When the opportunity arose to interview Becki who home schools her autistic son, and next year her daughter as well, my curiosity got the better of me. I've been a public school teacher for 6, going on 7, years and I don't really know all that much about home schooling. This interview was very insightful and I'm glad that I was able to be a part of it.
1. How many children do you have that you are home schooling?
I have two kids and "officially" I am only homeschooling one of them (my son), but my daughter will be home schooled for kindergarten starting this fall.
2. Can you give a brief description of home schooling and what a typical day might entail?
Homeschooling is exactly what the name implies, schooling your children at home. There are multiple ways in which one can homeschool. You can use an online public school. You can choose a traditional homeschooling curriculum and be your own teacher. Or you can even choose to "un-school" and let your child guide his own learning experience. There is no right or wrong way to homeschool a child. The way I see it, whatever works best for the child is what is good.
In my family, we choose a more traditional approach in that we bought a curriculum, I use daily lesson plans, and I choose to cover all the basic subjects that would be covered if my kids were in a regular school. A typical day is hard to describe in our case because my son has Autism and nothing is ever typical, but we do follow a routine and on most days that routine is kept in tact. We get up like every other family and have breakfast together. We get dressed and ready for the day - in my house homeschooling does not begin until everyone is cleaned up and ready to go. There are many more laid back families out there, but in order for the routine to work for us we have to have our "school clothes" on and our teeth brushed and be ready to go just like if we were heading out the door for public school, only we don't head out - we stay in. Once everyone is ready we assemble in the school room. Yep, we have a room dedicated to school. I know many homeschooling families just go to the kitchen table and that is fine, but routine rules our lives because without structure my son falls apart (that is Autism). We do our lessons in the same order everyday. We start with handwriting practice, move on to math, then go to language arts and reading. We follow that up with spelling and journal time. Then we move on to other units (throughout the year we have units - we did social studies and health, and now we are on science). In between there are breaks and there is lunch. It's hard to say exactly how long the day takes - some days it goes by quickly and smoothly, other days there are issues to deal with. Autism is unpredictable. I never know how my son will be and what his needs will require until the day begins.
3. What was your decision making process when you decided to home school?
The decision to homeschool has been one full of emotion. We started out in a public school early childhood program for special needs children. When it was time to move to kindergarten I was being told by one educational "professional" after another that my son would be mainstreamed and more than likely forgotten as there was no budget for training and he wasn't severely disabled enough to get into special programs. After hearing all of that, we (my Husband and I) decided to homeschool. For kindergarten we went full throttle - we worked on all the core subjects and on life skills. We were rolling just fine, but then I got worried - what if something was missing? So for first grade we decided to try public school. In our case, it was a major fail. My son did not handle it well at all. Along with Autism he also has severe anxiety and school was sending him down the road of regression, it wasn't pretty. I was not happy with how things were being handled and I wanted peace back in my family, so I pulled him out and we resumed homeschooling. This has been the very BEST decision for us. My son excels at home. As for my daughter, I know homeschooling works and I am choosing to homeschool her because I believe it is the best move I can make for her education.
4. Have you encountered any judgment or adverse reactions from friends, family members, or other mothers when you decided to home school?
Yes! Oh yes! I have had some friends who make comments basically to the point of saying that I have thrown my life away - as if I shouldn't be a mom, I should be a party girl. It really irritates me. But the worst opposition I have received by far has been by people in the public school system. I was told that "you can not homeschool" in the context of my educational abilities being insulted. I have been questioned as if on trial by some public educators. It really has been hard to deal with at times. I have also run into multiple people who tell me that I am wrong for homeschooling because my kids won't be "socialized" - the funny thing is, most of those people have no clue what true socialization is. Society is against homeschooling, period. Our culture wants us to follow the herd - homeschooling challenges public educators by saying that we, moms and dads, are actually good enough for our kids. We aren't stupid and we can do this. Sadly, most educational "professionals" seem to believe that unless you hold a teaching certificate you can't teach - a great lie. Actually, one of the biggest lies, in my opinion. I've worked in public schools, I've seen what they call teaching.
5. What is the greatest benefit to home schooling?
The greatest benefit I see to homeschooling is watching my kids grow and not having to wait for it to happen. I can keep my son challenged and keep him working. He doesn't have to wait for the rest of the class to catch up before he moves on. If he is doing 3rd grade math in first grade then that is ok - and in some things he is! If he wants to spend half a day talking about butterflies and their life cycle then we do - and we have! The benefit of really being able to give the time to let your kids develop and achieve at their pace - be it fast or slow - is a HUGE benefit of homeschooling.
6. What is the greatest challenge?
For me the greatest challenge is that my son has special needs. There is no cure for Autism - no magic pill to make it go away. Some days are just rough and dealing with that can be hard. But we persevere because we believe it is the best we can do for him.
7. Do you plan on home schooling straight through until college?
I plan on homeschooling for as long as it works. These days you can educate yourself at home straight through to your Doctorate degree - and if that is what my kid does then that is what he does. I'm all about doing what is best. Five years from now if we see something else that will benefit him more then we will travel that road, but for now homeschooling works and it works well.
8. How do your kid(s) feel about home schooling?
When my son began regressing and not handling public school well, he BEGGED me to homeschool him again. Homeschooling has been the only thing that my son has ever 100% declared without a doubt that he wanted. As for my daughter, I guess only time will tell.
Homeschooling certainly isn't the choice for everyone, but for many families it works. I have serious issues with public schools, I think it may show in some of what I wrote, but the bottom line is that as a parent you have to do what is best for you and for your kids. And as mothers, we should be supportive of one another and not judge what one may or may not decide to do.
I blog my homeschooling journey at: http://educatingmychildren.blogspot.com/
You can also find my commentary on life here: http://www.mommastime.com/
Read some of my other interviews:
If you're awesome and have a unique perspective and don't mind me prying into your life e-mail me.