Home Schooling Vs. Public Schooling
I spent 75 bucks buying school supplies for my two kids this year. I knew my total expenses were lower than what most parents of public schooled kids spend. My method for figuring out that I pay less is not exactly scientific. What I did was post what I spent on my facebook page with some snarky comment about how I thought I got ripped off. Then I got replies saying that, in fact, I had made out like a bandit. “Hmmm,” I said to myself. ”This needs further investigation.” And, guess what? My friends were right, and I was wrong. I did get a good deal. I bought a whole year’s worth of pencils and pens and paper and other random office sorts of supplies that the kids will need, and I spent half as much as even the most minimal of parents who buy stuff for public school (check out this article). How different are our worlds, the world of a home school parent and that of a public school parent? The only experience I have with public schools is the time I spent there; I don’t know anything from a parent’s perspective. The best I can do is reveal my own reality and wait for others to tell me how that compares with their own. I live life from a home school point of view. That makes me in the minority. But, does it make me wrong? Life really is a matter of perspective.
I simply don’t have much of a schedule. Sure, I’ve created one of my own — it’s completely optional. If I wake up with a splitting headache then I just alter the schooling schedule to accommodate my pathetic state. The same goes for lunch, homework, and even my own work schedule. All I have to do is get it all done in the end, the order makes no difference. Yes, I have a lot of work to do, but it’s a luxury to do it all on my own time. My twin sister was looking for pre-schools this week for her sons. She said she couldn’t find one that she liked. Her reaction was not to look harder, it was to walk away, which, as far as I was concerned, was a good thing. My reaction was, “good. preschools are just daycare anyway. Who needs them?” I’m not going to go the political rout by claiming that all people who choose to work and leave their kids at preschool are doing it for good reasons. But, my opinion doesn’t matter. Whether they chose to put themselves in that situation or they didn’t, the fact remains that their lives are bound by schedules and order. The kids have to be somewhere at a certain time and parents need to be to work at 8 o’clock. Home schoolers don’t have that problem. That’s probably the biggest difference between us.
I don’t think grades and test scores matter; I think success matters. That’s another luxury I have that other parents don’t. Parents who are not looking over their kids’ shoulders all day don’t have the comfort of knowing what their kids are learning without guideposts. Grades are intended to show parents how well kids are doing and to give kids an idea of what they need work on. Grades are used as a means to scale the schooling experience much like McDonald’s has an assembly line to churn out burgers. Without markers at every station it would be easy to lose track of what’s going on; a burger could end up abandoned under a pile of nuggets. My only priority is making sure my kids know what I’m teaching them. It can be as simple as asking them questions to probe their understanding. If they answer to my satisfaction then there is no need to belabor the process with grades. It’s reasonable to say that all parents have the same priorities; we want our kids to become successful in every sense. My advantage, or what I see as my advantage, is that I am unencumbered by a middleman. Public schools are a much needed institution; they just happen to be intermediaries between kids and parents.
Light Hearted Differences
There is some truth to the rumor that home schooled kids don’t know what time or day it is most of the time. I don’t even know what day it is without looking it up. It all goes along with scheduling. We also sometimes do class in our pajamas and do school work on the swings at the park. My kids are sometimes asked what grade they are in by other kids. They answer, “I’m in the red level,” referring to the color of the book they are working through. They don’t know what grade they are in. I know what grades they are in. They are in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. Yup, there are some subjects that they excel at and some they are right on schedule with. They might be in second grade math and 4th grade reading. Or, 1st grade science and 3rd grade social studies. It’s all over the map. They get to progress at their own rate without worrying about levels. It’s funny when I have parents come to me, and they wonder why my 2 kids are in 4 different grades. There is actually a difference between me and other home schooling parents too. 72% of home schoolers do it for religious reasons (see this survey). I don’t. I haven’t been to church in years. There is no religious teaching whatsoever going on in my house. 85% of parents (from the same survey) cited the moral fabric of public schools as a reason for home schooling. That’s also not why I’m doing it. I do it because I think I can teach better. I do it because I think I’m better. I have a huge ego — that’s it.
Because I home school I don’t have as much time for myself as I would like. I’m willing to make that sacrifice because I believe in what I’m doing. I would like to spend more time on this blog for instance. I wanted to buy a muscle car and try to fix it up (my learning experience). I also wanted to spend time writing fiction to get published. These are things that, at least for now, will have to wait. I decided, when I began home schooling, that my sacrifices are well worth the rewards I get in return. Besides, I take good care of myself; when my kids are off in college I’ll be almost 50. That’s still plenty young enough to take up new hobbies. That’s the way I see it. Dealing with my kids all day when other kids are at school can be tiring. I sometimes feel like I’m punishing myself unnecessarily, but then I snap out of it and keep trudging with a smile. I just have to have confidence in my own decision to go against the flow.
Another subject which deserves its own article concerns the social interactions of home schooled kids. Most people who are against home schooling are against it because they believe that our kids don’t get enough socialization (note the lack of evidence fallacy in this linked article). I’m preparing that article for tomorrow because I couldn’t fit it within my self imposed 1500 word limit. Stay tuned. There are indeed some fairly significant differences between the two schooling lifestyles. We home schoolers believe we’re doing the right things for our kids. We even have a bit of a snobbish attitude about it even though we shouldn’t. The fact is that public schools do the best they can provided the number of students they deal with. And, parents of public schooled kids care about their kids just as much as I care about mine. They just see the world differently, and that’s fine. Grades, schedules, priorities and my own realization about my time limitations don’t make me better, or worse. They are just the facts of my reality, and there’s no disputing that. Other people have their own which, right or wrong, they have to live with.