Parenting Advice ColumnSubject: Mom wants help from readers on the decision to homeschool
I would like to ask John Holt a question - or any one who reads this who might have an answer. I have three children. My seven-year-old daughter, Amber, hates going to school. I would like to homeschool, but I have some factors that have been stopping me and I need suggestions in overcoming them.
- Her father who has joint custody wants her to go to school.
- I am on welfare, how do I afford the supplies and necessary teaching tools?
- How can I be sure that I am teaching Amber and her sister what they need if I don't understand it?
- I have a four-month-old baby, where will I get the time?
I really would appreciate any help and encouragement that can be given, as going to school is turning my sweet, smart child into an angry uncooperative one.
John Holt died in the early 80's, but many of your questions are addressed in his chapter on "Common Objections" in his book Teach Your Own.
1. Her father who has joint custody wants her to go to school.
This one could be the most difficult. You'll need to handle it as you have other parenting disagreements. Make an appointment for a quiet time and place to discuss this decision with him, perhaps giving him information to read later (such as the "Common Objections" chapter, a good book on the philosophy behind homeschooling, such as How Children Learn, or a review of homeschooling research). See the Growing Without Schooling website for suggestions. Also see Heather's Homeschooling Page, which has an excellent discussion on making the decision to homeschool.
In general, your best approach would be to learn what his specific objections are, and deal with them individually, using Holt's chapter and other sources. If your relationship is such that this would be too difficult, consider using the services of a mediator, counselor, or minister - they're trained to help with this kind of communication (of course, you should first check out their feelings about homeschooling!) The Growing Without Schooling staff also offers consultations; see their web site. Their newsletter, which I consider almost essential for successful homeschooling, includes many stories from parents who have come to some type of agreement, such as trying one year of homeschooling. This type of arrangement may be the best approach, because homeschooled children generally make excellent progress, and it can be easy to show that homeschooling "works".
2. I am on welfare, how do I afford the supplies and necessary teaching tools?
There really aren't too many supplies that are absolutely necessary. Books can be borrowed from libraries (don't forget about the interlibrary loan service if your own library's collection is small) and some libraries include educational toys on loan. Families can form a homeschooling support group, with their own lending library of books, toys, and tools, and can ask local merchants for a discount for group members. More and more schools now allow homeschoolers to utilize their facilities. There are many inspiring stories about families who have been able to make special arrangements with schools, colleges, and local businesses, in the Growing Without Schooling newsletter. If you have close friends, neighbors, or relatives, you could ask to borrow tools and other items as your daughter shows an interest. There are good web sites and books offering suggestions for "simple living" that can help you to stay within your budget and still meet your child's educational needs. And don't overlook the cost of sending her to school - extra clothes, transportation costs, fees for special activities, "necessities" for keeping up with more wealthy school mates, and so on.
3. How can I be sure that I am teaching Amber and her sister what they need if I don't understand it?
No school teacher knows all subjects thoroughly either. If a child can read or listen to someone reading or talking, and has access to the real world, all knowledge is available to them. Be sure to see question 7 in the Holt chapter on objections.
4. I have a four-month-old baby, where will I get the time?
It can be challenging to meet your daughter's needs (in general) when you also have a small baby. But babies do get older and require less time and energy. In the meantime, many mothers have found that with a little creativity, they can care for a baby and still answer an older child's questions or help her to find the answers, and this is the basis of successful homeschooling. After all, your daughter has already learned a great deal since birth, despite the arrival of her sibling. How have you found the time? :-)
There are many large families who have homeschooled all of their children. The book Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax is an inspiring story of a family with four homeschooled boys (three of whom went to Harvard) There are many other large families who have successfully homeschooled.
Homeschooling, if done in the most beneficial way, does not require (nor would it be helpful for her to have) your constant help all her waking hours. Homeschoolers, if they are trusted to learn at their own pace and in their own way, become amazing self-teachers. Once, when my son was about 7, his dad asked how he had learned so much, and he said "I taught myself." Then he considered a little longer and added, "And how did I learn to teach myself? I taught myself!"
If there is a homeschooling support group in your area, this would be an excellent source for reassurance that older siblings can and do learn well and quickly. They also have the added benefit of learning about caring for small children. This vastly important subject is entirely neglected at schools, as children are kept isolated in same-age groups.
Remember, your time and energy would also be required if she did continue with school - and some of this can be stressful: the daily early morning rush, which includes waking a child whose biological rhythms may not match the school's schedule, and dealing with the problems your daughter has already encountered, and may encounter in the future (which these days can include some pretty worrisome situations). It also takes extra time and energy to reestablish bonding between parent and child, and between siblings, after daily separations.
I hope this is helpful. If you need anything further, please write again.
Jan Parenting Advice Column