Saturday, December 28, 2013

Homeschooling - It's Work

This will not be a post about how homeschooling is for everyone. It is not meant to convince anyone to homeschool or not to homeschool. It is simply an honest look at what homeschooling is.

Homeschooling is work. It is a full-time job. Actually, depending on how involved you are, it could be more like 2 full-time jobs (or at least a full-time & a part-time job). Think about it. You are providing an education for your children. Whether you think of yourself as a teacher, a facilitator, or tutor, part of what you do is helping your child learn. Depending on your child's age, interests, & abilities, this could include teaching them to read, Calculus, Music Theory, Chemistry, or Computer Programming, all of which are subjects that often send parents to the nearest homeschool forums looking for advice or looking for co-ops or online schools to find someone else to teach them. The less independent your child is, the more work this part involves. This part could be hours of each day. The more a child struggles with a subject, the more time you spend working on it with them.

The time spent working directly with your child on their subjects is only a fraction of the time & work involved in homeschooling, though. You also have to take into consideration all the research to refresh your memory or learn subjects yourself so you can help your child with them. Plus, there's the time researching materials, co-ops, outside classes, and/or online classes. Don't forget driving them to & from those co-op & other outside classes, as well as activities and volunteer opportunities.

There's also the planning & scheduling of their school year. The more kids you have, the more work this is. Some say it isn't much more work to plan for 2+ kids, but those people usually have kids that are very close in age and/or use the same materials for their kids regardless of learning styles. However, when your kids are too far apart in age or ability to plan very similar work, reuse plans, or use the same materials, this is a lot more work. Let's not forget keeping records for your state or at least transcripts for them to get into college.

When one or more of your kids have special needs, all of that work increases infinitely. So, what I'm saying here is that homeschooling is work. It isn't just sitting around the house all day watching tv in your pajamas. It isn't like helping your public or private school kids with homework. It isn't like entertaining your kids on weekends & school breaks. It is work. It is a job.

I homeschool two 2E kids. For me, homeschooling is hours each day of working with the kids, checking their work, encouraging them, calming them when they get frustrated or annoyed, getting their attention back on work when it strays, keeping them on schedule, reminding them that education comes before socialization, and mediating the utterly ridiculous arguments they have. It also means hours researching materials for courses such as Serial Killers 101, Native American Cultures, Gaelic, and Aliens & Monsters, in addition to the regular courses. It means materials for hands-on projects in History and labs for Science. It means hours of planning a high school book list for my daughter, who read most of the books typically assigned in high school by jr high. It means figuring out what we'll do for my son for Math when he finishes Life of Fred, because at the rate he's going, he'll be done with all the LOF books by the end of what would be 9th grade.

It means a lot of bargain hunting to find the best deals on materials so I can afford everything we need for both kids on a limited budget. It means reworking our plans again and again, as the kids change their minds about the subjects they get to choose or surpass where I thought they'd be in a subject. It means adding to the list of required reading for my son, who devours books. It means an endless supply of Art supplies for my daughter who always has some new creative endeavor.

I know that all homeschools are not the same, but homeschooling is always work. Even if you unschool, you still have to help find the materials & resources your kids want. You may still have to drive them to volunteer opportunities, outside classes, and activities. You still need to plan a budget & figure out how to stay within that budget, unless you have unlimited funds (in which case, most of us wish we were you). You may still need to keep records for college applications or your state.

Now, is homeschooling worth the time, effort, money, and work it involves? Yes, yes it is. At least, it is for my family & me. All the hours I spend researching, planning, scheduling, learning, and record keeping, all the energy I expend working with the kids, all the times I have to bite my tongue & walk out of the room to keep from yelling at them over the stupid, petty argument they are having, all the money spent to buy the materials & pay for any outside classes is all worth it. It's worth it because I know my kids are getting an education that far exceeds what they would get in public or private school, for far less money than we would have to pay to have them in private school. For us, it is worth it.

I don't say this to try to scare away those thinking about homeschooling. I say it because it's true and those considering homeschooling should know the truth before making their decision. Homeschooling is not always fun. It is not always easy. It can be frustrating & tiring. It can try your patience. The days can be long and stressful. However, it can also be wonderful. It can be tremendous fun. The days can seem so short. It is fantastic to see your kids' desire for learning be so prominent, to see their eyes light up as they work on a project, hear the joyful laughter as they do Science experiments, watch the sense of pride in them as they master a concept. Homeschooling is a job, but it does have the most wonderful rewards.