Homeschool Essentials

Whether unschooled or highly structured, religious or secular, all homeschools encounter the same challenges. All successful homeschools exhibit the same essential qualities. This weblog will help you understand and apply those qualities, minimize frustration, and enjoy more success sooner.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I Hate "Homeschooling"

No, the title doesn't refer to those days when Mom is ready pack the children off to military school and take herself to a convent (even if she's not Catholic). It doesn't refer to the times when the in-laws spend the weekend regaling you with the achievements of their other grandchildren, you know, the normal ones that go to school. It doesn't even refer to the times when you've just bought the perfect curriculum, or designed the killer unit study, only to have the little darlings turn up their noses.

No, it's actually the term itself. "Homeschooling" misleads a lot of people into thinking that the major difference between learning at home and learning at a formal school is a matter of location. As a matter of simple logistics, that's not possible. As an experienced teacher and school principal before my own children reached school age, I wasn't looking to duplicate the classroom experience at home-- simply reduce class size and shorten my commute.

On the contrary, what I sought was a different quality of experience. I wanted my children to love learning, to develop initiative, to be self-starting, self-motivated, self-disciplined learners. I wanted them to develop the character that would enable their talent-- after all, few things are more common than unrealized potential.

Not only that, but in observing more than 600 families close up over the last twenty years, those who work hardest at duplicating the classroom at home suffer the most. They often suffer chronic burnout.

One mother who ran her homeschool with near military precision strenuously denied my last sentence. She did the very best to duplicate the classroom, she said, and she had never burned out. Some weeks later I saw her again, looking even more austere than usual. She had just returned from the Mayo Clinic, she told me, where the doctors had spent two months trying to understand the origin of, and treat her mysterious case of pneumonia. I nodded sympathetically, thinking to myself, "Well, at least she didn't burn out."

Anyway, I prefer the term "learning at home" to "homeschooling." I think the former phrase describes, without misleading, the actual process much more accurately. but I continue to use the term "homeschooling" for one reason: it is a term everyone knows and accepts. If I titled this blog "Essentials for Learning at Home," most people would simply shake their heads. Google the term "learning at home" and you'll get a very different result than that for "homeschooling."

As I will explore in the future, the misunderstanding engendered by the term "homeschooling" causes almost endless grief for families who want their children to learn at home. But we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to have been, so this blog is homeschoolessentials, and homeschooling we will discuss.

Just as an aside. I'm not interested in debating the opponents of homeschooling here, nor will I waste energy with gadflies. For those who want to have active learning children at home, I have all the time in the world. Whether you're homeschooling one child or twenty, those under 5 or over 15, I've pretty much seen it all. It can work for you, as it has for so many others.


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