Friday, July 20, 2012

Why Parents Should Consider Homeschooling Their Children

English: Illustration of a lapbook on the subj...
Illustration of a lapbook on the subject of 'Space' used in a homeschooling course (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Gwen Nicodemus

People often ask me why I homeschool my children. "What are the benefits of home education?"

I have to temper my tongue when answering because the first thought that comes to mind is "Why shouldn't I homeschool my kids. It's better for them."

I strongly believe in the benefits of homeschooling. I think it's good for most children (whether or not it's a good idea for their parents is an entirely different question).

Most kids, say those who fall nicely in the center of the bell curve, will probably do fine in school. However, they probably could do better at home.

Why should you and your children settle for fine? Why? Many reasons make homeschooling a good idea. These are the most important ones.

True customization is possible

A teacher in a classroom cannot customize her teaching to each individual kid. (S)he doesn't have the time and probably doesn't have the ability. How could one person learn to excel at teaching kids with ADD, Tourette's, dyslexia, depression, PTSD, autism, and the myriad other problems people have? I don't see it. As a homeschooling mother, I only have to learn to teach around and with the problems my children have.

Learning can stay fun

Schools in the United States were not built to educate children. They were built to give future factory workers the minimum they would need to perform adequately in a factory. Future workers needed to know how to read, how to do some basic math, how to do repetitive boring tasks, and how to respond to bells and whistles.

As a consequence, schools in themselves are little factories churning out kids. Besides the fact that factory work isn't readily available in the United States anymore, this method of education stamps out the fun of learning.

Most homeschoolers don't do tons of worksheets. Once the kid has mastered a topic, (s)he goes onto the next topic. Every once in a while the parent might re-test the kid, be it with a formal test or in a sneaky way. Let's face it. Very few kids like worksheets, and worksheets are a complete negative and waste of time for dyslexics, which current estimates peg at 20% of children.

Instead of worksheets and bells, children can read, experiment and have fun. I did a worksheet-less math lesson with my children once where we calculated the cost of taking a trip to a convention in a different city.

The kids had to research carbon emissions for various forms of transportation and the cost of the transportation. They had to come up with different ways of eating during the trip and do a cost vs. nutrition analysis. They figured out the time/cost/environmental tradeoff. They had to find the cheapest way to make the trip and the most expensive. They had fun. They asked to do a similar math lesson again.

I can accommodate my children

My daughter is an excellent reader, but my son is dyslexic. My son is a whiz at math and strategy, and my daughter is less skilled with those tasks. My daughter is creative with physical things she can hold in her hand, like crafts. My son is creative with abstract ideas. I can accommodate them.

When we study a book, either my husband reads it to both children for bedtime stories or I have my daughter read it and hand my son an iPod with the audio version loaded.

Since worksheets are daunting, they don't show up in our curriculum. Since my daughter is creative with physical media, I can make her "tests" be something like "show me how this works by building something with Lego or modeling clay." For my son, I can have him draw me a picture, or if I give him enough time, he can explain his ideas verbally.

I can give my son more time to write, or I can let him type. Kids in classrooms typically don't have their own computer in front of them.

I can influence my children

I am the primary influence in my children's lives; similarly aged kids are not. Yes, they still learn silly kid jokes, but they haven't learned playground meanness. I can't stress how wonderful this is.

Read about my experience with my kids and a trip planning math lesson and at the end of the article you can download free instructions and a template for doing this exercise with your children.
Gwen Nicodemus is a freelance engineer/writer and a homeschooling mom.

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