Public School vs. Homeschool

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Kid with head inside shark mouthOnce David graduated and found a job, I would be able to be at home with the kids for a while. It was a deal we had made when he went back to school. I worked my buns off in a job that I didn’t really like (loved the people, thank goodness!) for him to go to school. I had earned some time off! Plus, I was pregnant (surprise!) with baby number 4 and I love to be home with my babies if possible.

So, for the first time, homeschooling was an option for us! I probably wouldn’t have even thought much about doing it had we had good school experiences in Virginia. But, that particular school (which, ironically is in the news with some bad publicity due to a student bringing a toy gun on the bus recently) left a bad taste in our mouths. We thought, “Why not! Let’s give it a shot!”

Starting HomeSchool

I told the kids from day 1 that it might not be a permanent thing. We had to make a schedule and stick to it. They had to cooperate, or back to school they would go! They said they were game and all were excited about being home when the new baby came. I ordered some curriculum for Math and Science, David promised to teach Social Studies (one of his undergrad degrees is in History) and, with my English degree, I figured we’d just do a lot of library time with reading and writing for Language Arts. I felt well equipped.

We decided to start homeschool on September 1st and the school system required that we turn in attendance sheets to show we had done 180 days of instruction (at least 4 hours/day). I was a little nervous (my kids don’t always listen well for me), but excited for our new adventure.

Well, it was not all I hoped it would be, by a long shot. I learned that my kids stall really well, my patience level was even lower than I thought it was (although, I will say that really started happening after the baby was born in October, so I can probably blame that on lack of sleep), and the curriculum I paid good money for wasn’t a great fit for my kids. To my surprise, we started drifting more and more toward unschooling.

Unschooling or Learning Through Life’s Experiences

Eco homeworkUnschooling, by definition, is learning through life’s experiences. There is no set curriculum. You let the kids take the lead and jump in on any learning opportunities. I’ll admit I’d not had a good opinion of unschooling before I started doing it. It felt like a cop-out. Only lazy moms did that kind of homeschooling. I went to school to be a teacher. I’d do it “right”! HA! I was so wrong. It’s amazing once you focus on what life can teach, how much you can use every day experiences to teach.
We did go to the library and read lots of books, we watched LOADS of documentaries (my kids can probably tell you anything you’d ever want to know about the ocean, the Titanic (and not from the Hollywood movie), or astronomy), but we also cooked, went to playgrounds, to the swamp and the “River-quarium”, Cub Scouts, Y sports, church,…. ALL of it became lessons because I took the time to make these experiences learning opportunities by talking to my kids about it.

Homeschool Life Lessons

  • My then 4-year-old even suddenly showed interest in learning Spanish from catching a few minutes of a Spanish television station!
  • We learning adding fractions by cooking.
  • We learned about team work and good sportsmanship.
  • We learned about Science in nature.

Life is the BEST text-book there is! I shocked myself by throwing the Math curriculum I had spent over $100 on to the side and following the kids’ lead. And, if it hadn’t been for the fighting, we may have stuck with it after finally letting go of MY expectations. My kids were learning, but I didn’t feel like any of us were happy.

The Big Decision – Back to Public School

Kid playing with dominosMy kids are back in public school now. I don’t know if it was just me and my nerves. If it was insecurity. If it was having a fussy baby who wanted (and still wants) to nurse constantly. I really don’t know why I couldn’t handle it. But, I felt like I was doing my kids a disservice. They are EXTREMELY social children. They take after their father. Micah, my 8-year-old, calls himself shy. But I’ve met shy kids. He’s not shy. They all love to be around people – particularly friends.

Being around me (and each other) 24/7 was hurting our relationship. I love my children more than life. They are my world (I think I’ve said that before – sorry!). But, man did spending every waking moment with them wear on my nerves!!! They fought constantly. In fact, one time, Micah said to Elijah, “Elijah, I don’t know why you are my best friend when we fight so much!” It was wearing, on all of us. My temper flared more often than I was comfortable with. They were bickering non-stop. Something had to give. My hat’s off to the Duggars because 4 kids at home – all day, every day – was too much for this mama!

So, I made the calls and enrolled them in public school. I felt like a big old failure, but they seemed happy and excited to be going back. That helped a lot. I was worried that they’d have trouble making friends and/or be behind their peers in academics. I knew we’d learned a lot, but since we didn’t follow curriculum, did they learn the right stuff? Only time would tell. We finished up our homeschooling year the second week in June. They would start public school the first week in August.

The Big Return to Public School

In the Fall of 2012, my kids went back to public school. I was a little nervous (okay, a lot) on their first day, but it quickly became obvious that we had done just fine. My kids have gotten straight As (well, the equivalent in 2nd grade – they don’t get grades yet) the entire year. It took some adjusting to the routine again, but they are doing fine now. They just needed to get used to sitting in a classroom again and not being able to speak whenever they felt like it.

There are days when I miss having them around, but knowing that I did do an okay job while they were home makes me feel more at peace with my decision to send them back, strangely. It was by choice, not by necessity. That leaves the door open in the future to pull them out again if I feel like we need to. For now, though, I’ll enjoy my peaceful hours at home with my fourth and final little Rose bud and my sanity.

My Homeschooling Lessons Learned

  • If you are 8 months pregnant, you might want to rethink starting homeschooling with a routine. If you can go with the flow, you might be okay. But, give sleep deprivation the consideration it deserves.
  • If you can’t do specific “lessons” every day, grab a hold of life and teach from its lessons! Life may disappoint, but even in the disappointments, we can learn and grow!
  • On the same note, use your resources around you! A park with trees and animals is a classroom. A library, a computer, even (gasp!) a television can be classrooms if you guide your children to make smart choices about what they view and takeaway from each experience.
  • Finally, have confidence in yourself. Kids teach themselves if given the right tools to learn. You don’t have to be Einstein or even a math scholar to teach math. If you don’t know how to do it, learn with your kids. Often, you’ll find they end up teaching you (and teaching is the best way to learn!)!

Read Part 1 of this Public School vs. Homeschool article here.

Mother of four boys and the wife of a minister in Georgia. The world is full of medical “miracles” but over time and lots of experience, this mom has discovered that raising a natural baby creates the most wonderful bonds and lessons for her children.

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