10 Points to Consider Before Deciding to Homeschool Your Child
Choosing a school for my child had to be one of the hardest decisions my husband and I ever had to make in our lives. Besides looking at the facilities and staff and the academic ratings, the fact that we are trying to raise our children in a trilingual environment also played in our assessment. One school may be wonderful in drilling the Chinese language in our children, but the other seemed a lot more fun. Or how about we send our children to English public school and then Chinese school in the afternoon? Or instead of public school, let’s do French school in the morning and Chinese in the afternoon? After many conversations and school tours, one other option that we never considered in the past entered our discussions – homeschooling.
Homeschooling is a huge decision. Instead of trusting an outside institution with your children’s education, YOU now have total responsibility of the education of your children. O-M-G, you are completely in charge of shaping your children’s educational path and their future. Can you handle the heat? Do you have what it takes to homeschool? If you are on the fence, consider the following:
Do you enjoy being with your kids … or kids in general? I know, what mother would answer “no” to this question? But do you enjoy being with them all day long? I have met several moms who admit that even though they may not need the money, they choose to work full time because they cannot imagine spending an entire day alone with their kids. Does this make them horrible mothers? NO! They have made a conscious decision that they are better mothers when they can get away from their kids and spend some time using the non-motherhood-related parts of their brains. When they do get off work and see their kids, they are much happier and focus 100% on spending quality time with them. Therefore, consider traits that a good teacher would have, such as a good sense of humor, patience, kindness, a good listener, etc. and thoroughly examine if you have the right personality for homeschooling.
Homeschooling takes more time than you probably initially pictured. On top of physically sitting down with your child to go through school subjects, you will need time to create lesson plans, prepare materials, schedule field trips, design experiments or crafts, etc. Are you willing to put in the time and sweat that is necessary to pull this off? That said, I have found that if you are passionate about education, you will find most of this pretty fun. I love researching different hands-on activities for my kids to do to accompany the theme of the day. I love laminating flash cards and cutting out cute characters for craft activities. And instead of asking how school was at the end of the day, I get to watch the excitement on their faces first-hand when they experience the experiments or activities I set up for them … yup, time-well-spent.
Does your family need two incomes? While it is possible for both parents to work and homeschool, it would require some flexibility in work hours and sacrificing precious husband-and-wife alone time. Usually, the teaching parent will need to reduce his or her work hours or quit the job completely to stay at home with the kids. The good news is that homeschooling can be achieved quite inexpensively, so the lost income may partially be offset by the reduction in expenses such as tuition.
Your Child’s Personality
Can you effectively teach your child? Does he or she want to homeschool? My husband and I decided to start my son in a private Chinese school when he was only 18 months and we have been revisiting our decision every year. And every year, we come to the same conclusion – he does better at a school with a teacher who is not mommy or daddy. My son is very headstrong and does not like to be told what to do. If we try to teach him that 1 plus 1 equals 2, he will respond with “nope, 1 plus 1 is 3!” When I tried to show him how to fold a piece of construction paper into a square, he took over after I showed him the first fold and proceeded to fold the piece of paper a dozen times and told me he made an airplane (trust me, it was not an airplane). I tried arguing with him that he needed to learn the basics first, but he ignored me and went off to fly his “airplane.” However, under a school teacher, he learns and follows instructions very well, so homeschooling is not the right decision for him. On the contrary, my daughter loves to be taught by us, and when you tell her to do something, she will follow what you said to a T. Every child is different, and homeschooling may not work for everyone. Talk to your children about their opinions on homeschooling will also help you make the right decision.
I remember the first thing I thought of when I heard one of my best friends was homeschooled was, “wow he must have no friends.” WRONG. Sure, it takes a lot more effort for homeschooling parents to ensure that their kids are participating in social activities and making friends. However, there are tons of homeschool groups around, and many organize field trips or get-togethers for the kids to have opportunities to socialize. Most homeschoolers enjoy more variety of experiences than children in private or public institutions because there are no limits to the type and number of activities they can partake in.
When you are spending your time teaching your children, you want to concentrate on them 100%. Therefore, no more washing dishes or vacuuming or any cleaning in general when the “school” is in session. This one is so hard for me because I can’t stand having dirty dishes in the sink more than a few hours. Moreover, homeschooling tends to create more messes since you will be doing activities like science experiments and arts and crafts that will likely turn your house into a state of chaos. You should for sure enlist your children to help you out with the house chores as a part of your homeschooling curriculum, but that won’t make up for the lack of time to clean. If you have the financial means, consider hiring a mommy’s helper or a house cleaner to come weekly to biweekly to provide some relief from household duties.
You do not need a degree in education to homeschool. However, what you need is the commitment to learn with your children and search for alternative resources when your expertise does not fulfill the need of your children. For example, I have forgotten a lot of Chinese since I came to America when I was 10. Therefore, teaching my children in Chinese means studying the vocabularies beforehand and familiarizing myself with the subject prior to presenting to my children. Some subjects you may not be able to learn. For example, my husband is as tone-deaf as they come, so him teaching music to my children would produce disastrous results. Hence, if he were to homeschool, he would need to “outsource” and bring the kids to music classes taught by a trained teacher.
Seems like a hot topic these days for moms is “self-care.” It is truly important to have some quality time for yourself so you don’t get burnt out, but how do you do that when you homeschool? When will there be time to hit the gym or hang out with your friends? Luckily, more and more parents are going down the homeschooling journey, and you can find homeschool support groups in your area and connect with moms with similar aged kids. You can consider homeschooling together so that the kids get the social interaction, and you get to alternate days with the other moms so you have some days off to yourself. For field trips, you and the other moms can take turns chaperoning so that you get a chance for some peace and quiet.
Once you have decided to homeschool, it doesn’t mean you are locked in for life. You can experiment with the homeschooling route for a while, but if you decide it’s not for you or your children, then you still have the option to enroll your children in a public or private school. However, do you have alternative schools you would want to send your children to in your area? Is there a long waiting list? While you should commit 100% once you commit to homeschooling, it’s also good to know your plan B in case things do not go as expected.
Dare to be Different
Even though more and more people are homeschooling, most parents still send their kids to an outside institution. Therefore, when you mention homeschooling to your friends, you may be faced with some raised eyebrows or frowns of disapproval. They may even be offended that you decided to homeschool instead of sending your kids to the same schools their kids are going to. Your children may also be faced with some questions from their peers that you want to prepare them for. Bottomline is you and your children have made the choice to homeschool based on your strong beliefs that homeschooling is the right educational path for your children. The opinions of others should not affect your decision to take your child’s education into your own hands.
Have you considered homeschool for your children?