Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of 2 posts.
There is public school and home school, but home school is not public school at home.
When I started teaching my daughters at home, I had the thought to do things in step with the school from which they had just been withdrawn. In hindsight, that was a little ironic considering I pulled my children from public school because of the way the school was doing things.
Parents are Not Privy to All Happenings at School
During our final year of public school, I received a survey from the school district. I had spent a good deal of time at the school: the teachers usually reserved a spot for me at the lunch table since I had lunch with my children nearly every day and the front office staff and I were on a first-name basis. I also attended my kindergartener’s Spanish class every Tuesday for months to locate the source of the blues she and her classmates were getting on that particular day of the week (I wondered if this was some freakish Tuesday-only illness or if it was something more complex).
I was an active parent, yet I had to consult with my then-third-grader on the appropriate answers to the survey. Do you go outside for PE? Do you use instruments in music class? No and no. What do you do in computer class? Play Minecraft but I don’t really like doing that. I don’t remember all of the questions, but I know they led from one bewildering and disappointing answer to another. I was apparently not as active as I had given myself credit for and I felt obliged to give myself a failing grade.
I started homeschooling the following semester. I proudly and boldly declared my intent to educate my children on my own. Why then did I think I needed to bring public school ideals into my home? I knew what I wanted for my children: more time outside to play and be wild and free, hands-on experience with instruments, conversing in Spanish in a more natural way (their father is fluent and I remembered a lot from four years in high school—go figure that I thought we were up to the task), and actual technological knowledge. Nothing against Minecraft, but I wondered if that was the extent of “computer” knowledge that children could be learning at that age.
It Doesn’t Need to Be This Way
I wanted my daughters to learn how to think rather than what to think. I wanted less rigidity, and yet I thought we always needed to sit in stiff desk-like chairs when we did school. Homeschooling is obviously not public school at home but this was not so obvious to me when I reported for teaching duty that first day. Sitting on our dinner-table chairs for hours, reciting the pledge, should I be giving tests? I didn’t claim to be the wisest homeschooling parent on the block, but something told me this was oddly akin to public school.
You Are the Teacher, Principal & Superintendent
I decided to trade chairs for a couch when it seemed appropriate and it had such a way of lightening the mood during our lesson time. I don’t get the head-on-the-table-I’m-bored thing. I take the liberty as teacher, principal and superintendent to call that a win-win.
One of the beauties of homeschooling is knowing where the requirements end and your freedom begins. In California, children must learn the basic subjects, but there are many ways to explore them and satisfy the state’s requirement.
Briana DeFranco homeschools three of her four children. She has moved around frequently due to her spouse’s line of work and thus has had experience with many public schools. She once thought she wasn’t capable of homeschooling, and now she can’t imagine not doing it. Briana is a freelance writer, knitter, sewist, and she believes there’s so much learning involved in day-to-day living…but she adores books too.