Friday, December 18, 2009

The Cons of Homeschooling

I received an email from a public schooled 9th grader doing a research paper for school. She explained that she chose the topic of homeschool, and admitted that she specifically writing about the cons of homeschooling. On that note, she asked me the following questions:

What are the major distractions for you and your family? How do you guys deal with these distractions, and do they ever take away from learning time?

Also, do the tv and/or computer serve as distractions for you guys?
Here is how I answered the questions:

Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions.

Generally, the home environment provides much fewer distractions than the school environment. We don't have to take attendance, say the pledge, hand in homework, pass out papers, collect papers, wait while disruptive classmates are reprimanded, or wait until the teacher can get to each student to answer questions. Because of this, we are able to complete the same or more schooling in half the time or less. Distractions are certainly not a con of homeschool!

Anyway, since you asked, here are a couple of distractions we've experienced and how we combat them.

One of the major distractions to homeschooling is the sheer quantity of good curricula available to us. It can be difficult to choose curricula and sometimes the parent will get distracted by a new curriculum she has heard about. This leads some homeschoolers to jump around between curricula, looking for the perfect one. This may lead to a lack of continuity, and sometimes, gaps in learning. For example, I had difficulty discovering a history curricula in the first couple of years. In our case, this did not lead to a problem, as standard K through 3rd grade curricula for history/social studies revolve around learning about following rules, holidays, and our communities and social servants (per our local school district's Grade Level Expectations). These lessons are things that homeschoolers learn easily as a part of living life; we are out in the community experiencing our community resources rather than sitting in a classroom reading about them. Math is a subject where finding a curriculum early on and sticking with it is important. The different sequences used by different math curricula means that switching could lead to gaps. For example, I did not like our math curriculum and switched to a new one when my daughter was in third grade and my son was in first grade. The different sequences meant that I should have required my children to repeat a year. I did not have my daughter repeat; however, she has been able to come up to speed in the gap area (subtraction mastery) over time. My son completed the first grade curriculum by the first publisher by December, so I just had him do the first grade curriculum by the second publisher during the second half of the year, bringing him up to speed for second grade. In our case, this did not lead to a problem which is confirmed by their standardized test scores.

Another distraction experienced by some homeschoolers, us included, is the management of younger siblings during learning time. I have two students to teach, but I also have a two-year old and an infant to take care of. We solve this problem using a variety of solutions. Carefully chosen curriculum, organization, discipline, and flexibility have solved this problem in our home. My students can complete much of their school work independently, and they are expected to focus on school without policing. Each student has a binder that holds the current week's work, divided by subject. They know what needs to be done each day in each subject. So, if it is time for spelling, they know to log into our spelling practice program and practice their current list(s). They don't need my help to do this. They know that if it is time for math, they are to pull out today's math page and work on it. I supervise, provide instruction when needed (ie. we have one math lesson a week, the rest of the week is spent on practicing that lesson and review), and answer questions as they come up. This gives me time to manage the younger children while still being available to my students. Some subjects can be done on the couch while I am nursing the baby. We can read and discuss history, science, and literature selections during these times. Other subjects can be scheduled around nap times or times when the younger ones are preoccupied with other pursuits. When all else fails, we can pick up missed subjects in the evenings or on weekends when Daddy is home to help occupy the younger children. Flexibility is both important to successful homeschooling and a benefit to homeschooling.

You asked about distractions taking away from learning time. This question highlights a flaw in your thinking about homeschooling. When you homeschool, learning time takes place whenever you want it to; we are not limited to the 9am to 3pm school day. Rather, we can fit our learning time in where we wish. For example, last year my son had taekwondo class (which counts as PE) from 10am to 12pm Monday through Friday. We came home, ate lunch, and did the bulk of our school from 1pm to 4pm each day. This year, my daughter has a computer class on Monday afternoon, both kids have an art class every other Tuesday morning, and my son has taekwondo every afternoon/evening. On Mondays, school is completed from 9am to 12pm. On Tuesdays, we do school from 1pm to 3:30pm. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, we keep a regular 9am to 3pm schedule, but we take two 30-minute "recesses" and a 30 minute lunch. Of course, the computer class, taekwondo, and art class all cover school subjects, but for us, they are more of a fun, social time. We do our literature discussions as a bedtime read aloud as a family. We also have about a dozen field trips we take each year; they occur during the school day, in the evenings, and on weekends. As you can see, we "do school" all day long.

TV and the computer do not serve as distractions for us. We, like most homeschoolers we know in real life and online, have strict "screen time" limits. Our children are allowed 90 minutes a day to play on the computer and Wii. They each have timers that they use to keep track of their daily allotment. My experience is that our family limits are on the more generous side. Our TV is rarely on during the day. If my two year old is watching a video, it isn't a distraction because our TV cannot be seen from our school table. There are times when we use the TV and computer to enhance our learning. We watch both documentaries and movies to help give us a better understanding of what we are learning. For example, we will be learning about Robin Hood as part of our Medieval History studies soon. Besides reading our history text, we will also read the classic novel, The Adventures of Robin Hood, see the 1938 film, and watch Men in Tights just for fun. We do not experience TV and computers as distractions.

I hope that answered your questions. If you have follow up questions, or additional ones, feel free to email.
Personally, we do not experience distractions as a negative to homeschooling. On the contrary, I find the things that I jokingly refer to as "Homeschool Distractions" to be benefits to our educational experiences. Things like running off to the science center or history museum, taking a day off to visit the beaver ponds with some friends, spending the day molding coco puff castles, or curling up on the couch to read a good book are all homeschool distractions AND valuable learning experiences. I had a hard time coming up with anything else to mention. I think homeschoolers are very creative about finding ways around distractions in order to have a successful home school.

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Suswan said...

Excellent summary here!!! Good job!

Luke Holzmann said...

Good stuff [smile].


Julee Huy said...

:) I wonder what that student thought after that! :) Maybe they will decide to change their paper ;)

Good answers!

Troy Flores said...

Start by reading the article from start to end. Do not summarize 'on-the-fly' by reading and writing the summary at the same time. help me paraphrase