As I was chatting with the dental hygienist last week while she was cleaning my son's teeth, she asked me which school the boys attend. I still brace myself before replying to this type of question, assuming there is a strong potential the other person will have a critical opinion of homeschooling. Once again I was surprised by the positive response, and especially by how lit up her face became as she exclaimed "That's so great! My sister homeschooled her kids -- I wish I had homeschooled my daughter." I've lost track of how many times I've been met with this type of acceptance and support, and always appreciate it (guess it's time to start expecting it!). But her comment about wishing she had made this choice for her daughter stuck with me all throughout the weekend.
I think the reason I kept mentally
replaying the conversation is that I'm uncomfortable with limiting the
idea of homeschooling to "doing school at home." Yes, my boys and I sit
at the kitchen table most days and do math problems and spelling
exercises, so in that respect they have gone from one type of classroom
to another. However, we actually spend only about 2-3 hours per day
doing this traditional type of schoolwork, and I honestly think this is
the least-productive learning my kids do. For example, I taught my
older son about decimals and percentages at the kitchen table earlier
this year, and he did many worksheets and word problems where he was
calculating percentages (correctly!). He seemed to have grasped the
idea. So, imagine my surprise when we went out to dinner one night and I
asked him to calculate the tip for our dinner bill, and he was at a
complete loss -- no idea what to do or even where to begin! I realized
that learning in context is key, and now he is responsible for figuring
out the tip every time we go out, in addition to calculating change, taxes, and service charges.
I strongly believe that parents can teach their kids
anywhere, any time, and probably even more effectively than in the
classroom. This is actually homeschooling, even if it doesn't occur in a
school building during normal school hours. I am concerned when I meet
parents who seem to feel disconnected from their kids' education,
thinking it is best left to the "experts" at school -- this is not ideal!
Even for children who attend the best schools with fantastic teachers,
the classroom environment is limited (and limiting), and any parent with
the interest and energy can and should homeschool through family projects and "applied learning" opportunities.
As for us, some recent examples of homeschooling
activities include supporting the boys in starting a business, tracking
their swimming times and gymnastics scores, predicting weather
temperatures and conditions, and producing movies about subjects they
choose. And here's the best part: I'm having a great time and learning a