Simultaneously, my inbox has been filling up with emails from moms wanting to know about our decision to not homeschool. Generally speaking, there seems to be a guilt and a fear coming from them as they wonder, "Is it okay if I don't homeschool?" I really empathize with these women, all of whom are engaged in the Catholic blogosphere, which is dominated by homeschoolers.
The vibrancy and holiness of the homeschooling crew's lives is so attractive, and often the way homeschooling is presented in the blogging world makes it seem like it is the best option.
For a lot of people it is the best option. For a lot of people it's the only real option. For a lot of people it's something they have to do because brick and mortar schools in their area have failed them. For a lot of people it's something they are drawn to and have always wanted to do, and actually doing it brings a rhythm, joy, peace, and dynamic to their lives and home that allows everyone to thrive.
But not so for everyone.
For a lot of people it is the worst option. For a lot of people it is not even an option. For a lot of people it's not even something to be considered because the brick and mortar schools in their area are fabulous and meet or surpass their needs. For a lot of people it's something they are drawn to because they can see the goodness in it but they have always been more drawn to the good of being a part of a brick and mortar school community, enjoying the rhythm, joy, peace, and dynamic that it brings to their lives and home, allowing everyone to thrive.
I've written before about some reasons to not homeschool, but today I want to write to those moms who are worrying about not homeschooling.
In an effort to calm their worries, I want to address those myths about homeschooling that come up again and again. Some of these myths have been boldly declared by homeschooling bloggers and all of them have at least been implied repeatedly over the years. I would argue that all of them can be true when applied to certain families, but it is the very fact that they are so often portrayed as absolute truths that makes them myths.
So here goes:
Myth #1 - Homeschooling is what God intended for families.
Homeschooling is what God intends for some families but there is no way it is what He intends for all families. Just because God didn't create a schoolhouse with a teacher on the 8th day doesn't mean that He never intended for there to be schools or that sending children to school goes against His ideal. Definitely God intends for parents to be the first and primary educator of their children but that does not mean that no room is left for teachers, classrooms, and principals.
Myth #2 - Anyone can homeschool.
My former job as a college admissions counselor made this very clear. I remember one girl specifically whose high school transcripts were all from her mom and she was a straight A student. Yet her writing samples were embarrassing, as were her community college transcripts and ACT scores. She was obviously embarrassed and frustrated that the education her mother had given her had failed her. The only college she could enter would be a community college and that would involve at least a year of re-taking classes and hopefully finally filling in the gaps in her education. She may have still struggled in a traditional school, but at least there her teachers would have had different expectations and would have been able to give her the extra support and resources she needed.
Separate from that, just because you could homeschool doesn't mean you have to. If you don't have the desire or the obvious need then don't do it, don't worry about it, and happily move on.
Myth #3 - Homeschooling is what holy families do.
No, knowing, loving, and serving God is what holy families do and what that will look like will vary from one family to the next.
Myth #4 - With homeschooling, everything we do is school!
Okay, but this is not exclusive to homeschooling. My daughter learns about math, reading, her faith, critical thinking, history, science, and geography at school and she comes home and learns about those same things at home. Her teachers and I are building on one another's work; you can and surely will do the same.
I would argue that with parenting everything we do has the potential to be educational. It's insulting to imply that only homeschoolers are capable of or interested in teaching their kids throughout the day; don't believe that lie.
Myth #5 - Moms send their kids to school because a) they don't enjoy / love them as much as homeschooling moms, b) they are selfish and want time to themselves, c) both.
Yes, I really saw this type of talk on a homeschooling blog and unbelievably the commenters all supported or ignored it. Yet this is just not true. Even if you are a mom wondering, "How do homeschoolers not go crazy at home all day with their kids?" you are not less of a mom. Not being able to imagine something because it's completely foreign to you doesn't mean you're a lesser parent.
Our family has chosen to send our kids to parochial school. The price is right, the teachers are awesome, and we are happy. It's not perfect, but it's the right fit for our family. And, if someday none of those things are okay, we will happily send them to public school.
So what should you do?
Well, I don't know, but I believe in you and your ability to figure this out. Talk to your spouse; pray with your spouse; spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament; follow your heart and your gut. And remember that you can try it out for a year and then re-evaluate next year. Heck, you can even try it out for a semester!
Whatever you chose: homeschooling, public school, parochial school, I am sure you will do a great job. I believe in you!
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This is great Bonnie. We are five years away from having to make this decision (our first child is due in Sept) but already I somehow am feeling pressure on the different schooling options. Thanks for the perspective!ReplyDelete
As a homeschooling momma I still love this Bonnie! It is not about who is better or worse or who loves their kids more, it is about knowing what is best for OUR family and trusting in God's plan for our family. Thank you for writing this! http://childrenofthechurch.blogspot.com/ReplyDelete
This is awesome! Thank you!!!ReplyDelete
As a public school mom who works part time (hence, I happen to be off today) and the mom of a special needs child whom I would never be able to homeschool successfully, I talk to people all the time about the fact that no matter where my children get their academic education, we are still their primary educators!! Great post, especially for those moms who are feeling (unnecessarily pressured) by the interwebs.ReplyDelete
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I am going to print this out and keep a copy in my journal. I am a working mother who wants to homeschool - but God keeps pointing my family in a different direction. Even though He has clearly answered me and directed my path to where I am today (at work), the guilt and conviction that it is somehow my fault, that I am not holy enough, that if I were a "good mother" (read: PERFECT) I would somehow find a way to homeschool - that guilt pops up and pulls my heart from His Will to mine. Thank you for re-directing me back to Him! Thank you for reminding me that we are not cookie-cutter! (Just to be clear, the homeschooling mothers I know and those whose blogs I read are supportive and kind and loving. The guilt is all my own making. Yay, me! :-p)ReplyDelete
Great post! I totally agree with all your points, and I am a homeschooling mom.ReplyDelete
Excellent job on this post. I tell ya, choosing how to educate our kids has been a tough decision. It is like you read my mind with the myths that you brought up. It is very encouraging to know that they are in fact myths!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Bonnie. As a homeschooling mom, I have had public and private school moms tell me that I am judging them because of my decision to homeschool. I have explained that this is not the case. Next time, I might just refer them to this post. God bless you!ReplyDelete
Love this! I am a working mom of 4 and my kids are in parochial school. I struggled with this whole situation when my oldest came of age but we love our school and our family is thriving and I think God is quite alright with that!ReplyDelete
This is a great list, Bonnie! I love every single point you made.ReplyDelete
We homeschool for now, but I know that that could change, so it would be awful to cling to these myths and misunderstandings. One thing that sort of makes me feel uncomfortable is when I hear moms saying that "homeschooling is a calling." Um... no, it's an option. I'm grateful to God that we're able to homeschool at this point and that it works for us, but I don't think it's a calling that he equips some mothers for and others not. He *calls* us to raise godly children (your number 3!) and I think leaves a lot of the details and choices on what that looks like day to day (education, included) up to us.
Thanks for this post. I'm sharing it via facebook :)
I know it is all a matter of semantics and you will still disagree but just throwing this out for the fun of the conversation:Delete
I would say that homeschooling is a calling, or at least it can be. What I mean is that God has placed certain desires in our hearts, including for some the desire to homeschool (or to use public or private schools...) Maybe not everyone has a calling to a certain type of schooling, but for example, I do think there are some families that He has placed a strong desire in their hearts to be active in the public schools - to be cities on the hill. That God-given desire is what I would call a calling.
Some people have zero desire to homeschool and I think that does mean they are not called to it.
Or to use the same terms in a different topic: right now my husband and I have zero desire for more kids. We have asked God to change our hearts if He is calling us to a larger family, but until that desire is placed in our hearts, we don't feel called to it.
I think in some ways, homeschooling is a calling and in some ways it isn't. I do think there is a problem when moms say they are "called" to homeschool and therefore they must homeschool ALL of their children in the exact same way. I do think moms can be called to homeschool specific children, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily called to homeschool ALL their children.Delete
We are homeschoolers and right now, all my children are at home, however if in the future, I think that one or more of my children would be better served in a brick and morter school, I would not hesitate to explore that option.
So, yes I do think it's a calling in a way, but I think we need to be careful about saying things like "We will ALWAYS homeschool" or "We will NEVER homeschool." We must always be open to what God is leading us to do and what is best for each individual child.
Anyway...great post, Bonnie!!
Yes, Amelia. Very well said.Delete
I'm wondering if we can be called to something but have to make different choices depending on the needs of our kids or even family situation. Like I may want my kids in school but there may come a time when I just need to homeschool (like to keep James safe with his allergies we've talked about homeschooling him). Or sometimes that very good desire needs to be given back to God for something else. Maybe that doesn't work.
I do agree with you, we need to make choices that are for the best of the kids. Obviously the woman in #2 felt called to homeschool but she really should not have.
I wouldn't necessarily say that the women in #2 should not have homeschooled. Maybe she could have homeschooled but sought outside help to teach writing (many homeschooled teens take classes outside the home through co-ops or community college or online courses).Delete
However, it's quite possible that girl would have done better in a public school. Maybe she had some sort of undiagnosed disorder (one of the pitfalls of homeschooling is that it can mask learning difficulties) and she could have gotten the extra help she needed.
On the other hand, my husband was public school teacher for over 10 years. So, I'm well aware that the public schools certainly graduate their share of terrible writers and kids who needs remedial classes.
Really, the only thing we know is that the girl needed extra help with writing that she sadly didn't get..and both homeschooling and schooling in a regular school could have provided that extra help or failed to provide that help and it's sad that in this case, she failed to receive ther help she needed.
No, she actually had taken a variety of classes at the community college and had failing or just passing grades in math, English, and history or some sort of social science but A's in all those classes on her high school transcripts. That mother should have sought outside help for pretty much everything, at least on the high school level.Delete
All schools do have short comings, you are right. As an admissions counselor I also saw a lot of gaps in GPA's and ACTs and writing samples from the Chicago Public Schools.
I'm really appreciating this discussion. It's brought up almost a whole other issue in homeschooling that I've contemplated in a lot - some families homeschool primarily for spiritual/social reasons, and promoting (or protecting) those things are more important than the academic side of things. I can imagine that's a tricky thing to navigate - parents have, to a certain extent, the ability to direct the focus of their homeschool, but if the student *needlessly* suffers academically (as in there was no disability or other affecting issue...), that is a travesty. Certainly, traditional schools can fail students as well, but there are less "checks" and guards against that when you have only one primary (and often biases!) educator (aka "Mom"!)Delete
We have a few years before school starts but it is definitely still a question on our minds as to what we will do. It all depends on where we live and what our options will be! This is an excellent list of reasons though - they definitely put me at ease!ReplyDelete
This is a good post for those of us who *do* have a desire to homeschool, but life makes that impossible for the time being. My kids go to the local public school while I work full time. I'd like it to be different, but until it is, they will be in public school and that decision doesn't mean I have failed them.ReplyDelete
We are thinking about getting a free preschool screening in the next month or so for Clark in our public school district. I think Clark might benefit from two years of preschool before kindergarten. We would do one year of public preschool before sending him to Catholic preschool. How have your kids done in the public school? Do you feel like it has helped your boys even more so be prepared for kindergarten? I know a lot of kids only do one year of preschool before kindergarten. Nick only did one year, but I did two years as a child. I would personally like to see Clark have an extra year. I'm hoping the preschool screening will help us with our decision too. Clark talks so much, but I still feel he may have a bit of a speech delay, and maybe an extra year of preschool will be good for him.ReplyDelete
(Okay, for anyone reading this, Mia and I are good, old friends but I'm going to also answer this for those who don't know our personal situation as well as she does.)Delete
Bennet attends the pre-k4 at our parish school. I didn't think he needed two years of pre-k but I do think this year has been very good for him and he will be better prepared for Kindergarten because of it. Lydia had no formal pre-k, just what I did with her at home until I was too tired from pregnancy to continue.
James is at the public school because that's the way he gets his free speech services. He's in a special ed classroom, which I don't think Clark would qualify for, and he has been since his 3rd birthday because of his need for speech therapy. Sending my 3 year old to preschool was actually hard for me and if he could speak normally he would not have attended until the year before he started kindergarten, which would actually be next year.
However, he needs it and it has been phenomenal for his language development and for getting him ready for kindergarten.
Thanks Bonnie. Yea a big part of me is nervous about Clark going to preschool at 3, which is why I will do the screening before I make any decisions. If they say "yea his speech is a little behind but he is still normal for a 3 year old and hopefully another year of development at home will be what he needs" then I will not send him. Thanks for the response!Delete
Excellent! I'm on the fence about this. I love being home with my kids and I think my little ones should be home with me for at least the first 4 or 5 years (unless it's obvious that they need a little more structure or services), but beyond that I don't know. I had a positive homeschooling experience in middle school and high school and then I was a teacher. But my husband had a very negative homeschooling experience in middle school and high school so he would rather see our kids in school. I think we'll probably end up trying school, especially since there are many good schools in our area but I'm always open to the idea of homeschooling if it seems like it would be a good fit for one/all of our kids. Thank you for writing this, though. It needs to be said that Catholics don't have to homeschool. It doesn't say that in the catechism! And it doesn't make you a bad Catholic mom/parent if you don't want to homeschool.ReplyDelete
So timely, Bonnie. My oldest is almost 5, so we're right in this spot. As a former public school elementary/middle teacher I've seen the negatives of the system, yet given our current situation, I just don't think it would be a success. Mostly, I've been struggling with myth #5. I feel like it speaks poorly of my parenting that we're likely going to send her to (gasp) public school. Your words are reinforcing what God has been whispering to me, along with the idea that these aren't permanent decisions and we can always reconsider after gathering some evidence. Thank you!ReplyDelete
People are often astonished that we don't homeschool my son who is autistic to protect him from "peer pressure". Yeah... no. We have been able to find autism programs in the schools where we live (California being a blue state with a lot of social programs) and those have consistently been the best choice. Additionally, it gives me a break to take care of things that are harder to do because my kiddo requires almost completely 1:1 supervision when he's home.ReplyDelete
My husband and sister-in-law were homeschooled from K-12 in the same area as we live now (we live with my in-laws) and it worked out well for them for different reasons.
Thanks for writing this! We live in a community where homeschooling is extremely popular, so often we meet people who assume that it's our plan when the time comes. For many reasons, a lot of which you've touched on in the post, we're not planning to homeschool - and it's always nice to hear reinforcement that it doesn't make our family any less Catholic :)ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for this. It is such a relief to not only read your post, but all the comments! I feel less alone now! I have always felt guilty about all of this, and jealous of moms that get to do really spectacular things that I am not in a position to do. I'm following only kind bloggers, but I still feel like I won't measure up to their standard sometimes. Thank you again and again.ReplyDelete
I only follow kind bloggers, too. Cleaning up my feed that way was so good for me.Delete
Thanks for the encouraging post! We've been on both sides and simply put- there are pros and cons to both homeschooling vs. traditional schooling. After 7 years of homeschooling, and having our family grow to 6 "students", things began to unravel. I was passionate about homeschooling and would never have done anything other than an exceptional job, but with so many kids, this meant homeschooling all day long (for me). The school day dragged on and on, and the housework wasn't getting done. It wasn't that I needed "time to myself" so much as that there weren't enough hours in the day to properly homeschool so many, and get the housework, laundry, cooking, exercising, and errands done. My husband came home to a disheveled home and wife.ReplyDelete
Kids are in Catholic school now and doing fine. The community spirit is great and teachers are supportive. I miss homeschooling, but life overall is more balanced and the kids know that they must answer to all for unfinished assignments and that there consequences to being lazy in your work, other than having Mom get mad at you.
You are awesome and I love this. I still feel "guilty" sometimes that we did not end up sending our oldest to Catholic school as planned, because a local charter Montessori school turned out to be what he needed. I hope I will grow into my confidence about this area of parenting decisions/discernment as I mature, but for now, still a "baby" mom in so many ways, I am really grateful for your wisdom.ReplyDelete
THANK YOU, Bonnie. I love this! Last year I seriously considered homeschooling my oldest, and felt a lot of guilt about it. I talked to many teachers and homeschoolers and decided to keep sending her to public school. Once she was back for the school year she told me how much she loved school, and I knew I'd made the right decision. Although I agree--- there is a lot of social guilt in some circles about public school. However, we are in a small town school system (there's a whopping 17 kids in her class) and she was able to have MY first grade teacher for first grade, a teacher we both adored. So far, she loves school and its a positive experience for her, which I think is the main goal of any education. Happy to see there are others who feel the same!ReplyDelete
That is such a neat, sweet story! I'm glad she's doing well.Delete
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"were"- yikes- bad grammar (too early)Delete
it is only us homeschoolers who feel like everyone homeschools and we will be 'out of the loop' if we don't. The VAST majority of parents send their children to school (and most- public)- Homeschoolers are actually the ones out of the loop- when Alex was in public kindy, we was invited to 9 bday parties and went to 5...now- MAYBE invited to 2 a year. No matter how social one is (and we are- going to Shakespeare, tae kwan do, choir, dance, lego class, etc, etc- oh and church of course!) if you don't go to a normal school, you don't have the default group of a consistent 25 friends and friendly acquaintances to life your life around....anyway- I always think 'bless her heart' when someone agonizes that NOT homeschooling will disappoint her bubble. Get out of that bubble, put your kids in conventional school and you will realize that you will then be normal! It is fine and the VAST majority of people do this. In the Catholic blogosphere, it might seem that more people homeschool than do.ReplyDelete
(not that I am going to change what is right for MY kids and family at this time) Good luck and God's blessings to your family!
You are SO right: the VAST majority of people do not homeschool, but I think you're wrong about that first statement. A lot of young moms are isolated because their kids are not yet in school so the only community they may have is online. I know I was in this boat a few years ago and so are many of the women who have contacted me. Because the majority of Catholic bloggers are also homeschoolers it can feel to non-homeschoolers that everyone is doing it, or at least all the good Catholics are.Delete
Then, it took me a good year to find "iron sharpening iron" friends who I really clicked with once my kids went to school. Meanwhile, a lot of the friendships I had developed while my kids were little was with homeschoolers, making me feel even more odd. Maybe you've encountered that too, or know women who have? Or maybe I am odd! ha!
Thank you, as a homeschooler, for encouraging women to get "out of that bubble"!
Bonnie, you are totally right with your response. My whole support system as a sahm for years 1-5 were homeschooling moms that I met at daily mass, our catholic bible study,and then the homeschool coop when my daughter was preschool age. Even though I know now that putting her in 1/2 day public kindergarten is the best decision for our family, I felt a lot of guilt/uncertainty this past summer because I didn't want to lose my support network, and I trusted the opinions of those catholic moms who (are still my friends!) But had all opted out of public school for one reason or another.Delete
Can I just keep clapping all day long after reading this??? FINALLY. I am a mother of six children, ages 14 to almost 2 years old. We home schooled for 8 years, until suddenly I realized I could.not.do.this.anymore. It was a very humbling moment, as a Catholic mother, to say, "God, I can't do this". And He heard me. Our older three kids are in Catholic school this year, and while it's not perfect, neither was home schooling. AND, my kids are getting much more than they were from me. AND they are so happy. So am I. Two of my younger children have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), and trying to a part of their school life (public school for services), trying to home school, having babies, nursing....I know God was just begging me to lay it down and give it to Him. And He has provided far better than we ever could on our own with home schooling. I don't regret home schooling. It wasn't all horrible. But I knew when the last 3 years were so hard and nothing ever got better that it was time to consider the fact that this may not be God's will for us. Kudos to an amazing article. And thank you.ReplyDelete
Bonnie, this is seriously awesome. We're a bit away from deciding on any type of schooling for our kids but like someone commented above, this provides a great perspective. It's so evident by how just by reading your comments (and how many you already have after only one day on the web!) that this was so necessary and needed to be written. ;)ReplyDelete
Thank you, thank you for this! As a former elementary school teacher (now a SAHM), I cringe every time someone says, "Anyone can homeschool." No, no they can't. If you have no idea how to teach a kid to read, that's a problem. Not necessarily an insurmountable one that you can't resolve, but a problem nonetheless. Homeschooling is great for some families and a disaster for others, and I am willing to put my money on the fitness of the parent to homeschool as being a major deciding factor in how it pans out.ReplyDelete
Thank you for writing this, Bonnie. My oldest is turning 4 over the summer, and I've been agonizing over her school situation. She is highly-intelligent, full of energy, and extremely social. We don't many friends (almost none) where we live now, and if I am being completely honest with myself, I find that the social interaction, structure, and stimulation of a traditional school environment would be super-beneficial to her. My youngest is the complete opposite, so when the time comes to think about her education I may make a completely different decision. Who knows? Thanks for trying to help dispel some of the rumors and relieve some of that "mom guilt" we all feel so much. <3ReplyDelete
Thank you for this, I am sending my oldest to Kindergarten next year but and homeschooling the Pre-Ker. You are such a wonderful voice for balance in the online Catholic blogging community. Keep writing, sister!;)ReplyDelete
This was nice to read. Sending our eldest to parochial K next year and it's a nice reminder that if something is not working, we can change!ReplyDelete
It's about time someone wrote this! (says the homeschooler and also has-been public-schooler and will be next year a charter schooler and homeschooler). THANK YOU for the level-headed "debunking of myths". I really do think that sometimes the unspoken (or even spoken) expectation of "good Catholic families homeschool" is intimidating, leaves moms feeling guilty if they don't want to homeschool, and is a burden to live up to.ReplyDelete
Amen! I tell everyone I homeschool in the summer!ReplyDelete
Spot on, Bonnie! I'm the second of six children. Homeschooling was great for some of my siblings but some of us needed a classroom environment to thrive. And some of us needed homeschooling for some grades but needs change over time!ReplyDelete
The "right" and "best" way to educate a child is no static picture. Thank you for writing this post.
Fantastic!!! So refreshing!ReplyDelete