For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Trying out blogging from my phone.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Just a quick note to say I'm going to be on the road and out of province for a while, so there will be no posts again until sometime in July.

Friday, June 17, 2011

So you're thinking of home schooling, part one. Can you?

Things sure have changed since we started home schooling!

Before we had kids, we had only a vague notion about home schooling.  It was something crazy religious people did.  Or hippies.  And it was bad.  I didn't have a really defined reason for why it was bad, but it was.  It certainly wasn't something I ever thought I would do.

When we began our own home schooling journey, any preconceived notions I had about it were quickly overturned.  Then they got overturned again.  Kinda like my notions of parenting, except not so extreme.

At the time I first began exploring home schooling, there were plenty of people doing it, but you had to look for them.  It seemed most people didn't know any home schoolers, and quite a few had no idea what it was.

Until our kids reached school age, it wasn't something that came up in conversation with other people all that much.  Certainly not with complete strangers.  As they got older, though, there were the inevitable questions about when they'd be going to school - or why they weren't in school.  On telling people we home schooled, the reactions ranged from slightly confused and mildly curious to downright offended and defensive.  I recall being in the waiting room of a dentist with Eldest, who was about kindergarten age, but not of an age where we were legally required to register her in the province we lived in at the time.  Among the toys in the waiting room was a bucket of foam tangram shapes, and she and I were playing with them together.  A woman in the waiting room with us started to chat, asking the usual sort of "so, are you looking forward to starting school?" questions we were getting at the time.  When I mentioned we planned to home school, she went from being friendly and relaxed to tense and defensive.  Angry, almost.  It turned out she was an elementary school teacher, and she spent the rest of the time we shared the waiting room going on about how much better it was for kids to go to school.

Thankfully, she had to leave soon after.

Over the years, though, things changed.

First, there were more people starting to say things like "I know people who home school.  They're doing really good, but I could never do that."

Then there were more and more people - especially older people - saying things like "I wish I'd known about home schooling when my kids were younger."  I remember one particular elderly gentleman (a Jehovah's Witness who came knocking on our door, actually) who, on finding out we home schooled, got the saddest look of regret on his face.  He told me how he wished they'd home schooled their own (now adult) children because of the incredible torment they'd experienced in school.  His kids were all grown and parents themselves and doing fine, but he would have spared them that pain, if he'd known he could.

When the girls were younger, I got a lot of people asking about high school and sort of assuming I'd start sending them to school.  I'd get questions like, "how can you teach them high school level subjects?"  Never mind that I did go through high school myself, so I kinda had the basics already, plus there are plenty of resources.  Lots of assumptions about testing and curriculum (because in high school, you just HAVE to use a curriculum, right?  And have teachers watching over you?)  Dealing with that question while also revealing that we didn't "do" school anyhow (no one seemed to know what "unschooling" was) didn't generally invoke positive results.  Interestingly, those questions stopped by the time girls actually reached their teen years, and I never get them at all now.

Now that the girls are older, and Eldest is a legal adult, things are really different.  Pretty much everyone knows about home schooling, it seems, and most people have positive associations with the term.  More parents are telling me they plan to home school their own kids, and quite a few people who don't even have kids yet have said the same.  More people seem to be aware of different styles of home schooling, or at least that it doesn't always mean school-at-home.  There are still a lot of misconceptions, but it's improved a great deal.

I do still get a lot of people saying things like "I wish I could do that."  Now, however, I'm getting more people asking, "can I do that?"  They don't mean it in a legal sense, since most people do know that home schooling is legal (even if some of them still think it shouldn't be). They know that they are allowed to do it.

No, what they're asking, in a round-about way, is "am I really good enough to teach my own kids?"

This is an interesting question.  Where did we (and I include my pre-home schooling self in there) get to the point that we feel ourselves unable to educate our own kids?  Since most of us are products of the school system ourselves, I think it's the inevitable result of going through a system that tells us learning only happens in special buildings, with specially certified people, at certain times and with information doled out at certain ages.  It's become so normal, we tend to forget that this is really unusual in human history.

What the public school system has done to a lot of us is undermine our confidence in our own abilities.  Not just in educating our children, but raising them, too.  We're increasingly pressured to send our kids away to "experts" who have been specially trained to do what used to be done by families and communities.  More and more of us grew up in daycare, followed by pre-pre-schools, then pre-schools, then kindergarten, then on through the grades.  Then after that, a lot of us went on to college or university.  Is it any wonder that we find ourselves unable to believe we can do something like educate (or even parent) our own children? 

Home schooling isn't right for everyone.  Some people just aren't in situations where they can, or should, home school.

Henry Ford said, "Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right."  This is true in most things, but home schooling is a bit different.

I forget what organization looked into it, but it was found that there was little difference in how well home schooled kids did when taking into account their family dynamics.  It didn't matter if the families were rich or poor.  It didn't matter how much formal education the parents had.  Race, religion, and even style of home schooling also showed little difference.  Home schooled kids still did equally well overall, which was generally better than their schooled peers, in both academics and sociability.  This is quite different from the school system, which shows significant differences in outcomes between demographics.

In other words, even if you aren't sure of yourself, go ahead and do it anyways.  It would be very difficult to do any worse than the school system is doing.

Can you?