It’s that time of year again: the kids are going back to school! It’s also the time of year when going out in public during school hours with my big kids sometimes warrants second looks and the common question, aimed mostly at my ten-year-old: “Well aren’t you lucky to be out of school today! Which school do you go to anyway?”
At this question, my kids and I smile and say the words I feel put me in a box more than any others:
I often see confusion fall upon the face of the stranger, and yes, sometimes judgment. I don’t expect everyone to understand why my family has decided to pursue this type of education for our children. However, I would love to dispel some common myths that, in my experience, I’ve found are often associated with homeschooling, but do not describe my family, or others like us, very much at all.
Myth #1: People home-school their children to shelter them from “outside” ideas.
Of course we try to shelter our children from situations we deem dangerous or harmful, but “sheltering” our children is not why we home-school. In fact, we try to use homeschooling as an opportunity to expose our children to the beautiful diversity we believe God created for a reason. We talk about current events with our kids, and, though we teach our children right and wrong exists, we also try to present both sides of a point-of-view, so that our kids will understand why people think differently than they do and learn how to think for themselves. We strive to build a community that represents people of all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, because we know we have so much to learn from people of all walks of life, and we don’t want our children to be afraid of what they don’t understand. Instead we want them to be able to engage with all people and ideas in a loving and wise manner. It’s our desire to raise peacemakers in a world that gets more polarized by the day.
Myth #2: Homeschooling parents want to be the only influence on their children.
I fully recognize that I’m not the expert in everything! When I struggle with a certain subject, I find them a tutor who can teach it better than I can. If science is giving me fits, I invite an expert scientist to better explain the idea (to both of us). My kids are regularly around grandparents, aunts, neighbor parents, homeschool co-op teachers, Sunday school teachers, robotics coaches, sports coaches, and their friends’ parents. I am thankful for the many adults who invest in my children. They learn things I can’t teach them from those who are better equipped to instruct them, and for that, I’m thankful! Though I enjoy the primary responsibility of raising my children, it still takes a village.
Myth #3: All homeschooling parents are anti-public schools.
On the contrary, my husband and I are very much for public education! We volunteer at a local public school, hosting game days for the kids and teacher appreciation luncheons for the teachers, who we know work hard and who deserve so much of our love and respect. We credit the public school system, which we took advantage of last year, for our most rewarding home-school year yet! We care that Wichita’s public schools are enriching, safe places for our city’s children to learn and grow. Though we currently feel called to a different form of education for our children, we still devote time and energy to making sure our community’s schools are the best they can be. If someday, a public school looks like the best option for our child, we will change our form of education to suit the child. That’s because, in our home, homeschooling works for us, we don’t work for homeschooling.
Myth #4: People home-school so they can control what their children learn.
Do I like being able to pick out my favorite math curriculum, read-aloud books, and nature studies? Of course! But that’s not why I home-school. I home-school so that I can be there to see that spark of wonder ignited in the hearts of my children. I want to know what they’re good at it and push them to excel in those spheres; I also want to learn what challenges them, so I can work more closely with them in those subjects and allow them to go at a slower pace than usual. I want them to know they can chase after their interests, go on educational rabbit trails, and indulge their curiosity. I don’t home-school so that my kids will know the things I want them to know, but instead to inspire them to be the best version of themselves possible. Of course homeschooling isn’t the only way for parents to connect with and inspire their children. There are many ways for parents to do this if their kids are in traditional school; homeschooling is just the route we have chosen to take, because, so far, it works really well for us!
To all my fellow moms, just doing the best you can – I’m in your corner! We may not do everything the same way, but we still want the same thing: happy, whole-hearted children who will grow into capable adults, equipped to use their creativity and strengths to help make the world a better place.