Homeschool, Not School at Home

THIS WILL BE THE GIRLS’ LAST MONTH IN A TRADITIONAL SCHOOL. Starting in May, Marcy and I have decided to homeschool both Bella and Kaylee. It wasn’t the easy choice, and for as many people as we know who homeschool, we always said that would never be us. Never let it be said that learning isn’t a lifelong experience, because we have gathered new facts, done our research, and changed our minds.

Even though we found a Montessori school that we like very much, and that we think would do much better than the public schools, we realized something important. We would still be getting the girls up early in the morning, probably even earlier than we do now. They would be there all day, and we would pick them up in time for dinner, maybe a little time playing outside, and then bed. We would lose the best parts of their day to other people. Our girls aren’t really morning people either, so I’m not sure that earlier mornings is the best idea for them.

We also considered that they both love to learn things. Kaylee has always wanted to do her weekly homework as soon as she gets home with it. She spends half her time at home lately asking if she can do more math. Bella has a list a mile long of things she wants to learn about, including Greek mythology and algebra. We couldn’t stop her reading if we wanted to. Even with a smaller class size, I don’t think Bella would be able to explore a topic as deeply as she wants to. If we make sure they hit the basics, the only other thing we really need to do is to help them learn how to learn. If we give them the opportunity to explore the other things they are interested in (which is almost everything), they will go further than we can imagine.

We know the big arguments. You went to public school, and you’re doing great. You don’t have a teaching degree. How will they get into college? What about socialization?

Public schools are not the same as they were when I was in school. I just came across some of the letters from the my own elementary and middle schools to my parents detailing the evaluations they went through for an individualized curriculum for me, and some of the changes they made as a result. I was in 6th grade, already a year advanced, being put into 8th grade math classes and having other classes adjusted as well. I remember a tutor, brought in at the school district’s expense, for me and two other students. There was also a distance learning program that I was enrolled in, and I graduated high school in only 3 years. This does not happen anymore. The only way a child gets individual attention now is if they have a disability and an IEP.

I really do like teachers. Most of the teachers I have known work incredibly hard, both on the clock and off, and care for all the kids who come through their classroom. They have to manage up to 35 kids, making sure they all learn the material and stay in line, and that is a large part of the reason that extra training is needed. As a parent of two, I only have to manage those two kids, and I’ve been doing that since they were born. I can get access to all the same materials: teachers’ guides, answer keys, and planned curricula. Also, we aren’t really teaching them the material. We’re teaching them how to learn. Both Bella and Kaylee already love to learn things, so we just need to help guide them and introduce them to as much information as we can. As far as college goes, that’s just a matter of getting enough general background to pass the tests, and us keeping records to be able to provide them with a transcript and a diploma (should we homeschool through high school). Most colleges have figured out homeschooling at this point, and do not need to have the traditional school experience in order to evaluate admissions.

Socialization is always the dirty word hurled at homeschool parents. Homeschooled kids are weird and they don’t know how to act around people. There are, of course, the kids that make up that stereotype, but for the most part it’s just not true. We don’t live out in the middle of nowhere. The girls will be meeting up with other kids for park days. We live in a neighborhood with friends who aren’t going anywhere. Beyond that, they’ll be going out to the library, to the grocery, and on other errands and interacting with people there. And have you met my girls? Would you ever think that they would not be personable? Plus, why does everyone think that public school is this great social experience? Your associates are picked for you and they’re all the same age. When’s the last time you were in a room with 34 other people all the same age as you?

I don’t know exactly how this is going to turn out, but I know it will be better for our family. We’ve been reading a lot about different types education environments: public school, Sudbury Schools, school at home, classical, unit studies, unschooling. I’ve tried on some of the mindsets, and I’m starting to figure out what I can get my head around, and what I can’t. We’ll start slowly, especially since we’re headed into the summer, and find out the ways the girls learn best. Marcy is going to be doing the larger share of the work, but I’m very much looking forward to helping, including sharing many of the things that I love like computer programming!

Todd Palino


I'm a dad, a small business owner, a systems engineer, a developer, and any number of other things.

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