I took my girls to a Kids' Yoga class this afternoon. This WONDERFUL woman, Sam, leads these classes for free and my girls always have a great time. So anyway... I brought a book to read and sat down outside the classroom, opposite three other moms whose kids were in yoga. I'm not sure what started the conversation, but as soon as I opened my book, I heard this:
"Yea... she homeschools her kids. It seems to work for them, but I could NEVER teach my kids! I could never get them to sit for hours. And homework is already a struggle! My son came home with homework about money... you know, teaching that like, two nickels equal a dime. And he just wasn't getting it! And it turned into this huge ordeal with him crying and me saying that I was just trying to help him. So, see? I could never teach my own kids."
They went on, talking about how in the world people actually DO homeschool....
"I've heard that some homeschoolers are done with school in like, two hours... But what do they do all day long if homeschool only lasts a couple of hours?
And then, the conversation turned to the saddest part of all....
"All that my kids want to do when they get home is play. I couldn't imagine trying to get them to do homework if they were at home all day. They would be so distracted and would ONLY want to play.... [Another mom chimes in...] We just don't have time to play. They always ask to go play at their friend's house, but after we get home from after-school things, we have to fix dinner, do homework, take showers... I tell them I'm sorry, but we just don't have the time."
Where do I begin?!
There are so many things wrong with this conversation. Please, allow me to correct some of your misperceptions.
Misperception #1: Homeschooled kids sit for hours, do homework, and have mothers who know exactly how and what to teach.
The reason I homeschool is because I don't want my kids doing school. I don't want them to sit for hours at a time. I don't want them to have homework. And if my kids are struggling with a concept, we can do one of two things: we can put it away until my child is feeling better about trying again, or we can keep working on the concept until it's mastered. There is no rush to "get it," so that my child won't be behind the next day or the next week.
Kids are constantly learning. They can't help it. It's how they are built. Learning doesn't have to happen at a desk. In fact, I would argue that the majority of what my children learn happens in our kitchen, on the living room rug, in their playroom, on the playground, at the grocery store, in front of the computer, in front of the iPad, and even on the train into Tokyo. My kids don't learn from textbooks, but from library books - from fiction and non-fiction. They learn from tv shows, from online games, from pretend play. They learn from the world around them. And they learn because they're interested in that world, not because someone told them they're supposed to learn.
And what do I do? I guide them. I build on things they're already interested in. I buy toys that encourage their pretend play and their creativity. I buy apps for their iPad that teach without them even having a clue. I read to them every night. I read to them during the day. I choose library books about topics we've been talking about, so everything is reinforced. The only teaching I do is to teach them how to find answers for themselves. I teach them that they can learn anything they want, any time they want. And occasionally, I help with a math problem. ;)
Misperception #2: Homeschooling families have to fill their days to match the hours of public or private school.
The only part of our day that looks anywhere close to public school lasts a mere 30 minutes to 1 hour per day. The rest of the day is spent coloring, drawing, painting, watching a show, playing on the computer, playing in the playroom, playing on the playground, running errands, visiting friends for playdates, going to modeling jobs, going on tours of Japan, going to yoga, going to Girl Scouts.... MANY other things. But most of our days are simply spent in our home. I don't schedule my children's every minute. They don't need that from me. They just need room to be themselves.
Misperception #3: Play is unimportant, compared to schoolwork.
Play IS the schoolwork, people! Read this GREAT post from Project-Based-Homeschooling. It made me so sad to hear these moms saying that after a full day in school, their kids wanted to play but "didn't have time for it." Through playing, my kids have acted out scenes from "The Little House on the Prairie," they have constructed a catwalk down the hallway for a doggie-fashion show, they have gone back in time like Jack and Annie in "The Magic Tree House" to visit Ancient Japan, Ancient Egypt, and Ancient China. They have engineered, crafted, designed, imagined, created, and problem-solved because of play. Again I say, play IS the work.
Homeschooling is not for everyone, that is true. Homeschooling is neither the best or worst option, but simply one of many possible choices when it comes to educating your children. Homeschooling is not hard, but it is challenging, and extremely rewarding. I know nothing about teaching, but I teach ALL the time. And I agree - if I had to keep my kids sitting for hours at a time, or had to make them do homework, or had to teach certain things by a certain time... I wouldn't be able to homeschool! But in our family, that's not what homeschooling is about. And honestly, I'm not sure it's what school should be about either....