This week I read yet another really dumb article about homeschooling. Sherene Buffa, on a website called Momtastic, declares “I cannot imagine not sending my children to school.”
The double negative in that sentence is indicative of the negativity in the larger piece, in which Buffa pretends to “top my hat off” to all us homeschooling moms, but in actuality is displaying all the usual judgment and lack of understanding about homeschooling. I like to correct the record when I can, so here goes.
First, homeschooling isn’t automatically off the table for parents who work outside the home. I worked part-time all through homeschooling my children. My husband and I were fortunate enough to have flexible work schedules which also helped. I’ve known couples who took turns working full-time so one could stay home. I’ve known single parents who found homeschooling families in the community to help make it work. The point is, when people want to homeschool, they do all they can to find a way. Those who don’t want to homeschool, no problem. Just don’t discourage working parents who might be thinking about homeschooling by saying that it’s impossible.
According to Buffa, sending her kids to school gives her a break. While it is true that homeschooling parents likely spend more time with their kids, the notion that we’re dealing with their demands 24/7 is false. We’re not constantly frazzled, overextended parents with no time for ourselves. Families that homeschool successfully get into a rhythm that works for all, parents included. Plenty of hours are spent working and playing together, but just as much (or more, depending on the day) are spent working alongside each other.
“I know my kids will listen better at school.” That’s another reason Buffa offers for why she would never homeschool. I’m not sure how she knows what will happen if she’s never tried it, but whatever. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and replace “I know” with “I believe.” The idea that school gives kids an “opportunity to behave” is deeply cynical and frankly makes me sad. In my experience, kids don’t just naturally “misbehave” anywhere. If they are “acting out” there’s usually a reason, often stress, fatigue, or hunger. I also didn’t expect my kids to arbitrarily “listen” to me. On the contrary, as the parent I felt like it was my job to listen to them, to understand and get to know who they are. Strong family relationships, after all, were one of the reasons we chose to homeschool in the first place.
Because Buffa didn’t go to school to learn to teach, she says, why should she think she could possibly teach her children everything they need to know? As any homeschooling parent can tell her, that’s not what we do. My kids taught themselves as much as they learned from their parents (including how to read). They also learned from other people, books, art, music, their pets, the great outdoors, and the world at large. When we let go of the false notion that kids need to be taught by experts in order to learn to read, write, and the rest of it, the fear that we can’t teach them everything vanishes.
The next one, says Buffa, is a “big one” — sending kids to school gives them independence. Looks like she has absorbed false narratives that homeschooling makes kids clingy and helpless. In my experience it’s quite the opposite. That working and playing alongside each other I mentioned before? When kids are granted agency in their play and their learning, choosing how to structure their days, whether to engage in creative play with siblings or friends, draw or paint pictures, write a story, build a structure, spend time observing nature, or whatever draws their curiosity and interest, independence is one of the outcomes. On trips to the library they are free to choose their own books. At the park they engage in free play with friends and learn how to engage and interact with others around them. Common sense dictates, and research supports, that free play enhances executive function and yes, independence.
Remarkably (and thankfully) Buffa does not mention the “s” word (that would be “socialization”), although a reference to the “25 or so additional classmates” available for her daughter to interact with at school alludes to it. I’ve written about socialization before, so for those who want to know why it’s not an issue when it comes to homeschooling, I direct you here and here.
I homeschooled my kids from the early 1990s into the second decade of the 21st century, and much has changed, including public perception, but the stereotypes about homeschooling that still exist are discouraging. I’m not sure why someone like Buffa feels the need to write an article explaining why she would never attempt to homeschool and in the process bolster those stereotypes. Of course, the way life goes, her assertion could change; once upon a time I also thought I’d never homeschool my kids.
In a world where knee jerk judgment is all too rampant, taking time to try and understand what we’re unfamiliar with, and setting that example for our kids, is more important than ever.