The decision to homeschool is a personal one for every family. Some choose to homeschool for reasons associated with religious and moral beliefs, safety concerns, family circumstances, or the special educational needs of their children. Others reach their decision through a cost benefit analysis of homeschooling compared to available public and private school options. Still others turn to homeschooling as a potential solution for problems a child is encountering with their current educational environment.
My desire to homeschool stemmed mostly from an experience that occurred while I was pregnant with my first child. I was working as a veterinarian and had taken a group of college students to perform examinations on a group of education animals at a local nature preserve. A small group of children arrived to watch the exams. School groups observing the examinations was not an uncommon occurrence at this facility and we already had two or three tour groups pass through earlier that morning. But this group was different from the previous ones; this group was exceptional with regards to attentiveness, participation, and focus.
Thinking about the new little one I was going to be raising, I asked the coordinator of the nature preserve what school the children in that group attended. She replied with a smile that this group was part of their homeschool program. I had never given homeschooling any consideration until that moment. Traveling along a nature path by the water, I found myself behind the group of homeschool students. The group was noting observations in nature journals, tracing leaves, and asking questions about the animals they encountered along the path.
The group dynamics were such that each child was getting unique individual attention throughout the entire morning and the teachers (parents) were able to directly address the interests and needs of each child. The questions the children were asking about the animals they passed were at a level equivalent to some my college students would ask, but what struck me the most was how much fun the kids and their teachers (parents) were having with one another. There was an aspiring photographer and an amateur entomologist among the homeschooling students, so extra time was devoted to noticing and discussing insects along the path and learning how to take nature pictures. One of the young girls was interested in becoming a veterinarian and she was able to participate in one of the examinations by listening to a raptor’s heart beat and recording physical examination notes. This opportunity wasn’t possible to offer to the larger school groups, because of the limited amount of time and the large number of children involved.
In the parking lot there were two traditional yellow school buses. As children milled around the buses, several gathered around a pond in front of the preserve’s welcome center, while one of the teachers spoke above the hustle and bustle. Teachers made an effort to instruct the students to notice the frogs in the pond and to read through the sign showing the tadpole to frog metamorphosis. Some students were listening attentively and others were ignoring their teacher in favor of talking with peers and checking cell phones. Still another group that stood off by themselves tried to nonchalantly pay attention. As dedicated as the teachers in that group were to providing a top notch educational experience for those kids, there was logistically no way for them to cater to the needs and interests of every kid in that group.
While, I believe that kids in both groups benefitted from the trip to the nature preserve that day, as a kid and as a teacher I would have chosen to be a part of the homeschool group. As the public school kids were corralled back onto the buses in order to arrive back in time for the end of the school day, the homeschool group decided to stop and watch the pond where a blue heron was feeding. It’s an unusual sight and one that the kids were excited to watch. The amateur photographer took pictures, the budding entomologist drew pictures of the dragonflies in his nature journal, and the aspiring veterinarian asked me questions about the heron’s diet and lifespan.
My experience with this particular homeschooling group was enough to spark my investigation of homeschooling as a potential option for my family. Our public schools are not among the best in the country and the private school options in our area are expensive. So certainly, while these factors play a part in my desire to homeschool, it was witnessing the ability of a homeschool group to provide experiences and time to address the needs and desires of their unique students that really spurred my motivation to pursue homeschooling as a valid educational option. The flexibility of a homeschool schedule allowing for more family time and the ability to travel and experience life outside of a classroom offers amazing opportunities for my children. I certainly recognize that not all homeschoolers are as successful in eliciting attentive students or providing to the specific needs of their pupils as the group I witnessed, but the potential has made me excited to begin this journey with my own family.
What experiences led you to choose to pursue or forgo homeschooling your child/children?
Wishing you joy in parenting and life,