Grit Blogs > Oregon Trails

Why I Homeschool

Sarah S HeadshotIt is official, I went to the ESD office and signed Little Man up for homeschooling. That entailed something like 5.2 seconds of paper work: child’s name, address, birthday and the signature of the parent/guardian (that’s me), oh they wanted the school district and grade he’s “supposed” to be in – all in all a pretty simple deal. What isn’t simple is the 35 (or so) public school teachers we know that seem to take it as a personal affront that Hubby and I have chosen not to utilize the public school system. All of them are great teachers or retired teachers and none of them happen to work in our school district. If they did, we might have chosen differently. (Might, but probably not.)

 The top three questions I keep getting asked are: “What is your curriculum?” “What about socialization?” and “How long are you going to homeschool?”

 To the first, my answer is “We’re eclectic.” For those of you not in the homeschool community I will translate… It means that I haven’t gone out and purchased a $100-$400 all encompassing curriculum for my son. What I do have is a science work book that we use for reading practice, I write down math problems for him to add and subtract. We work on telling time and counting money, and we utilize the public library A LOT.

 Just this weekend we had an excellent hands-on money lesson. Cycle Oregon was in town. Cycle Oregon is an annual event with 2000+ bicycle riders touring a section of Oregon. Sometimes it’s a linear cross-state route. This year it was a loop that started and ended in our town. The finish line was in front of our house, so I asked Little Man if he wanted to set up a lemonade stand. (I make a killer strawberry lemonade.) He answered in the affirmative and promptly set to making signs. He had the pop-up awning out of the garage and in the driveway before Hubby was off the couch.

Cycle Oregon 2011 Finish Line 

 Little Man is shy with strangers and quite frankly I see that as a good thing. But, I wanted to push him out of his comfort zone a little and show him that it was okay to talk to strangers in a supervised setting. So I told him that it was his stand and that he had to ask people if they would like to buy a glass of lemonade. He thought I should ask too, but I was firm on this point.

 I found it very interesting to see how well he read people. If they made eye contact and smiled, he asked. If they weren’t interested, he didn’t. He did quite well, and in fact got a $5 tip on one glass. Little Man took the initiative to give free drinks to the paramedics that parked in our driveway. That made me proud. Afterwards, we counted the money and divvied it up into spend, save and charity envelopes. Today, I let him take the money to the bank and encouraged him to do the talking with the teller.

 I’m a firm believer in teachable moments. That’s why this week we’re studying volcanoes. Last week Hubby and I started a sign project on a lava trail near Bend. When we go back to finish it up we plan on doing the tourist-y thing with Little Man. We’ll go to the top of Lava Butte, hike in Lava River Cave, maybe go to Newberry Crater and the Lava Cast Forest. In preparation, we’ve looked at several books and talked about volcanoes, geysers, earthquakes and made fossils. (Which also means at some point we have to visit Yellowstone to complete this lesson – sweet!!!)  If I was sticking to a curriculum I wouldn’t be able to take such great advantage of the opportunity in front of us.

 Lava Lands 

 The Socialization Question can really get me fired up. Usually, I try to keep my cool and not go into a screaming, throw myself on the floor, spit flying tirade, because in this context it wouldn’t really look good would it? But here’s the thing – when you put 20-30 kids with no manners in a room with 1 kid who has some manners who’s going to be doing the learning? And when was the last time you heard of a homeschool kid going off the deep end and shooting classmates and teachers? Now I know this is extreme, but my point is that I’m not sure the public school system is a model for socializing kids for the real world. Little Man goes with us to the job and site visits where he has to be polite and respectful to others. But he also has play time with kids his own age where he can be as goofy and off the wall as he wants to be.

 Finally there is the How Long question – or as I like to call it… the “You can’t possibly think you’re qualified to teach him through high school do you? question. Yeah, actually I do think I’m qualified. So there. (Except for physics – I never took that. However I have a brainiac of a cousin that teaches physics, and I’m not afraid to take full advantage of the situation!) Sometimes I want to scream “I have a bachelor’s of science, I’m capable of teaching my son science at the first grade level.” But I don’t for fear that they will dredge up the socialization issue once again.

 The way I look at it, life is uncertain. Hubby could nudge me off a 30-foot cliff tomorrow. We could blow ourselves up with a science experiment.  I could fall a tree on myself and that would be the end of it. So, no I’m not going to say I’m going to homeschool Little Man through high school. There are a lot of years between here and there. We're homeschooling now. Next year may be different. But Hubby and I are wholeheartedly committed to it for as long as it works for us. Out of bounds at Lava Lands 

 Quite frankly that’s what homeschooling is about. It’s finding a system that works for your family. Every family has a different reason why they homeschool. For us it’s because we think we can do a better job of educating our son, and we travel a lot. Some people do it because of the excruciatingly long school days and over-sized classrooms. Some do it for spiritual reasons. Every family is different.

 I’m hoping to post some good volcano adventure pictures next week. That’s if I don’t fall into one of the 30- to 50-foot crevasses I was reading about on the trail sign last week, and if the lava tube doesn’t collapse on us.

 Happy homeschooling trails.


suzanne cox
9/23/2011 10:03:48 PM

Sarah, we also get much of the same response from people who find out we home school. Our children are almost 6 and 4 1/2. They are in 1st grade and kindergarten. There were many reasons we decided to home school. Over crowding was one, a lack of quality instruction another, respect and manners were a biggy, and also a moral opposition to some of the things taught locally. We are blessed to have very well behaved children and everywhere we go people comment about their behavior, in a positive way! Most of the people who criticize our decision do so based on the socialization issue. However, our kids play sports and do karate with children their own age and go everywhere with us, even on my business trips. They do NOT lack anything socially and are well rounded and balanced little kiddo's. We use every opportunity, on the farm or traveling away from home, as a learning experience. And our children are all the better for it. They know things that children twice their age don't and thankfully they DON'T know about some of the things other children have to deal with. We have no regrets or second thoughts about our decision, and I hope you have as wonderful of an experience with it as we do! Good luck with your home-schooling adventure.

nebraska dave
9/22/2011 10:03:05 AM

Sarah, I can certainly see why you are getting so much criticism. Any time some one does something outside the normal folks will try to convince you are wrong. I applaud you for standing up to the flack and forging ahead in your teaching methods. In my humble opinion little boys were not designed to sit quietly in a seat and listen to a teacher all day long. They learn from doing, touching, experiencing things. However, I also think that it takes special parents to home school. Quite frankly I couldn't do it and my wife could not have done it either. Stick to your guns and I think little man will turn out just fine. Maybe even better with life skills. Have a great home schooling day.

mozi esmes mom
9/22/2011 9:35:07 AM

I love the lemonade stand style of schooling! :) And you've pinpointed one of the reasons we're going with eclectic schooling: being tied down to a set curricula/schedule just doesn't work for us! We're not unschooling, by any means, but we're free to deviate from our workbooks, and we can jump ahead when my daughter masters material rather than plod through carefully-sequentialized textbooks.