Friday, January 20, 2012

Home school or public school: What if you don't like either option?

Zari is 5 years old and will be kindergarten age next fall. Ever since she was born, I've been telling myself that I'll do whatever schooling option is best for her needs and best for our family. The problem is, the  right option hasn't become any clearer in the past five years. I'm just as undecided now as I was then. To be honest, I don't really want to home school and I don't really want to send her to public school. But I live in a small community with only one school system--no charter schools, no alternative schools, nothing but One-Size-Fits-Most schooling.

I find myself resisting arguments for either type of schooling. Home schooling advocates can seem so...evangelistic in their enthusiasm for home school and their implicit (or explicit) critiques of public school. I just can't buy into the "public school as prison" mentality that gets passed around. I also have serious reservations about how I'd be able to find the time and energy to home school when I have a baby and a toddler to look after (and hopefully one or two more babies down the road). I believe in having a balanced life, and adding home school would seriously skew the lovely equilibrium I have right now. If I added home school, I don't know what I could subtract to keep my commitments at a doable level.

I also get the feeling that Zari needs something more. Honestly, she's bored and antsy a lot of the time and then starts acting up in subtle ways because there isn't enough for her to do at her level. Much of my day is taking care of necessary tasks: getting children dressed and fed, walking around town running errands, cooking meals, and tidying up. As mundanes as these tasks are, they still need to be done.

There's a Christian homeschooling association in town, which could offer Zari opportunities for interacting with other children. But I'm not super enthusiastic about the Christian part (even though I am Christian, I'd prefer to keep education and religion in separate spheres).

With my hesitations about home schooling, you're probably thinking "then just send her to public school!" But I am not thrilled about that option either. Our school district moved to full-day kindergarten before we moved here, and half-day isn't even offered anymore. In addition, the district closed all of the neighborhood elementary schools. Even though we live kitty-corner from an elementary school, Zari would have to ride the bus to the consolidated mega-school that serves our entire city. 

I have other misgivings about public school, some specific to our town and others in general. Like I mentioned, we have just one district so there aren't any other options or alternatives. There is one "high ability" classroom from kindergarten through high school, which Zari would likely be placed in. But that also means that she'd be with the same group of peers her entire time at school!

My general hesitations about public school stem from the inefficiency of classroom learning, from peer culture, and from the lack of time for free, unstructured play. I am reluctant to put my children in a classroom for 7 hours a day, when they could easily learn the same amount of information in just a few hours with one-on-one instruction. When I was in elementary and middle school, I was bored much of the time. I'd finish my homework in a few minutes and spend the remainder of class time reading or drawing. In middle school I'd read one or two books every day during school hours.

A common concern voiced about home schooled children is their lack of "socialization." (And I'll admit it, I've met some very, very strange, awkward home schooled children. Of course who knows if they'd be just as odd if they went to public school...) But I don't like a lot of the socialization that goes on in an institutional school setting. Besides the Big Bad Things that children learn from their peers (sex, drugs, alcohol), there's a lot of Little Things that bother me just as much: learning from peers how to be catty, to be a picky eater, how to form cliques, how you're supposed to only interact with those your own age.

I also firmly believe that children need plenty of time to just be children. This means free time to play, to wander around the neighborhood, to ride bikes, to climb trees. The 7-hour school day encroaches on this enough as it is, but then kids are sent home with homework. It's enough to ask little bodies to sit at desks for hours a day. But to send them home with even more work? Criminal.

I'm also really hesitant about having to adhere to an institution's rules. We travel a lot and I want the freedom to take our kids out of school when I want to. The public school does not coordinate its schedule with the university, so fall, Christmas, and spring breaks do not coincide. If Zari goes to school, then suddenly I am not in charge of my day anymore; I am tied to an institution's routines and hours. I resent that loss of freedom.

My ideal situation would be a school that met only in the mornings, that spent much of the time outdoors doing hands-on learning, and that never had homework. Alas, that does not exist here.

I seriously need advice.


  1. How about hiring a teach to home school her and also finding outside opportunities for learning that would give her the social aspects that are positive about public school?

  2. I can't comment on everything, but I have a gifted (or whatever we call it now) girl that went to Kindergarten full days and is now in 1st. grade. She got to spend a lot of time playing last year. And while she had a high skill level, she was able to be challenged, perhaps because kids are separated to help those who are lagging behind, so she could still go at her own pace. She has thrived by being able to interact with other people, not just socially, but mentally. I don't know everything, and I think about things in my way. Now she gets to see how other adults see the world. We talk a lot about school, and have REALLY interesting conversations. Now she is in 1st grade, and she gets to spend part of every day with the other kids in the gifted program. She enjoys that more, I think, than normal classroom time. In my own experience when I was in gifted classes at her age, it was nice to have peers that had brains that worked in a similar manner. We still have lots of time outside of school to do stuff like playing and exploring. And, ultimately, despite the fact we CHOSE to put her in a school with a very large number of low-income families, we found it INVALUABLE to have her realize you have to deal with a lot of people in this world, not just the people you want to deal with. So between the normal time and the gifted classroom time, it feels like a great balance for us.

    That's my thought process. I hope it helps!

  3. I'm sure I'm not qualified to give advice - my oldest is only two. :) But here are the thoughts I had while reading your post:

    There's no rule that says you have to choose something now and stick with it for the next dozen or so years. Since you are really uncomfortable with the public school options right now (and they don't sound great, frankly), you could try a year of homeschooling. Kindergarten work is easy for you as a teacher, and you could work around your schedule and commitments to see how viable it would be long term. In the meantime you may discover some other options.

    Even if the homeschool group available is not all you would like it to be, I'm guessing that doesn't have to be a deal breaker. After all, a large part of getting along in life is learning to work with less than ideal situations. I'm sure you want Zari to learn that people have different values and priorities and this may be an opportunity. Just a thought.

    You can't be the only parent with concerns about the public school system. Perhaps by the time you have reached a point where you honestly feel you're at your limit, there will be other private/charter schools available. Or you may be in a different area by then.

    I'm sure you'll be able to find a solution that will work for you and be best for Zari. :)

    P.S. Homeschooled children only have social problems when they are severely sheltered and isolated from most other people. And I've met some fairly anti-social public schoolers in my lifetime. It's not all in where they go to school.

  4. I am in the same position, although my daughter is only 3 1/2 so we have more time. I feel the same way about both. I don't really want to homeschool, but I'm open to it because I don't really love public school either. One option I am looking into is doing part time of each. We live in Indiana, (don't know where you live) and according to the education website, they allow a child to do part-time public school as long as it is supplemented at home. It's something I'm sure you would have to work out with the school as well. We are considering putting her in certain classes and letting her stay for recess or lunch and then doing the rest at home. It may not work out or it may be too hard to do half and half, but we'll see. Just an idea. Maybe talk to the school and see if they will work out a half-day schedule with you. I have a homeschooling friend that does this.
    Here's the link where it says shortened schedules are ok if receiving home instruction

  5. As someone who was put into whatever school system was right for me at any given time, I have done every. single. school. situation. imaginable.

    Catholic schools, charter schools (a nature-centred charter school and a performing arts charter school), Montessori-based (when I was younger), homeschooled, public school, and unschooled. All of them. I have been there, done that.

    From my personal experience, Montessori was an absolutely fabulous way to lay the foundation for a superb education. I wish my particular school would have offered it for longer. After going to all the other types of schools, I tried public school in the 10th grade, and loathed it. Loathed it. I swore to my parents I would never go back to school after 10th grade. They told me to find a way to finish high school, so I called up all the teachers that I loved throughout my life, and traded tutoring for yard/house work for the next year. I learned about things I WANTED to learn about (with the help of tutors, and using the library and the internet), and I kept a transcript of what I was doing. I graded myself fairly. I went to college. I maintained a 3.7 GPA. I know many, many people who went to public schools (my husband, most of my friends) and are very intelligent, wonderful people. However, I believe because I had so much to compare it to, public school fell short in every way to any of my other schooling methods. If you would like, you can e-mail me and I would be happy to expound on why I disliked public school compared to all the other options. Good luck to you no matter what!

    1. Sorry I don't have advice...just my own experiences... My mom did not let anyone tell her how to educate her children. I don't even think she knows what "unschooling" means, it just felt right for us at the time. She has 4 kids. Sometimes we were in 4 different schools. Sometimes I would switch schools in the middle of a semester. I was always on board with this decision. I never felt out of place or like I should have stayed somewhere that was clearly not right for me as an individual.

  6. If it makes you feel better, I sent my kids to a Montessori school several years ago after going through the same internal debates. Four years into it, I still have days when I love that they're in an "official" school, and days when I really, really wish I were homeschooling. I've accepted that I'll never be *completely* happy either way.

  7. First off, go check homeschool laws and regulations in your state. Some states are very strict, others are a lot more relaxed. I personally started homeschooling my 8 year old after 1st grade, and pulled the rest of the kids out of school last March. I've really enjoyed homeschooling and the freedom it gives me, especially for traveling to visit my family (it's way cheaper to fly to Europe off season!). There are a lot of other reasons I decided homeschooling was the way to go for us, and so far, I haven't regretted the choice. Yes, it's been an adjustment, but absolutely doable. I also joined a Christian homeschool group, and have really loved it. There have been lots of field trips to attend, and we go to park days every week. Religion does come up from time to time, but never in a setting where it would be used in an educational context. Mostly just among the adults who are visiting with each other while the kids play. If you do decide to homeschool, you have the huge advantage of starting with your oldest in Kindergarten, so the two of you can grow and learn together. I took my oldest out in 5th grade, so I had a steep learning curve and figuring out curriculum for him was a bit overwhelming, but we manage. To give you an idea, I spend about an hour per day with my 1st grader. That's it. My 3rd grader does most work independently, and I'm available to help him as needed. The oldest does most of his work independently, as well. The biggest challenge I have found with homeschooling is figuring out which approach to take. Do I want it highly structured, like school at home? Do I want it totally relaxed and trust completely in my kids' natural ability to learn with minimal interference on my part, with me being more the facilitator? I believe I fall somewhere in the middle. I'm probably going to sign my older two up for Stanford or Iowa testing at the end of the school year, just to get an idea of where they're at, and to help me figure out what I need to be sure to cover the following year. There are also dual credit programs available to homeschoolers at the local community college, which offers some options for high school, and there's online school, as well. Look up k12 for your state, you may find that you can get all curriculum you need for free through the public school system. That would take away the work of having to sort through hundreds of curriculum options, and trying to figure out what to use. Then there's online private school. Or you can buy curriculum in a box, by grade, which covers your bases. I personally stay away from it, as most of it is Christian based and I want my kids to have more of a secular education, especially in science/history. We can do religious studies separately. Anyway, lots and lots of options out there, and for K, you really wouldn't need to spend hours and hours every day teaching.

  8. Part 2, comment was too long...

    Or, you could try public school, see how it goes. There's always the option to pull Z out, or to put her in if homeschooling doesn't work. I was going to homeschool Kaylee from the beginning, but it became very apparent that she needed Kindergarten. So she went for a few months, and it was perfect for her. For me personally, there were a lot of "ugh, I hate this" moments when my kids were still in public school. From not having control over my schedule, especially when traveling, to always having some project or other (science fair = nightmare), to always having to send in money for this or that, stuff for parties, etc. etc. etc. I just got really fed up with it. It also irked me that I felt like there was this subtle politically conservative influence my kids were getting. Didn't like that at all. I don't know, we do live in a pretty good school district, and if the kids wanted to go back to school, I would probably let them, but so far they all really enjoy being home, so that's what we're doing. It's nice that they can get their school work done and still have time to play, be kids, and, in the case of my 8 year old, spend 15 hours a week at gymnastics.

  9. I think the idea of hiring someone to do some of your homeschooling for you is a really cool idea to explore some more!

  10. I'm a homeschooling mother to six children, ages 10 and under. All of your reasons to have concerns about public school resonate with me, plus I also add to the mix that I believe Christian faith should have a huge impact on how we view the world and shouldn't be compartmentalized. However, even without that, I still can't imagine public schools. The cookie cutter system, the rigid textbook sit-at-your-desk approach to learning, the lack of time for children (especially young ones) to naturally explore their world, the age-segregation that is so opposite of the real-world, etc.

    Why don't you try kindergarten at home? Depending on what state you're in, Zari may not be subject to compulsory attendance laws and you may not have to give notice or anything like that.

    Plenty of mothers have homeschooled with preschoolers and babies around. One thing to consider is that you will not always be in the stage of life you're in now. Right now, your oldest isn't able to be of much help. Right now, I have six children, ages 10 and under. The older three can be a lot of help with babies and household stuff, and still have more free time to themselves than they would if they were in school. It will get easier.

    1. Yup, Montessori calls this "life learning" or something like that - and it is just as valuable as any other official school subject.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, Rixa. What about asking around at the college where you and Eric teach? I'm I professor at a small-ish university in a medium-sized city (that feels much smaller than it is). I've found my greatest resource to be my collegues. Perhaps you'll find someone who has some experience with the elementary school or resources for homeschooling in your area?

    Good luck with your search!

  12. I strongly relate to what you are going through!
    We live somewhere that the options are the same; homeschool or public school.
    We decided homeschooling was our best option and worked with our oldest child at home until march of her 2nd grade year. I thought i would love homeschooling and there were parts that were great (in theory); the freedom to schedule our days as we wanted, the ability to turn every situation into a learning situation, ability to teach to my child's interests and abilities etc.
    Our decision to go another way boiled down to the fact that i was overwhelmed with three babies, couldn't make homeschooling work and I spent most of my time feeling guilty that I was changing diapers, doing dishes, folding laundry and NOT school. So I called it unschooling for a while which my partner was opposed to (but it was GREAT for me!) and then we tried a state sponsored homeschooling all-in-one experience which was terrible. All the "big-brother" type stuff, no time for fun and a child who REFUSED to allow me to be her teacher. AND the only available homeschool group in our area is a Christian oriented one and while I was involved as much as possible for my daughter's sake, I faced a lot of discrimination and ostracism because I am of another faith and the lack of support was wearing.

    SO, what I learned from homeschooling was that it was a whole lot about me and had nothing to do with my child! My issues were (and are) the same as what you have expressed; limited time, rules, too much homework, not enough time to play, negative peer interaction, inability to travel because of conflicting schedules, my child getting "lost" in the system and my child's greatest influence coming from an ideal that i do not fully agree with.
    Moving our daughter into the public school system was an extremely traumatic and uncomfortable transition for me. LOTS of tears and self-doubt and ranting and raving about how could anyone possibly be better for my child than ME!!!!
    For my girl, it was exactly what she needed. She LOVES school. In fact, i have on my altar wall a note from her dated about 6 weeks after she started "Dear Mama, I love school, thank you for letting me go."

  13. Our middle child is now in the same school (the devil-public school) and he LOVED his kindergarten experience and is thriving in first grade (although the full day is a bit long for him even now.) I lived through both transitions and strangely our daughter starting school was a catalyst for both my partner and I to return to school to pursue our individual passions (culinary arts and midwifery)!! While it isn't a PERFECT situation for my kids, it is a healthy one where the kids are encouraged to be kind, responsible and creative. They are learning how to work in a group with all kinds of personalities (something that was limited at home because I screened our playmates using my own personal prejudices even though I thought i was being open), finding out how to be leaders and followers both and for the most part, having a good time. I am not trying to have the next Einstein come from my house so we skip a lot of the homework (and there seems to be a lot to skip ESPECIALLY in first grade yikes!) and the kids can stay home when they need it. We have taken days off for travel and will continue to do so with our without the goodwill of the school. So far, I have found that planning ahead with the teachers is all it takes to make being away a good experience for everyone. I spend at least one morning or afternoon a week in my kids' classes and have been surprised by how much I enjoy that. It keeps me connected to what is really going on in their day and also creates a good relationship with the teacher so they feel comfortable letting me know what is going on if necessary. Overall, public school has been a really good option for us. We will be moving this summer as i transition to the next stage of my training and i am already looking into school options in our target cities. I will consider anything (even *GULP* homeschooling) that will keep my kids happy and healthy and nurture their curiosity about the world. That is all that any of us mama's can hope for. As one commenter said, there is no rule that says you can't try every option within a month if you have to!
    I think what all education comes down to is that the parent has to be the child's biggest advocate no matter what situation they are in. If we are uninvolved, they have no possibility of thriving whether we are paying 50k a year for their school or unschooling. We definitely make the difference!
    Good luck as you find your way through this experience! Zari will let you know what is best for her and you will feel it too! It should be fun!!!

  14. I struggled with where and how to school my boys. My oldest does great in the normal public school. It has been a good fit for him, though now that he is in Jr. High he is at that bored not learning much there stage. Which I thought it would get more interesting for him.

    My 2 youngest are at a charter Waldorf Inspired school. I didn't even know that was an option for many years because it was in a different school district and I didn't think I could go there.

    I did try homeschooling for awhile and it wasn't a good fit for us. But it works for many people.

    Good luck with your choice!

  15. There are hybrid type options usually, you will have to check with your district. But HSAP is the homeschool assistance program that some public schools offer where there are planned projects, meeting times with other homeschoolers etc. The extent of the program varies greatly from district to district. Also, there is the option to dual-enroll where you register as both a homeschooler and student at the public school. Then the child takes certain classes at the public school like band or art or PE. You get to choose the classes. I have heard of some people even choosing the time rather than the class, like the student goes from 8am to 11am on Mon, Tues and Wed or something like that.

    I am in Des Moines, Iowa and we have lots of options like that. We can also enroll in K12 which is a virtual online public school that is completely paid for and your student has a teacher assigned to him that he can talk to on the phone, email etc. All the lessons and homework are planned out. The textbooks are free.

    We do straight up homeschool but I am constantly weighing the pros and cons since there are soooooo many options. Even with 'just homeschooling' we are involved in several homeschool classes, so I'm not the only one teaching my kids. There is a wonderful homeschool nature co-op here that meets every week outdoors for four hours at a state park and with a guide.

    I understand what you are going through and I thoroughly believe that I will never be 100% completely satisfied with the education choices because there is just soooo much to choose from.

  16. Hey Rixa,

    We had the same concern/issue for our twins (now 9) and our 6 year old (and now we have 4 and 23 months).....

    We did Kindergarden at home and I tried desperately to find other mom's in my situation. The more I started going to 'field trips' during the day to museums, and parks, and nature centers I started running into Mom's who also wanted the benefits of homeschool freedom, with the opportunities that can be offered with a group, without sacrificing the obvious benefits of both.

    Basically 5 families got together, and because one of the Mom's has a degree in elementary education she is our 'teacher' to meet state guidelines. We formed our own little co-op. So some days we each teach or work on projects, and the kids of all different ages do the same 'unit topic' but age-relevant studies within them.

    Now, don't get me wrong the first year of Kindergarden on our own was stressful with other small ones, plus my stress that I was doing the right thing, and not being to soft or two hard on the twins. And the first year we did our own co-op we all had the same concerns, but we committed to bi-weekly frank parent conversations to make sure we were all okay, and no one was 'stuck' but it has been a dream come true.

    Not sure if this might work for you as well, but we have discovered several other 'programs' like us since we started! Best of luck!

  17. I'm in the same position too. Willem is turning five next week and not only am I frustrated by state kindergarten requirements that make us start school a year later and puts him as the oldest in his class. Given his size and physicality, I'm not comfortable setting him up to be the bully. I would rather have him start school at the same age I did (which was before my 5th birthday). Its an example of what can change in a generation. He's smart and ready for developmentally appropriate, individually respectful kindergarten activities. For these reasons, his birthday present next week is to start homeschool kindergarten with me.

    Beyond that, I'm in the same place where you are in deciding what to do about the start of next school year. I just don't know. It doesn't help that I don't know where we will be living so I won't even know my options until just a few months (or weeks!) before school starts. By default, I may do a year of homeschooling with him because of that, so at least I can get a grasp on nearby options throughout the school year. Maybe I'll be able to find a school like you describe, but really? Do they exist anywhere??

    The area where I currently live is a great place for homeschooling and getting involved in community groups of young children. There are a number of choices for groups to become involved: from pagan, atheist, Christian, Mormon, etc. The homeschool resource centers are great for taking one or two classes a week in a classroom setting with parents teaching. I'd love to stay in the area to get my children involved with those classes.

    The most glib answer I can come up with for you and your circumstance is to "be the change you wish to see in the world" and create your vision. "If you build it, they will come." I don't know if charter school or homeschool resource center founder and director is a title you wish to add to your resume but you would do well at it if you set your mind to it. The only reason why the options exist where I live is because ambitious, intelligent and committed people made it happen for their kids. Its not like you aren't busy enough though!

  18. I can't offer too much advice either (my oldest is also only 2) but I have very similar feelings as you do and I dread the day that I have to make that decision! My sister is an avid (and yes, a bit evangelical) homeschooler of four ages 11, 9, 7, and 5 and she has done various approaches to homeschooling over the last seven years or so and has helped me see that it certainly doesn't need to be very rigid at all (I suppose that varies from state to state; we are in Utah). And like you said, since most of what kids learn in 7 hours of school can be taught in a few hours (or less depending on your kid), homeschooling doesn't necessarily have to be that big of a time commitment. My sister has told me about homeschooling families whose curriculum consists mostly of things they do in nature. So, I guess my advice would be to look into different types of homeschooling -- there may be a kind that synchronizes well with your lifestyle. And I wouldn't discount the Christian group without seeing how religious they actually are. Good luck though, this is a tough decision!

  19. I was also going to come and suggest a tutor of some kind. It doesn't even have to be one of the three "R"s- it could be a class like swimming or gymnastics or a musical instrument like violin. That could help give her some structured learning and fix the "bored" aspect by giving her direction. Also, it's only kindergarten- school isn't compulsive until first grade, right?

    As far as the Christian group- if it's something simple like park days, I'd still check it out. If it's more involved than that, I might not.

  20. maybe someone has said this already, but how about organizing a homeschooling/unschooling co-op with other like-minded folks. that would of course depend on the availability of such families.

  21. Hi,
    I have given the education question a lot of thought and prayer. Even though I live in the US instead, I have lots of friends who homeschool and who feel called to do so. I have lots of friends who just send their kids to public schools, because that's what everyone has always done. And I have me, who loves many things I hear about homeschooling, and my husband and I have given a lot of prayer to the question of education. And the answer we got very strongly and loudly is that for our children, the right answer is for them to attend public schools. At this point, we have children in eighth grade down to KG, and it is half-day KG, true. I am not sure what we would do if the only choice were all-day KG. If we ever need to consider another choice, our other choice is home schooling--probably not all our children; just whichever child/children needed an alternative.

  22. I felt the exact same way. We ended up sending my son to the public school and hoping for the best. It seemed to be good for him. In middle school, we've had more struggles, I feel like he's bored to death and getting bad grades because of it. I've actually thought of pulling him out several times, but I don't know that I could do much better, I have a baby at home I take care of all day and am already at my limit as well. So I just try to support him the best I can. He's starting high school in August and I think it will be much better, we have a lot of choices and can only hope he gets assigned to one that suits him well, or I will definitely be doing an online homeschooling program instead.

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  24. Rixa, I was facing similar feelings a year ago, when my oldest was then 4. This past August, we started homeschooling her. Our local school district does a full-day kinder. Additionally, this year, they are doing 'extended day' schooling, where they have most Fridays off completely but longer school days Mon.-Thurs. What this means (including transportation time): my dtr would get on the bus at 6:50 a.m. and not be dropped off by the bus until 4:50 p.m.! That's a long day for an adult, much less a FIVE YR OLD! When would I even get a chance to read a book to her or give her a bath?! I would be waking her up at 6 a.m., sending her off to school, and getting her dinner when she gets home and then soon be getting her ready for bed, to get her up again the next day and do it again.

    To move on with my advice: I don't know what lies down the road. How long I will homeschool is unknown. Some parents have recently been granted a charter to start a charter school here. It will open its doors next school year. Perhaps she'll attend there one day. BUT, I do know that my dtr is not going to Kinder this year and likely not in 1st gr. next year either.

    I was worried about making sure we had structure in our home school, I don't do well with my own routines as it is. However, we actually have established a routine. I didn't reach this until about the end of Nov. For the first 3 mos. of homeschool, I had general ideas about what I wanted to do for school each day/ week but it was unpredictable, esp. for her; we were easily interrupted. Then, I posted an outline of our morning routine on a big poster board on the wall. My dtr uses it to guide her morning routine. The routine has been so good for me. I proved that I could finally stick to a routine. I have enlisted other mentors so I don't feel overwhelmed with homeschool: my mom does 'art' (which is more like craft time), my husband does math, and she takes violin lessons from the high school music teacher.

    The routine doesn't just include 'art' or 'science' or 'math'. It also includes, brush teeth, wash face, make bed, prayer, etc. These are part of her education. She also has morning chores: helping to either set or clear up the table, sweep the floor, etc. This is part of her education. These are things that she wouldn't learn at school. These are things she wouldn't have time to learn at home after school. And I love the fact that we can read scripture stories as a part of our school.

    I am happy with our choice right now and feel confident it was the right thing for right now. I love teaching her at home. And in case you're wondering, yes, I do make homeschool happen most of the time even with a younger sibling around! Part of school is teaching her to get along with her little sister. Oh yeah, and I am married to an elementary school teacher that teaches at the local district she would be attending. I know what goes on at that school and we're not interested. I am also a product of that very same school.

    As for home schooled children being 'weird' and 'socially illiterate': my opinion is that they appear weird because they don't fit most people's definition of normal, which is usually based on what they experienced growing up.

  25. I just saw this article today and don't know if it will help. It articulately discusses the advantages of homeschooling, such as individualized instruction, higher average student performance, more community involvement, etc.

  26. There is a program that you can do online, run by the government, called K-12. They do normal school work, but online. Sort of like taking college online from what I gather. I am not sure of the specifics...but maybe something to look into.

    Our preschool and public school in my area are something I would NEVER want my child in. I had to go to school here and it was horrible. So, if we are still here, I am going to homeschool for at least pre-K and kindergarten. At some point in the next year or so we plan to move to an area that has private and magnet school options.

    I would at least meet with the homeschool group before writing it off. You never know, they could be very different from what you are expecting. You still have a few months to figure things out.

    1. One thing to know about the online school is that is gives the school system an open door into your home since the home becomes a "satellite school" so to speak. So if you'd rather not give them the right to do that, it's something to consider.

  27. I find myself in basically the same boat... so interested to hear/read any follow-up on what you finally decide. We do have a charter school that I like well-enough but it's drawn by lottery and he didn't get in last year. Thanks for showing me I'm not alone.

  28. I agree with so much of your struggle! We have had the same questions with our Littles. We found TJEd and I blog about it and our homeschooling adventures. I hope you can A, stand my writing (This is one reason I am blogging) and B it gives you some links and ideas of alternatives to traditional Homeschooling. Your also listed on my blog roll.

  29. I can definitely relate to so many of these thoughts! We are a little further away from it than you (Dmitri is 2.5), but it is something that I think about often.

    I was homeschooled all the way through high school, and I see that it has a lot of benefits, but there are of course draw backs as well.

    There are a couple other options in our area, but a lot of them are not accessible to us due to financial reasons.

    One thing that I did growing up, and I have even started with Dmitri, is doing a homeschool coop. That way, it takes some of the burden off of you as the sole education provider, as well as offering social opportunities for the children.

    A friend of mine and I started a secular "Waldorf-inspired" (though definitely not strict) coop and it was a lot of fun. It might be something to look into starting yourself; we saw a need, and realized that if that's what we wanted for our children's education, then we would need to make it happen.

    There is also an "unschool" here, that is pretty neat. I've posted the website below; maybe you could start one. = )

    Best wishes as your think through all of the options. I hope that you find something that works well for all of you!

  30. Your original post says it all to me... 3 paragraphs about your concerns with homeschooling, and *6* paragraphs about your concerns with public schooling. You have twice as much anxiety about public school as home school. That's a classic "cons outweight the pros" situation.

    I hear you on the "upsetting the balance" thing... it's what I look forward to LEAST about starting home schooling with my daughter next fall when she turns 5. But compared to the rest of my concerns about public schools... I think I can just get very, very focused and prepare well and do the school thing as well as everything else just fine.

    One thing that has helped me understand my feelings about home schooling is that I finally heard someone say "Home schooling is not about recreating the institutional school environment at home... it's about home *education.*" Education is a far cry from "school" and it will give our family so much flexibility to be home educating our children. And with way less anxiety. Even given all of the struggles I'm sure we are to encounter, I look forward to flexibility of home versus the rigidity of the government school model.

    Hope that helps! You've gotten some great comments here!

  31. My first question would be is Kindergarten mandatory in your area? And if not, why not give yourself another year to decide what will work best for your family's needs. I have always been personally drawn to homeschool, but my husband has always been opposed and as I pray about the individual needs of each of my children the answer has always been send them to school. Having said that, we've pulled our oldest from school before because he was being bullied by a teacher and it was no longer a safe place for him to be. One of our other children had brain surgery early on this school year and just has not recovered well, he is still missing 2-3 days a week and homeschooling has been high on our option list as a way to get him through this school year.

    Basically, it doesn't have to be a set in stone situation no matter what you decide. I definitely have preferred the half-day transition that K allows us and probably would have homeschooled for that year if it was not an option. I just don't feel 5 year olds are ready to be away from home 7+ hours a day.

    Last question - are there any online homeschools available where you live? Our state (Oregon) offers several options where children can be schooled at home, but the curriculum as well as supplies and teachers are available through the state on a computer. They mail you all the supplies (minus basics like paper and pens).

  32. Sorry, I haven't read all the comments, so I may be repeating what others have said.

    In many places, kindergarten is not mandatory. Put off the decision for a year if you can! hehe

    Some districts allow partial homeschool - perhaps you could negotiate that with yours?

    This is something I've struggled with as well. I started out saying, "Homeschool, no way!" In the last 4 years, I've come closer and closer to homeschooling and every time it comes around again, I learn a bit more. I suppose I'm a slow convert to the gospel of home school, but if/when it is the right time, I will be ready to embrace it whole-heartedly.

  33. Start a charter school for your community! Your dream school sounds like the school my kids attend, which is a charter montessori school.

  34. Reiterating what Erin said, look into the partial homeschooling option. I had a friend (lets cal her L) whose parents homeschooled her for math and science, and she joined us for only the middle part of the school day. She was able to join teams and clubs and also concentrate with her parents where they wanted her to accelerate. Additionally, L got to skip the useless, yet mandatory, electives.

  35. My husband and I plan to homeschool our children. My husband has a PhD in Education and I have one in Anthropology. Living in the Midwest, there seem to be two types of people who homeschool - those who do so because they want to provide their children with a superior education, and those who are fundamental Christians who want to shelter their children from the world. I have met many homeschoolers, and you can always tell which camp they are in. The sheltered kids are, not surprisingly, socially awkward and slightly ignorant (to generalize). The others have highly educated parents, who stress education and a balanced life, and are more mature and well-rounded than any other children their age. A friend of mine has his PhD, and his wife (who has her Master's) homeschools their four children, who are all two years apart. One of the best arguments I ever heard for homeschooling came from their oldest daughter, a 13 year-old. I asked her if she liked homeschooling, and she enthusiastically said she loved it. When I asked her why, she said that one big reason is because she is able to get to know her siblings. She said that the kids she knows who go to public school hardly know their siblings and they usually don't have good relationships. How many 13 year-olds have you met who were ecstatic about spending every day with their 11, 9, and 7 year-old siblings? Most public school pre-teens I've met say they hate their families, especially younger siblings.
    On top of all that, as you said, one-on-one instruction means you spend a few hours a day learning more than a gaggle of kids can in a full classroom all day. That leaves time for running errands, playing outside, playing with siblings, and learning other skills. I don't think you have to hate public schools to be certain that a PhD mother can provide a better education for her children than any other option.
    Good luck!

  36. A lot of the above comments have suggested that you wait a year before making a decision, since Kindergarten is generally not mandatory, but the sentence in your post that really stuck out for me was when you mentioned that Zari seems to need more than she's currently getting. My daughter will be 4 in May, and is "supposed" to start kindergarten - full-day - this September. She, too, wants more than she's currently getting at home, particularly socially. She adores other children and craves time playing with others and building friendships but I am very, very wary of putting her in public school for a variety of reasons.

    What really creates a struggle for me is that, as uncomfortable as I may be with the current system and as many cons as there may be to putting her in public school, I feel very strongly that her own wants and desires should factor very heavily in the choices that my husband and I make for her.

    Our plan, such as it is, for the coming year is to keep her home and make a concerted effort to arrange playdates and homeschooling group gatherings several days every week. It will likely mean that we burn a lot of gas and spend a lot of time in the car - which seems a little ridiculous considering we live a block and a half from the elementary school - but it seems to be the right choice for this year. Next year, though...perhaps we'll choose differently. We're trying to take the AP-principled approach: we'll do what works so long as it works for everyone, and if it stops working, we'll make a change.

  37. I had the same challenge... my son started Kindergarten last fall, 7 days after the birth of our 3rd child. I had been planning to homeschool, but my husband thought that would be too much stress on top of a new baby and our 17 month old, so off to Kindergarten he went. (He also really wanted to attend school with his church friends). Our school district has all day Kindergarten as well, but a 4 day school week. I was able to arrange for my son to only attend Kindergarten on Tuesday and Thursday each week. He gets the interaction with other kids, he gets to participate in P.E., go to the library with his friends, and have music time at school as well as his daily school work, and he is assigned extra homework for the 2 days each week that he misses. (The entire day of "extra" homework amounts to no more than 5 worksheets.) We have "homeschool" on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, dedicated time where we complete his homework, read stories and play games. It has worked well for our family. The biggest advantage to it (for me) is that my son is out of the house for 8 hours twice a week, and my now almost two year-old has really thrived being the oldest child for 2 days a week.

  38. I'm going to homeschool part-time. My child will be attending public school (we have an alright one, actually) from K-2 at least. There is an option for k-12 online school after that point, but that will also be her decision if she'd like to try it. Until that point in time, I will use a few hours after public school to help educate her, mostly in things she is already interested in- such as art,but I will try to to help with concepts she might be struggling with at school as well. I'm currently homeschooling her for pre-k (I bought an oak meadow curriculum for that, but it was worthless; a philosophical handbook, a wrong-headed one at that!) and it is a great deal of work to piece together lesson plans. I could not do this, be a mother to my kids, and WORK, so we must either use an online public curriculum to make sure she gets the high-level of education or public school with a great deal of back-up and support. Homeschooling has become very popular. And for people with a great deal of resources, it is an okay choice. Most of the kids I meet who are fully educated at home, however, are lacking in areas that might or might not be a problem later. I'm not willing to risk that with my children, and I believe they deserves the broadest set of opportunities we can give them. For our situation, that involves using the public school system.

  39. Youll be surprised to hear me say send her to kindergarten! You can always bring her back home. You can also take her home everyday at lunch and be registered as part time homeschooler.

    As a veteran homeschooler whose own antsy lil boys are now in 1st n 2nd grade at the local school, and a 5th and 8th grader and 3 year old homeschooling, it does notruinyour day very much, rather creates a new rhythm.

    Im more and more into littles going to school and bigs being home than vice versa--and this from a huge fan of Ray and Dorothy Moore!

    For us, this school has been a cheerful happy experience all round. The boys are proud of their art and gym and music and the homework has been manageable and easy.

    Check it out. Dont agonize. Try it for a few weeks. Might be a really nice experience. If its sucky or mediocre you can bring her back home!

    Also there may be nursery/preschool/daycare type places that have young 5s programs etc. Not free, but u might have the option of less hours

    Good Luck! Been there. Love u all!

  40. I am so happy you wrote this post and I just spent the last half hour re-reading it and the comments. Please please do a follow-up with what you've decided and how you came to that decision!

    I feel the same way you do - I don't agree with the structure and lack of freedom that the public schools give and feel ambivalent about homeschooling. I know I'm a ways off, but I do think about it and what I want to offer my daughter when that time comes.

    You are a caring mama and will make the right decision for you and your babies! **hugs**

  41. After agonizing over this decision, we chose public school. My daughter is in first grade and is happy every single day. She asks to go to school on the weekends. She has plenty of time to play at school, and she has plenty of time to play at home since I purposely have not signed her up for any extra-curricular activities other than piano. So when we're home she plays with her brother and sister. She enjoys doing her little homework worksheets.
    So maybe she'll like school like my daughter has. Maybe I'll make a different choice down the road if I see any behaviors etc... that I don't like. But for now, it's been great.

  42. If there were a charter school, or a Montessori school, or something like that, it would be quite likely that she would be with her peers throughout her schooling as well. I went to a small junior high, where all my classes were with the same group, and I loved it. I made such deeper friendships there than in high school, where I had more classmates.

  43. I think that Zari deserves a chance to spread her wings a bit and learn from people in the outside world. Will it be ideal? Perhaps not. But neither would a homeschool situation. She deserves a chance to meet more of her peers and figure out some things for herself. I would not be too worried about the "bad" things (sex, drugs, etc.) in kindergarten!!! Teach her to think for herself and trust her. I think she will flourish.

  44. I look forward to hearing what you decide, Rixa. I too, have done a whole collection of public, part time public and homeschool and now have all four of my kid at home. No situation is truly perfect and the balance is finding something that will work specifically for your family.

    I decided to move away from the public system because of many of the reasons you list and I didn't like how much (all) control I lost over my children's exposure to pop culture by being in school.

    Like so many have suggested, you could organize a co-op homeschool or do some part time nursery schooling. There is so much pressure at age five to head off to kindergarden. You can easily wait another year before you make a decision and find other avenues for Zari to learn from others and socialize.

    I believe children choose kindergarden at this age, if left to make the decision themselves, because everywhere they go folks ask them if they are excited about school. The idea of saying they are not going is completely foreign to them.

    A whole day at school is also very long for those who have stayed home up until this age.
    You can use tutors, and other small group learning opportunities that you find along the way so that you do not have to do all the educating.

    Best of luck in your decision.

  45. I used to tutor professionally and had several students that were homeschooled. Basically the deal was that I showed up and did the school four days a week for 3 hrs. The parents took them on outings, and we coordinated. The kids were in a nice home daycare/preschool for two days a week as well for socialization.

    This worked well for the kids through 2nd grade or so when the decision was made to put them in a local charter school. This also worked as kindergarten is not mandatory in CA.

  46. I just stumbled upon this site, but wanted to share that I struggled in the same way. I had actually hoped to find a Montessori school, but we live in a rural community and did not have that option. We decided to try homeschooling, starting with kindergarden at 4 1/2, just in case she or I did not take to it :-). It has turned out to be a most incredible experience. My children are incredibly gifted, and teaching them at home has allowed us to move at their pace (which is essentially as fast as I want to go!) We can go deep where we want to go deep, and focus on things they are truly interested in while still covering all the bases. They retain SO MUCH MORE when instruction is hands-on, one on one. As homeschoolers, we are planning on dual enrolling in a university like Regent when they are in 11th grade, so that their last 2 years of High school will also count as thier first 2 years of college. Ask any college professor, and homeschoolers are often the most engaged, enjoyable, studious kids they have in class.

    All that said, the most important benefit I've found is actually getting to KNOW my children as they grow up. Not just at the dinner table or in front of the TV. Not just outward answers but distnace at the heart level. I get to do life with them through their growing process, and they get to share their hearts with me... I LOVE that.

  47. Try different options for Zari and see what seems to click for her.

    Some kids do just fine in public school. For others, it's not a good fit. For some, homeschooling is the perfect fit, yet not for others. Same for private schools of various approaches. The question is to find what works for YOUR family.

    My eldest started in public school kindergarten but it didn't seem a good fit for her (despite a terrific teacher), and I hated all the time used on testing.

    Homeschool was considered, but she expressed very clearly that she did NOT want her parents to be her teachers. Some kids just really need you to be their parents only.

    Ultimately we found a small Waldorf-inspired school that was a very good fit for her. Challenged her in many ways but gave many opportunities for creativity and imagination. And she emerged with an enthusiasm and spark for learning that she observed was mostly missing in her public school friends at high school.

    The rest of my kids are continuing with this and it's been a very good fit for each of them. I found having other teachers gave them much richness in their lives, even as we supplemented school at home in an informal way.

    Full-time homeschooling works for some but I see strengths and weaknesses to it. Part-time homeschooling works for many people and seems to bring the best of both worlds in many ways. Others get together with like-minded parents and put together a small private or charter school if nothing is available locally. That has worked well for us personally (we didn't create the school but we've been instrumental in helping it survive).

    Experiment and see what seems to work best for Zari and the rest of your family. It's okay not to have all the answers right away. You'll find your path.

  48. Perhaps investigating some unschooling outdoor learning
    groups in your area could turn something up?
    Do you have a local attachment parenting group or forum where
    you could ask about options for zari?

    Or I suggest perhaps.... You could move to my nook
    of new England where the education choices are full of
    options! There are 4 major colleges round here where you
    and your love could apply for proffesorships...

    Just sayin. =)

  49. I had the saaaame problem. my oldest child is about to turn six and she would be in her second year of schooling if I sent her to school. I was so undecided, I even enrolled her in junior kindergarten, but then changed my mind in the fortnight before school started.

    I have some reading recommendations for you that really helped me: #1 "The Homeschooling Book of Answers : The 88 Most Important Questions Answered by Homeschooling's Most Respected Voices" truly an excellent book that will give you so much more confidence for homeschooling. #2, everything John Holt wrote. "how children learn", "how children fail" I think he wrote like at least five or six books on the subject of education. his books really gave me the information I needed to make the decision not to engage my kids in "Early childhood education" programs.

    Im still undecided as to whether I will always homeschool, but so far I am 100% sure that I made the right choice to not put my kids into kindergarten.

    this is coming from a woman who lives in a small rural town in canada with very few other homeschoolers, and only one other unschooling family. it's really quite rewarding to watch your children learn from life.

  50. Whatever you choose, remember that it is in no way a permanent one. Whether you choose to send her to public school or homeschool you can later decide the the other option was better for her and make the switch. You (and she) aren't tied to her schooling choice for the next 13 years.

  51. Rixa, I thought of another thing after our phone convo. It's that chartered or private schools might demand you vaccinate your kids. Our public schools don't like it if children are not vaccinated, but they can do little about it as it is not state mandated (nor should they be!), but a friend from our ward wanted to send her kid to a private school and they turned her away because she refused to vaccinate. TTL and good luck!

  52. Is there a preschool that you could put her in right now? You said she needed something more, and this would give her something. It would also provide a transition to school if that is what you decide since your only option is full day Kindergarten. It's hard to go from staying at home all day to full day school, so getting her some part-time schooling right now will be really helpful. It would also allow you and her to get a feel for what school will be like. I had the same struggles with my son who is now in 1st grade. We opted for school and he is doing well, though I am concerned that he is not being challenged academically in a couple subjects. I am continually working with the school to make sure his needs are met, but he is making friends and happy so far. We would homeschool if he needed that, but I hope to make school work for as long as possible.

  53. I have a friend who has found a way to get the best of both worlds. her kids have transitioned back and forth between home and public school depending on their needs at the time. they have been very successful, and it has been a terrific decision for their family.

  54. There are so many comments I can't read them all, but: studies have shown that the students who do best in public school are the ones whose parents are involved. If you go the public school route, take time to be involved in your daughter's classroom, and to talk to her at home about what she's doing in school and educate her about things she's not learning in school. It can work just as well as other options (says a staunch unschooler).

  55. I haven't read all of the comments, so perhaps this has already been suggested, but if you like the school across the street, can you pay to attend? In Texas, we can send our children to other districts' schools as long as we pay for it (it's about $3200/year, the same as what the school gets per student from a city's tax base).

  56. The school across the street is now used for some kind of pre-K speech therapy or special needs program, so unfortunately it's not an option.

  57. I think the computer ate my last comment--trying again!
    With regards to homeschooling, you may find it doesn't add as much to your workload as you are imagining. Honestly, by the time you deal with getting a child ready for school, school paperwork, meetings, and fundraising, and of course homework--school takes a lot of time and effort on the part of mom--with the disadvantage that you don't get to choose which directions your efforts go in. And as you pointed out, it takes vast amounts of a student's time, and doesn't use it very efficiently. For me, not wanting to mold my family's life around school schedules and requirements plays a big part in my decision to homeschool.
    As others have pointed out, you don't have to make a long-term decision right now. Kindergarten is super easy to do at home, and with a bright child you can probably accomplish in about 4 hours a week what the public school would accomplish in 7 hours per day each week. One thing I have done is sought out one or two families with a similar range of children and similar educational philosophy, and planned one class together on a weekly or semi-weekly basis. We've done history, Spanish, and science this way. It gives my kids a chance to interact on a regular basis with a small group of friends, and gives mom some much-needed support as well. I like this system better than the larger co-ops, at least for young kids. We've also done larger group classes with other homeschoolers--choir, P.E., gymnastics, etc.
    Honestly, I've never found an educational situation that I thought was ideal--partly because I think it would vary depending on the student. I'm intrigued by the model that has students attend classes 2 or 3 days per week, working at home the rest of the time. I've seen a few charter schools that follow this model. And I was tempted by the Mandarin immersion program in the next town over--but we would have had to move to get into it. I've found most of the things I want for my kids I can find or create. A few things (like Mandarin immersion) I have to be content to dream about for now.


  58. look into john taylor gatto. Read his books, listen to audio. Then make a decision.

  59. Good luck with your is a difficult one. I homeschool my 6 (soon to be 7) children, and while I think it is the better of the two choices available to me, I don't think it's ideal. If we lived close enough to a Montessori or Charlotte Mason school, that would be my first choice.
    Anyway, I just thought I would comment on the "weird" awkward home-schooled kids thing. I direct a homeschool co-op in our community, and the thing that I have really noticed about that is that the most common scenario is that the family is homeschooling *because* the child is awkward. I counted up the other day, and approx. 30% of our families in the co-op (we have about 40 families participating) have at least one child with high-functioning autism - which can definitely manifest as "weird" and "awkward". In other families, well to be blunt...their parents are weird, and the kids are like their parents. In families where autism spectrum is not an issue, and the parents are reasonably normal, so are the children.

  60. Hi Rixa, I'm curious as to whether you enrolled Zari. The A&E program is very good, and they've never given me grief for pulling the kids out to travel (Harmony missed the field trip to the zoo because she was busy exploring Sequoia National Forest...and saw a bear in the wild!) I hope you find an answer that works for your family.


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