For years, I’ve insisted we homeschool for academic reasons only. School was a poor fit for my older, my younger came along for the ride a few years later, blah, blah, blah. But this time of year, this back-to-school time, gets me thinking of an ever growing list of better reasons to homeschool. Here’s my top eight:
- The paperwork. Even when the kids were in preschool, I was overwhelmed with the forms requiring signatures, the kids’ health insurance information, and (really?) the name and address of their dentist (if only the school would take them to the dentist). As a homeschooler in Michigan, formal paperwork is nonexistent. The sort associated with planning continues and is in spades, but at least I don’t have to find the dentist’s address.
- School supply shopping. Okay, I really like new notebooks, binders, pens, and all, but my school-supply days were before the lists the schools send out. A friend of mine, sending her child to sixth grade after a few years of homeschooling, was faced with a list including 6 – 1.5″ binders, an equal number of notebooks, various folders, and who-knows-what-else. How the child is to carry 9″ of binders and another 6″ of notebooks and paper (not to mention text books) is a mystery, and insider wisdom (a seventh grader at the same school) says for most classes, only a folder ends up used. We’re still working out of a stock of notebooks and folders my younger acquired half a decade ago when in his “paperwork” special interest phase. Plus, they are both still on their first backpacks. Can we say, “More money for books?”
- School clothing shopping. I’m not a big shopper. Neither are my boys, at least for clothing. Yes, they’ve outgrown all but two pair of long pants (that’s one pair for each). On the plus side, they’d rather do their work in jammies all day, and lounge pants don’t need to reach your ankles. Besides, most homeschooled kids are, well, less fashion inclined that their school-aged peers, so keeping up with the latest styles seems (in my unofficial poll) to be less of an issue. All that’s good, since my guys are so lean and particular that finding pants that won’t fall off and will be worn takes a series of miracles that just can’t be forced into the back-to-school season.
- The meetings. School seems to come with more meetings than it did when I was a kid. I vaguely remember an open house mid-fall and twice-yearly conferences. Now I hear about freshman class meetings, sports meetings, open houses, PTA meetings, and more. Yikes. I don’t like meetings and have plenty through church, thank you very much.
- Early mornings. Call me lazy, but the idea of jettisoning a kid out the door at 6:45 gives me the heebie jeebies. We aim for a 9 am start around here. With one teenager who prefers not to see daylight until 10, this is challenging enough.
- Late nights. My older son’s work load is fairly heavy this year, although I’ll maintain it’s perfectly appropriate for a high school aged child. With an hour of piano practice a day, karate a few days a week, play practice, and other things I can’t remember now, life gets busy. I’m quite unnerved at the length of the days the schooling high schoolers I know seem to have. I’m not sure when sleep falls on their schedules, aside from on weekends. Besides, if the boys are gone all the time, who’s going to mow the lawn and vacuum the living room?
- Fundraisers. Perhaps I’m missing out on an obvious income stream, but as homeschoolers, we’ve yet to hold a fundraiser. I couldn’t even successfully sell Girl Scout cookies as a child, so avoiding the sale of candy, wrapping paper, magazines, and discount purchase cards keeps me in a happier place. (Ideas that won’t tick of my neighbors, friends, and family are appreciated, however.)
- Parent/teacher conferences. Honestly, I enjoyed these in the Montessori of my sons’ preschool and kindergarten years (yeah, I send them to school when they’re tiny and bring them home when they’re bigger). They were 20 to 30 minutes of time with a woman I enjoyed who truly liked my kids and was brutally honest about their strengths and weaknesses. It worked for me. Come first grade, they just became recitations of my older’s shortcomings, and the intervals between formal conference times were punctuated by longer meetings with gradually more and more attendees and leaving me with the feeling that we were talking about different children. Those meetings were a dark time for me — nightmare material if there ever was. (see number 4).