Friday, April 4, 2008

Some additional thoughts on Homeschooling

Suzanne and Rachel brought up some excellent questions in the comments section yesterday, and I thought I'd go ahead and make my part of this discussion a separate post. In other words, I think this will get long! But, I'll go ahead and wade in with my thoughts on some of these questions and comments.

Suzanne commented that homeschooling must certainly take a lot of discipline and organization. Now, once we get beyond the fact that my husband would dissolve into hysterical laughter if anyone even used those words in the same sentence with my name, we can discuss this.

Here are my thoughts. Classroom education and homeschooling are extremely different enterprises, and I believe that teaching in a classroom requires these resources (especially organization) to a much higher degree than does homeschooling.

Consider the scenerio. Classroom teachers (and I have great respect for these folks) are vastly outnumbered by their students. Even a small classroom is likely to have many more students than there are children in my relatively large family. Just maintaining control of this many children is a huge endeavor, before any attempt is made to educate them.

Additionally, the children come into this classroom with baggage. One child's home life is difficult, and the student is distracted. Another child stayed up too late last night, and isn't going to be able to concentrate today. Some have fallen behind, and are struggling to learn what was already taught in the past, and are not prepared to learn what is being taught today. Other children are alert and ready to learn. Some are so far ahead of the rest of the class, that they are bored by the lessons being offered.

This isn't meant as an indictment of the classroom situation - ask most any teacher, and they will agree that this is a huge part of the challenge of teaching in a classroom. It's different in homeschooling. For the most part, the teaching is more like tutoring, with a one-to-one student/teacher ratio. It is relatively easy to tailor the lesson to the student, when there is only one student. You don't need to teach 20 lessons on subtraction, if the child has already caught on to this concept. You can jump ahead. Or, if the student is struggling with the lesson, there is no pressure to forge ahead - it makes perfect sense to repeat the lesson, until the child has mastered the material. In a classroom, the child who needed extra reinforcement might be pushed into a test before they had learned the material, and they would receive a failing grade, just because there is a schedule to be maintained. This student will also not be prepared for the next concept, if it builds on the one they just failed to master. But what can a classroom teacher do? They do have a schedule to maintain. If the teacher slows the pace of the teaching, to suit the slower students, the rest of the class suffers. Conversely, if the level of teaching is matched to the fastest and brightest students, others will be left in the dust. Most teachers I've asked about this have said that they try to teach "to the middle." Sadly, while this is necessary in a classroom, it does make learning more difficult and frustrating for the children whose skills fall outside of "the middle."

As the parent, I can teach my child from where they are right now. I am also aware of the child's daily "baggage" in a way that the classroom teacher will not be. I know the child isn't concentrating on math this morning because they were up too late last night, or had a fight with a friend, or just lost a beloved pet. I can let them sleep in and catch up later in the day, or have them work on something that involves less mental capacity (like, oh, handwriting, maybe, or doing some independent reading), or in some way match the lesson to the moment (perhaps writing a poem or creating a drawing to express their emotion is a better idea on this morning, than memorizing spelling words). There really is no need for me to maintain a schedule for the sake of the schedule, since there are no other students being hurt by my catering the lesson to the one.

There is a point to all of this rambling. Covering the same amount of lesson material, to a mastery level, can be achieved in much less time, and with less effort, when there isn't an entire classroom of students involved. So, although organization and discipline are certainly involved in the process of homeschooling, these skills are not required to a level that the average person can't achieve.

And now, that's all I'm going to say on homeschooling today. I know this isn't what my overall blog is really about, so I don't want to post on this topic to the exclusion of others - but I managed to write all of this, and only get to the first of the comments/questions. I'll try to post some more on this topic in the next couple of days, but not to the exclusion of pictures of and updates on chickens, scary roads, mountain scenery, and, oh yeah . . . the ministry work. ;-D


Pam L. said...

I'm so glad you posted this! I too got a good laugh out of the "organized" and "disciplined" comment! I think our youngest brother was probably the only one in our family that got those particular genes!

Anyway, nice description of the realities of homeschooling. Fits my thoughts exactly.

Randall y Raquel said...

Thanks for posting on homeschooling. I was homeschooled and definatly am going to do the same starting with the birth of my baby in June. Any advise is welcome as I am in Costa Rica and noone here homeschools.

Trish said...

Hi Pam - nothing like kudos from your big sis to make your day! Thanks!

Rachel! This is the first I heard you were expecting! So exciting - congratulations!

You've got some time, of course, before you need to start officially "schooling," but you're right to start thinking and planning on this now. And, use those early years to train your little one to cheerful obedience, as that will be a big benefit when you are the teacher as well as the mommy!

When you're ready to do some research, check out Sonlight Curriculum ( It is an expensive choice, compared to many, but I do think it is worth the price. The education is outstanding, but even without that aspect, you end up accumulating a library of books, which, living away from the states, is such a valuable resource. (Many cheaper curriculums use workbooks, and when those are completed, they are just tossed. With the books, you can resell them to recoup some of the cost, although I never do! ;-D)Plus, Sonlight is especially set up to address the needs of those who homeschool while living in more remote areas, without the resources we have in the US.

Dear me, I think I just wrote a commercial!

Honduras Sprout said...

Trish- Thank you for some inside info from a homeschooler mom.

At church I talked to two teenage girls who are homeschooled. They seem like such bright, lovely young ladies. So I asked them how they like being homeschooled. Both said they hated it. Could it be the teenage years of just hating school in general?

I have contemplated if I would be able to homeschool. There is a part of me that would like to just do it. Alas, I have chickened out. One, because I don't feel I began the kind of relationship with my daughter where she would respect me like a teacher and mother. Maybe that's just a lot of self doubt there. I was the office mom who came home and was in a whirl-wind with the kids before bed . Secondly, I worry about the social aspect. You have a big family and also probably many built in community connections with your ministry. I worry that it would be hard for my daughter socially with a small family and as of right now a limited social network.

When sitting down with one of the girls I mentioned above who was homeschooled, I asked her if she had picked up on Spanish in the 4 years her and her family have lived in Honduras. She responded that she had "mas o menos" with a tutor. I asked her then if she was able to make friends while she was living here. To which she said "no, not really." and my heart broke for her.

I realize that homeschooling offers a wonderful opportunity for a child to learn to their fullest potential, but we also school our children to become active, hopefully contributing and participating individuals in society. School offers lessons in how to deal with competition, dealing with others and developing relationships, adversity, failing, rewards for excelling, etc. I worry that homeschooling could possibly deprive a child from understanding and learning from these sorts of things. These are questions I ask myself while contemplating.

What happens when they go off to college?

A woman's daughter at my church is in her first year of college in the states after being raised and homeschooled in Honduras. I heard she is struggling. Not only going through culture shock, but struggling to be able to relate to the students that she is going to school with.

The church I attended back in the states had a family where the mother homeschooled the three children. Very nice family, the children were brilliant, but they also were the most socially awkward kids. Of course I questioned the homeschooling, but that could be just the parenting too. It's so hard to say.

If you could give some insight on the social aspects of homeschooling, especially for those in more rural communities or foreign countries I'd be very interested to know your thoughts.

I'm not against homeschooling, just have lots of questions.

Trish said...

Wow! Lots more questions! I'm somewhat embarassed to admit, I hadn't posted much on homeschooling before partly because I didn't think anyone would be particularly interested! I guess I sort of misjudged that one, huh?

I will try to address the complicated issue educators call "socialization" in another post, before too long. I'll have to be careful, as I don't want my blog to become "All Homeschooling, All the Time!"

I also want to recommend a book to you. It is called "Third Culture Kids" and it is about the way children who grow up in a culture different from their home culture are affected for life by this. I'll loan it to you, if you want, just let me know. Since you are raising a TCK yourself, you might find it interesting reading.

My husband grew up in southeast Asia, so he is an adult TCK, and we think it has hugely enriched his life, his way of seeing the world, etc. But, he is 'different' because of it, and most TCK's find the adjustment back to living in their home culture to be a stressful time. I only mention the TCK thing because some of what you are seeing in kids in SPS may be at least as much about the TCK thing as about the homeschooling issue.