Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
I have been following the discussion on Mark Shea’s recent post about homeschooling with great interest.
When it comes to schooling choices, I definitely defend every family’s right to do what works best for them. I have seen enough successful combinations of homeschool, public school, and private school over the years to know that there is no one right way to educate Catholic children. But some of the participants in Shea’s combox disagree.
Says one: “Fact: Home schooled kids are socially awkward. Fact: 99% of home schooled kids I have ever met were naive, arrogant, and ignorant. Fact: You should not home school your children unless the Catholic school in your area is teaching heresy or out of your price range. Fact: Seriously. Don’t do it.”
To which I say: Come meet my kids.
Says another: ”... And if, IF, a Catholic school is not living up to its proper identity, it is the serious responsibility of every and any Catholic to do everything possible to make it do so. Abandoning ship is not a proper response.”
To which I say: I have not abandoned ship. My “ship” consists of the husband and eight children God has seen fit to give me. I am confident that God is not calling me to sacrifice my children’s educations and abandon my duties in mothering my eight children in order to take on the colossal responsibility of reforming my local Catholic schools. Which we could not even begin to afford anyway. But thank you, childless person, for your great trust in my personal indefatigability and wealth.
As I often struggle with the decision to homeschool myself, I am a bit of a reluctant spokesperson for homeschooling in general. But these comments have inspired me to share three of what I see as the very positive effects of homeschooling in my own family.
1. We get to be with our kids. And they get to be with us. Naturally, this is sometimes challenging (especially come February when we would really like to see a little less of each other and the insides of these walls), but mostly we are close in a way that we can all appreciate. I was reminded of this blessing just last night when I went to drop off my two oldest kids at a new youth group. “I’ll just walk you in and make sure you’re in the right place,” I told them, “I promise I won’t embarrass you.” My 15-year-old daughter immediately responded, “You are not embarrassing!!” I ask you: How many 15-year-olds don’t know that they are supposed to think their mother is embarrassing?
2. My kids are normal. It really bothers me that so many people believe that homeschoolers are a bunch of socially awkward misfits. Of course some homeschoolers are socially awkward misfits, but so are some kids who go to school. With my own kids, I have actually been largely impressed with the social effects of homeschooling. My kids have not been conditioned to interact within a narrowly defined peer group. Every one of my kids is competent and comfortable socializing and interacting with everyone—from little kids to grown ups. People are just people. They learn that from an early age.
3. Our life is flexible. We set our schedule in ways that make sense to us. On most days, no one (besides my husband) needs to be anywhere at any specific time early in the morning. We can take a day off mid-week if we have an event we’d like to attend or we can take an off-season vacation. In this way, we fit our schooling around our family life instead of the other way around. We do have a regular schooling schedule, but we get to decide what it is, and we get to change it as needed. I look at the schedules of some friends of ours, whose kids go to school, and think, “I could never do that.” Which is funny, because I’m pretty sure they think exactly that about our homeschooling life.
In the end, I think many people assume that homeschoolers choose homeschooling out of fear—fear of losing control over their kids or fear of negative influences in the schools. Some of us might have started out that way, but fear isn’t enough to keep you going. Especially through February.
I think most people choose homeschooling, and continue to choose homeschooling, for very positive reasons. The three I’ve shared here are just a beginning. What are some of yours?