As a mother of four kids who have spent all or at least a good portion of their educational careers in the public schools, the idea of homeschooling was not something that ever crossed my mind. Until Common Core.
In fact, when I’d hear about someone who was homeschooling, I had the typical reaction of recoiling, as if the concept were so foreign that it was like sharing a meal with a space alien. Anyone doing it must be extraordinary, have special talents, or be just plain out of their mind. And, of course, their kids must be weird anti-social freaks.
When I started learning about Common Core upon its implementation in my kids’ schools this school year, I grew increasingly more alarmed the more I learned. As I dug for more information, which led me to related issues surrounding education reform in Maryland and nationally, I began learning about education alternatives as a byproduct of my research.
It didn’t take long for me to see that homeschooling would be a perfect fit for my youngest son in fifth grade who learns a little differently. The one-on-one that homeschooling provides would allow me to completely tailor the education of my son to his needs. There would not be a single lesson that passes him by without comprehension.
This idea did not come without hurdles. I had to get my husband on board, and explain it to my older children so they wouldn’t make negative comments about homeschooling. And then there was my youngest son, who went through about three bouts of crying over the social aspect of public school. By week two, there was no more crying - for either of us.
I am now starting week three of homeschooling, having pulled him out of public school at the start of March, just in time to avoid the MSA’s, as it turned out by happenstance. I figured that pulling him out for the last four months of elementary school was the perfect opportunity for a trial run. If it didn’t work out, he could go back to a private school in the fall when everyone else was starting at a new school.
We are going through Classical Conversations (CC), which is a national program utilizing the classical model of education. There are many options out there, and every child has different needs, so this is not an endorsement of CC. But for us, I couldn’t imagine going any other way. CC is a well-developed program that lays out the curriculum for you, week by week, along with all the texts and materials. All the kids and their parents in the local program have all-day class once per week, where trained parent tutors model the week’s instructional material as an example for the parents.
While the program is laid out for you, parents ultimately have total control over what their kids do or do not learn. I am following the program, but also adding to it. In addition to the English/Language Arts, Math, History, Geography, Science, Latin, Reading & Writing, Spelling/Vocabulary, Art, Music, and biblical instruction provided through CC, I’m also doing Physical Education, Government, Sign Language, Health, Handwriting, and a class I call Life Skills.
Most days, we spend about 3-1/2 hours on academic instruction, as well as a few hours on the weekends while we get acclimated, but there are other side benefits. Homeschooling has required us to be more structured and intentional about how we live our lives in general. Before we start instruction, my son and I do stretching exercises together, do our chores, and have our Faith instruction and Bible reading. By 1pm, we are typically done all our work for the day, and he has no homework and is done his chores. Then he has time for extracurricular activities like swim class, field trips, outings with other homeschoolers, and playing with the neighborhood kids once they get home. We reserve Fridays for play time with his public school friends.
The homeschool community is very tight-knit and supportive. I have seen how, out of necessity, all the homeschool kids are very outgoing. They know to take advantage of every opportunity to make friends. And I am discovering how many people I already know who are or have homeschooled. It’s not nearly as rare as one would think. People just don’t tend to talk too much about it because of the “recoil” effect.
We have not made any decisions about our other two older kids still in public school. But so far, I would describe my experience with homeschooling as a sigh of relief. Thank you, Common Core, for opening my eyes.
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To get informed on Common Core and education reform:
Don’t Be Cattle! Fight Common Core! (national group)
Stop Common Core in Maryland (state group)
The Baltimore County Coalition for Education Reform (county group)