If you gather a group of 100 homeschoolers together and ask them why they made the decision to educate their children at home, you will likely get 100 different answers. Although there are certainly similarities in the reasons that we jump into this endeavor, the heart of the matter usually comes down to specific needs of a child, values of a family, or (in many cases) a series of events that made that family decide to abandon public school.
And there is very rarely “just one reason.”
I know that, speaking for my family, we based our decision on about two dozen different reasons–some big (I don’t believe public education provides the kind of education I want my daughters to have) and some of them small (I want to spend more time snuggled up with my daughters, reading to them on the couch.) Here are our top five reasons for homeschooling our daughters:
Reason No. 1:
We do not want our children to spend the majority of their day sitting indoors.
This was a big one for me. In school, children sit through a large majority of their day. Maybe this wasn’t always the case, back when play had a bigger role in the early grades and programs like physical education still received adequate funding and a daily appearance in a child’s day. Maybe it wasn’t the case back when recess was more than ten hurried minutes crammed into the same window as lunch or snack. But it’s the case now. Children in most public schools sit for at least six hours a day–inside–and then they come home and sit some more to do homework.
To me, education is not just about learning to read and write. It’s learning to be healthy, happy, good, kind humans. Sitting indoors for the bulk of their day, their whole childhood long, does not seem healthy to me. It’s not how children learn. It wasn’t what I wanted for my daughters. I want them to spend a lot of their day moving their bodies, ideally outdoors, and learning through hands-on inquiry and investigation.
Reason No. 2:
We want them to have an education rich in creativity and the arts, nature study, and hands-on science that happens out in the world.
Like I said, our family defines education as more than just reading and writing. For us, a well-rounded, rich education also must include ample exposure to arts, nature, hands-on science, experiences out in the world, and opportunities for open-ended creativity and investigation–and not just as a “special.” To us, these things matter just as much as learning to read and spell and do long division. They deserve equal game time. Since this is not the way public schools are set up, they did not satisfy our needs.
Reason No. 3:
We plan to travel a lot. We want our children to learn about many different places, people, and cultures first-hand.
We began our homeschool adventure living on the jungly north shore of Maui. We are currently nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, taking full advantage of the playground that is our backyard. But our plans don’t end there. We want to travel extensively. All over the U.S. (especially the national parks) and Canada. All over New Zealand and Australia. Argentina, Italy, Greece, France, England, Thailand, Japan–we’ve got a pretty big list we’d like to tackle with our daughters. We know that this is an important value for our family, to experience other places and to learn from the people that call them home. And we don’t want to be confined to the breaks determined by a school system when we do. We want to be able to just take our learning on the road.
Reason No. 4:
We want our children to have permission to steer their learning in the direction of their curiosity when inspiration calls.
Our homeschool style is pretty eclectic. We’ve taken the pieces we love from many approaches and smooshed them together to create our family’s homeschooling philosophy: start with an ample base of Charlotte Mason, stir in two heaping scoops of Waldorf whimsy, pepper with a little classical education, and top with a generous coating of unschooling and interest-led learning. Bake for, well, whatever duration of time, because we’re super relaxed too.
This flexibility isn’t available in a public school setting. There’s not a whole lot of room for a child to dive deep into the things that interest them. If they develop, for example, a fascination with aviation, they must schedule further investigation around their academic obligations at school. The thing is, a child could stand to learn an awful lot when given the freedom to just go deep into something that already interests them. Have you ever listened to a dinosaur-obsessed seven year-old give an impromptu lecture on thirty-seven different plant-eaters and their distinguishing characteristics, using their (very long) scientific names? When we are transfixed by something, we go out of our way to learn everything we can about it, to tinker with it, to make discoveries–not for anyone else to assess and say we did a good job, but for ourselves because it’s calling us.
We want that kind of freedom for our girls. We want to be able to stop in the middle of a unit study on ancient Greece because our daughter became fascinated by mythology and needed time and space to play there for awhile. We want to be able to ask our kids what they want to know more about. Curiosity is a gift. It opens the doors for learning in a way that cannot be replicated with someone else’s agenda.
Reason No. 5:
We love and embrace the philosophy that learning happens everywhere, all of the time, for your whole life long–and we want our children to love and embrace it, too.
There is a great podcast from Brave Writer, season 4 episode 14, in which Julie Bogart talks about “awesome adulthood.” She brings up this really interesting aspect of education that is often overlooked: modeling a love for learning. Our children learn to walk when they see us walking and want to do it, too. They learn to talk when they hear us talking and want to be part of the conversation. Modeling is powerful. If a child sees you learning about something–for the love of it–they will understand that they can grow up and learn whatever they want to as well. They will make a connection between happiness and the permission we give ourselves to dive into things that interest us, no matter how old we are or what stage of life we’re in.
The single biggest goal I have as a home educator is to raise children that love to learn and know how to go about it. That way, no matter what they want to do, they will have what they need to learn how to do it. I know that this is something they might be able to achieve in a public school setting, if they have really great teachers. But I know that, at home, I can make certain that it happens.
What are your reasons for homeschooling? Please share in the comments!
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