A Heart for Learning:: Why I’m Discerning Homeschool for My Children

Cultivating a Heart for Learning:: Why I'm Discerning Homeschool for My Children

Homeschooling is a hot topic these days. To homeschool or not to homeschool? That is the question, and this is my answer. 

My Experience as a Teacher

Before my children were born, I taught Pre-K at a small Catholic school. And I loved it. I loved getting to know my students. I loved watching their extraordinary minds fire up with a love of learning. I loved watching their joyful faces as they interacted with their friends, with none of the social awkwardness that occurs as they get older. It truly felt like everyday was a new day for discovery with my students. 

There was one part, however, that I did not like. I didn’t like the, what I thought, was excessive amount of “sit down” work:: worksheets, assessments, writing practice. The pre-k curriculum and the nature of having a classroom of 18 students necessitated these sessions of sitting at their desks, but I could see how many of these little 4 year olds struggled with sitting still, holding big pencils in their small hands, and processing the reading/writing readiness lessons. It was in these moments of doing what was contrary to their instincts to run, play, explore, get messy, that I could really observe the clear differences in how their little brains functioned and matured at different rates. It was in these little frustrations that the seed of homeschooling my future children first took root in my heart. 

Before We Begin…

Now, before anyone comes for me, I want to clarify a few things. One:: I’m not saying that traditional school is bad. Schools are an invaluable cornerstone of our society. Teachers are essential to educating, caring for, and mentoring each generation, and they deserve to be commended {and paid accordingly}. Public schools especially provide an amazing wealth of resources for students with learning disabilities that weren’t previously available. Two:: I’m not saying that it’s not important for littles to learn to sit still, write, read, ect. I had many students who thrived with these traditional lessons, who were easily able to sit down at a desk to complete a worksheet or read sight words from a book. 

With that being said, I think we push school onto littles way too soon. We put an emphasis on children knowing their letters and sounds even before school starts, reading by kindergarten, and if a student doesn’t fit into that box, they’re labeled as “behind”. Behind what? Our strict K-12 system arbitrarily indicates the skills and knowledge children should attain by a certain age, without taking into account that their brains and bodies mature and function at different rates. 

Again! I think that teachers and administrators are doing all they can to cooperate with the system and their students’ diverse learning styles. But, as many teachers will tell you, they can only do so much with a large class size, limited funds and resources, and 8 hours a day. 

Why I Want to Homeschool

My son is 3, almost 4, and, prior to last spring, I still planned to enter him into pre-k next year, despite some of my reservations. Then COVID hit, and it was best for our family situation to keep him out of the mother’s day out program he attended last year. And with everyone and their mom discussing homeschooling options, I started to look into the concept a bit more. When I want to learn something, I turn to books. After reading several books about education and home learning, I think I’ve pinpointed what draws me to homeschooling my children.

Making Connections 

Hands down, this is the number one reason I’m attracted to keeping my kiddos at home. I want to know my children, to foster my relationships with them, to be their primary influence {and I don’t mean that I want to shelter them from all outside influences, just that I desire for my husband and I to be the first people they look to to establish their values}. I only have 18 years of my children living in my home, and I want to make the most of them. With COVID, our family has been home, everyday, for six months. And while the constant togetherness certainly has its challenges, I’ve loved building connections and establishing routines and traditions that we otherwise would not have with our Before Times schedule. 

Fostering Imagination and a Love for Learning

I love learning. I love reading, exploring, creating, and imagining new ideas. And I so badly want my children to grow up with that same passion for critical thinking and discovery. Children are naturally curious creatures, and, in some ways, a formal school setting is an idea place to foster curiosity due to the influence of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and thinking. However, I think it can also be a place where lessons feels forced or rushed, where learning loses its magic because it is viewed as something children only do in school. Learning is a lifelong journey, one on which I’m constantly exploring through books, experiences, and conversations. I hope to foster that same love of learning for my children. 

Learning at Our Pace

I mentioned above that I feel that our society emphasizes academics too early. In many countries in Europe, children do not learn to read until 6 or 7 {around first grade}. Obviously, some children are ready to read, write, and ‘rithmetic before then; if so, then great! One of the coolest things about homeschool teaching, to me, is the flexibility. Homeschooling would give us the opportunity  for to explore certain topics for weeks, if necessary, or to revisit lessons for which we’re not ready, or take spontaneous trips that emphasize a certain lesson. It would allow us to take mental health breaks, if necessary, and to incorporate learning into our whole lives, rather than emphasizing it as an activity done during certain hours.  

Still Undecided

As much as homeschooling sounds like a wonderful option, I’m still undecided. What if I’m too relaxed and fail to impart a sense of discipline to my kids? What if my children have learning disabilities or differences, and I’m incapable of teaching them? What if homeschooling works for a few years, and when my children join the traditional school system, they aren’t adequately prepared? To these questions, right now I can only offer a big shoulder shrug.

What I have decided is to use this year to establish our house as a family hub, a center of love and learning, a home for rest and respite, a safe haven. We’ll read together, explore new ideas, foster curiosity and imagination. We’ll look for opportunities to encourage learning naturally. We’ll plant a garden and learn to cook. We’ll talk about our emotions and encourage communication. We’ll focus on loving and serving our neighbors. And when the time comes to decide how we’ll educate our children, it {hopefully} won’t matter whether they attend traditional school or homeschool, because our home will be their school of life. 

If you’re interested in some of the resources I used to help discern homeschooling::

The Read-Aloud Family:: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids and Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie*

Bonus recommendation:: if you’re specifically interested in read alouds for homeschool or a complement to traditional education, check out the Read-Aloud Revival podcast and blog, also by Sarah Mackenzie.

Awaking Wonder:: Opening Your Child’s Heart to the Beauty of Learning by Sally Clarkson*

Rethinking School:: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education by Susan Wise Bauer

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease {Not about homeschooling, but delves into the importance of reading aloud with your children, even children who can read on their own, which flows with my desire to build connections and foster imagination with my children.}

*These three books involve faith as a core tenant in their homeschool process. As a Christian woman, this aspect is important to me, but I feel these books would be valuable to those looking for a secular perspective as well. 


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