consider no less successful than a manager or VP in a large corporation. Some households, such as ours, have determined that mom working and dad staying at home is a viable alternative -- something you would not have seen 40 years ago.
-- Deb in CT
? My philosophy is easy -- listen to God. I am convinced that I am raising royalty. Not my own, but God's. That means we not only teach 'book stuff,' but we teach honesty, integrity, respect, etc. We deal with questionable things immediately. I'm not sure I would have that opportunity had my children gone to school. After all, I'm with them, so I can see a larger portion of what they are doing.
Not everyone who homeschools believes in things that we believe. Still, I am learning so much from them as well. So are my children. For us, it comes down to following what God wants us to do.
-- Beth Whitson
? I would say the biggest difference about parents who homeschool is the urge to give their children the opportunity to learn self-sufficiency! Our public and private schools are not geared to teaching children to be self-sufficient. The schools outline and program everything. Everything is scheduled. Life is not like that. As John Lennon so wisely said, 'Life is what happens while you are making other plans.' Free enterprise and a free society are dependent upon citizens who can 'row their own boat.'
-- Karen Pennebaker
? We are of the generation that saw tremendous change brought about by regular folks: civil rights, women's rights and gay rights; the resurgence of breastfeeding; fathers in the delivery room and home birth; alternative medicine; health food and vegetarianism. We live the adage, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.'
Of course we take education away from those 'in charge' to make it more personal and meaningful. Our example, whether protesting in Washington or serving on our local zoning board, shows our children that average citizens can be an active force for good in the world.
? What is different about a homeschooling Mom? She is willing to give up lunches out with friends, a quiet house, a clean house, and maybe a job. What does this Mom get in return? Time with her children, the numerous hugs that go along with learning and knowing you are making a difference in your children's lives.
No one ever said it was going to be easy; but, since when is anything that is worthwhile doing easy?.
-- Sue Buresch
March-April 2003 - Articles and Columns
HEM General Information
Subscribe to HEM