This was a set of interview questions on homeschooling from a local magazine, and my responses to them.
How many children do you have, what are their names and ages?
I have 2 children, daughter Maeven (age 9) and son Tyren (pronounced TEERen, age 5).
Have your children always been homeschooled or have they at some point attended a private or public school?
My children have always been homeschooled. I stumbled upon the idea of homeschooling a couple years before my oldest was conceived and fell in love with the idea and read extensively and sought out info on the subject from that point on. I joined a local homeschool group when my oldest was just a toddler, knowing that it was the direction I would be going and I would need local support to enable a quality experience.
What made you initially decide to homeschool your children?
I think the reason I was initially drawn to homeschooling was the very fact that it was such a different idea, compared to the public school norm. I have always been very drawn to investigating ideas that were different than the mainstream way of doing things and learning as much as I could about them, even if I didn’t then follow that path for myself. The subject of homeschool education stuck with me and only drew me in deeper, the more I learned and read. I loved the idea of the freedom of being the one in control of my child’s educational experience, knowing that my personal idea of a “high quality” educational experience was very different than what was provided in most public school classrooms. My own experience in the school system was not something I am particularly impressed with, and I knew I wanted so much more for my own children.
What cemented the idea of homeschooling for me was a few months of working as a substitute teacher in the public school system around the time that I was spending a lot of time thinking about my future children’s future. I have had experience working in some very “alternative” educational programs prior to having my own children…So, because of these very high quality, experiential and child-centered experiences, I knew what education could look like, and what I saw in the public school system didn’t look anything like what I wanted my children’s experiences to be.
How do you become qualified to homeschool your children? Can anyone do it?
There are 4 legal ways to homeschool in California. Any parent may choose any one of them, although in my experience one of the first 2 options seem to be the route nearly all California homeschoolers choose.:
- Establish a private school in your home. (This is the route our family has taken.)
- Register your child with a public school independent study program or charter school that caters to homeschoolers.
- Register your child with a private school independent study program.
- A parent or hired tutor with a valid teaching credential may educate your children at home.
You can read more about these options and find links to more info here: http://fresnofamily.com/homeschool/legal.htm
Do you have specific “school time” at home? i.e. 9 to 3 is when the kids are in school, after that is playtime, family time, etc. Or is it more flexible?
If you talk to different homeschool parents, you will learn about as many different ways to homeschool as there are people doing it. Some are structured, some unstructured, and many are anywhere in between those 2 extremes.
Our family’s homeschool schedule varies greatly throughout any given year, and I’ve tried many different ways of doing things, and still am. Currently we don’t have a set “school time” as we are using a more relaxed approach and following the children’s interests. This will change soon as my youngest is turning 5 and I feel a need to shift gears to start including him in “school time”, and to create a more structured environment for us all.
Even during our more unstructured times, however, our home is always filled with a rotating selection of books and videos on a variety of topics, both fiction and nonfiction, using our local public library to the fullest extent. I also provide many educational toys, games, and materials that are available to them at all times, and work hard to ensure there are many opportunities every week for my children to spend time with friends and family members in both structured and unstructured time outside our home.
One of the many joys of homeschooling is that we have the freedom to “do school” the way we feel is right for our family, and at a time that fits into our lives. Most homeschoolers find that there isn’t a need for the long school hours you see in group settings, as we can cover a lot more ground in a much shorter time because we are working one-on-one, for the most part, with our children.
In your view, what are the benefits of homeschooling your children?
I could write a book on what I feel are the benefits of homeschooling my children! To list a few (in no particular order)…
- I am the one that is the primary influence on my children. Not other children and not other adults that may or may not value the same things that our family values. And by values I mean life and educational values, not religious belief. We are not homeschooling for religious reasons.
- My children’s childhoods are not full of the stress that is so prevalent in most American’s lives, from an early age. There’s plenty of time for them to learn to adapt to the realities of adult life. I want their internal setting for “normal” instead to be set now, in childhood, to a much less hectic pace and much more joyful living.
- There are so very many different educational philosophies that exist in the world. As a homeschooler, I’m free to choose between the philosophy or philosophies that best suit our family and children, or pick and choose what I like from among the many options out there. Some examples are: Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, Enki, Unschooling, Thomas Jefferson Education, The Charlotte Mason Approach, Unit Studies, The Self-Teaching Method, Entrepreneurial Education, Classical Education, Carschooling, and of course, the Eclectic Approach. Any and all of these ideas are available to me and my children to use in a way that works for us.
- Educating my children in a home setting instead of an institutional setting.
- Freedom to go on field trips and day trips and vacations whenever we like.
- I get to be the one to see that light in my children’s eyes when they learn something new.
- While there are certainly times that we need a break from one another, and I do set up playdates and family time with extended family to allow for this…I still very much value the fact that my children and I get to spend their childhoods together.
- I get to learn things that I never learned during my own school experience. The world is just full of wonderful things to learn about! They say the best way to learn about something is to teach it! I have always found this to be true!
- My children get to learn from someone (me) that knows them better than anyone else on earth and loves them completely.
Is part of the reason you homeschool your children to protect them from things that might happen in a public or private school?
I am probably equally as concerned with the negative things that I help my children avoid by keeping them out of a public or private school setting as I am with the positive things that I feel I provide at home for them. At home, my children are not:
- Ruled by time constraints…they can study any subject they like for as long as they like, and as deep as they like. I do introduce ideas and concepts as I feel are needed, but I also try to do all I can to encourage my children to dive deeply into that which interests them.
- Ruled by a bell nor do they have to ask permission to go to the bathroom or get a drink, or wait until the schedule deems it is time to eat.
- Forced to spend their entire childhood in classrooms with large numbers of children the same age (something that you won’t find in the “real world”, outside of school). I am a big believer in the value of mixed ages, and in a homeschooling setting, even during group gatherings, mixed ages is the norm. My children spend just as much time with younger children, older children, and even adults as they do with children their own age.
- Having to deal with bullying or being teased by other children or grownups in a setting that often treats these sort of things as “normal” (something I vehemently disagree with). That’s not to say that teasing/bullying doesn’t happen amongst homeschool children…But I have found that it is usually not treated as “normal” by most homeschooling parents, and more importantly we are able to quickly nip such things in the bud because we adults are usually right there and in greater concentration than the adults in most public/private school settings.
- Bombarded daily by foul language, sexual innuendos/harassment, physical violence, substance abuse, racism, sexism, classism, materialism, kids that come from dysfunctional homes that have so many issues to expose my children to, and disrespect for authority.
- One among many, getting lost in a crowd…numbers in a system. Their education is personalized to their needs and there is no chance for them to “slip through the cracks” of an overburdened institutionalized system.
Do you plan to homeschool your children all the way through high school graduation?
My current plan is to continue homeschooling as long as it is working for us. In my mind, that will be all the way through high school, but I cannot say what the future holds.
How do you get the materials to teach your children?
I am able to obtain materials from a wide variety of sources. Of course, I use the local public library system to the fullest extent first and foremost. We each have our own library card (even the little guy), and we often all have the maximum number of items checked out on our accounts simultaneously. I absolutely LOVE the online system for the Fresno Public Library, where I can order specific items and have them sent to the library of my choice and held for me to pick up. I don’t often find a title that the library doesn’t have.
Another local resource is our local homeschool resource center “The Learning Village,” located at The Discovery Center, which has an educational resources lending library where we can check out books, games, toys, manipulatives, videos, and other educational items.
For the things I cannot get through our local libraries, there are an overwhelming variety of sources online from which to explore. Amazon.com is usually my first choice, since they sell just about everything that exists in the world and also provide opportunities to purchase used items at a great discount.
In addition to the above, there are homeschool resource websites springing up all over the internet almost daily, many of which are just fabulous! The possibilities are absolutely endless and often overwhelming. Homeschooling is a booming industry right now so homeschool curriculum on every subject as well as complete multi-subject curriculum are available in seemingly endless supply. Finding secular (non-religious) resources (which is what I personally look for,) can sometimes be a little harder, but the secular homeschooling community is also growing rapidly and hence more and more secular resources are being made available these days.
To help narrow down the possibilities I rely on other homeschoolers to recommend things to me. In addition to our local homeschool groups and egroup, I have many nonlocal online groups which I frequent that are full of very experienced and knowledgeable homeschooling moms and dads that can tell me about a product before I buy it or suggest a product new to me. I even have found online groups that have a specific focus, such as secular homeschoolers or Charlotte Mason homeschoolers…(there’s even a secular Charlotte Mason yahoogroup!)….which helps me get a certain slant on the things I’m looking for.
Do you believe you provide the same level of education that the children would get going to a public or private school?
I wouldn’t say that I provide my children with the same level of education that they would get from a public or private school. To me that’s like comparing apples to oranges. It’s a different education.
When someone asks me the question “How do you know your children are at grade level?” I answer that I am not concerned with what the public school system has deemed “grade level.” To me this is something that someone somewhere who has no connection to me or my children has arbitrarily decided and has little or no relevance to me or my children. What I want is for my children to be where I think they should be, in relation to who they are.
For people that have a hard time wrapping their mind around this idea, I point out that there are a wealth of educational philosophies represented out there in private schools: Montessori, Waldorf, Sudbury, etc…All of them have a different view of when children should learn what, and how…many of which are VERY different than what you see in public schools. There is no “right way” for all children to be educated, so comparing what my children are learning at home to what the public school system has decided children “should” know at a certain grade level, really doesn’t make any sense to me.
Do your children ever ask you why they don’t go to public school? Do they like being homeschooled?
My children have never yet asked me why they don’t go to public school. I think this is because we frequently have an open conversation about school and the fact that many of their friends and neighbors are at school during the day while they are not, and why. At this point in time, my children enjoy homeschooling and are not interested in attending a school elsewhere. I have no idea if that will change in the future or not, but I can say this: Just as public school parents decide where their children are educated and most would not choose to drop everything and homeschool their children simply because their child asks to homeschool…I, as a homeschool parent, would not drop homeschooling simply because my child asks to go to school. I’m the parent and as such I know what is best for my children because of my years of experience and will not leave that choice in the hands of my child any more than a public school parent would. If there comes a time when I have a child who is truly unhappy with how our homeschooling is going, I will seek out new ideas to alter what we are doing at home. But I’m not closed to the idea that my values and ideas of what “should” happen may change in the future.
Do your children get the opportunity to socialize with other children? When and how does this happen?
I think all homeschoolers work very hard to ensure their children get many opportunities to socialize, both with other homeschoolers as well as with traditional schoolers. Playdates are a regular weekly occurrence for us. I bring my children to other family homes, invite other families to ours, as well as attend homeschool park days, field trips and classes which we have locally.
I am the co-founder of a local yahoogroup for secular homeschoolers (Fresno and Madera Homeschoolers), and the president of a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit “The Learning Village Homeschool Resource Center of Fresno” which also provide many opportunities for my children and I to learn and socialize with other homeschool families.
When we’re able to afford it, I also sign my kids up for different local classes such as music and art and gymnastics, where they interact with children they may not otherwise come into contact with.
In your view, are there any drawbacks to homeschooling?
There are definitely drawbacks to homeschooling, as there is with anything. The biggest drawback I would say is not being able to hand off the job of educating your child to someone else. This leaves the job squarely on my shoulders alone and this is a huge responsibility that I don’t take lightly.
There are certainly times when I wish there were a local private school we could afford and I could feel good about. Having to juggle the children (all day, every day) and their education in addition to the house and all the other responsibilities that I take on, can be very overwhelming.
It also can be a drawback financially as homeschooling families are nearly always one-income families. This causes a lot of us to get creative in coming up with ways to help add to our income. I personally run several websites which I make a little money off of with advertising, including the local website FresnoFamily.com. Running a business or whatever form of extra work that a homeschooling mom may take on to help her family out financially, can often be stressful in all the extra work involved and balancing this with our already jam-packed schedule of activities.
Do you ever get negative comments when people find out you’re homeschooling or are people usually supportive?
Surprisingly, I’ve had very few negative comments about our homeschooling. I’ve found locally that most people are supportive of homeschooling, even if they don’t agree with it for their own children. I have, however, read plenty of horror stories from friends online in other areas and even some in this area that have had negative interactions with people who have incorrect ideas of what homeschooling is or who are so against the idea that they are downright hostile. Thankfully, I’ve not yet experienced this personally.
Do you think homeschooling is something that would be beneficial to all families/children, or do you think it depends on the family?
I do not believe that homeschooling is for everyone. I do not believe every family is capable of doing it, or should. There are children that thrive in public or private schools, and there are parents that are homeschooling that shouldn’t be. Every child and every adult have their own personalities and values that determine what does and does not work for them. It’s the right of every parent to decide what is right for their own children.
Is there a large homeschooling community in Fresno? If so, is this helpful to you?
I am happy to say that the Fresno area does indeed have a rather large homeschooling community! I have found these people to be invaluable to our family in the sharing of information and educational opportunities and gatherings as well as in developing friendships and in providing much needed support. You can find information on local homeschool groups here: http://fresnofamily.com/homeschool/groups.htm
If parents are considering their options between public, private and home schools, what advice would you give them based on your own experiences?
I would recommend anyone that is interested in learning more about homeschooling to get out there on the web and “Google” your heart out! There are some fabulous websites out there with a wealth of information just waiting for you to find it. I recommend checking out the homeschooling pages on FresnoFamily.com as a starting point to find local info as well as links to many great online homeschool resources. You should also check out the 2 major California homeschooling organizations online: The California Homeschool Network (CHN) at californiahomeschool.net and Homeschool Association of California (HSC) at hsc.org, both of which have a vast array of homeschooling info on their websites.
I also recommend listening to podcasts (I recently found a fabulous resource for homeschool and education related podcasts at Homeschool.com an iTunes) and reading some of the many books on homeschooling, many of which are located at our local libraries! You can find book recommendations on homeschool websites and by reading the reviews on books at Amazon.com, as well as from talking to other homeschoolers online.
Another resource I would suggest is homeschool blogs, as well as joining online forums and egroups where you can ask questions and learn directly from people who’ve been homeschooling for years and benefit from their wealth of experience and knowledge.
There’s so much information out there that it’s not hard at all to learn a lot about homeschooling in a very short time. The most valuable resource, I think, is to connect with others (online or locally) that are doing what you are interested in learning more about.