For today’s parents, there are an overwhelming number of decisions to make when it comes to our children; some of them being of little consequence, and others, such as those having to do with education, being of a more serious nature. Gone are the days where the nuclear family lived in a planned residential community of cookie cutter houses with all neighboring children attending the local school together. Communities have spread out, with more and more people preferring the freedom the suburban outskirts offer. Parents now have the choice of sending their children through their local school system, sending them to a magnet school, investing in a private or parochial school, or choosing to home school. Obviously, no matter what route you choose, your child will be offered a variety of programs and opportunities. However, for those proponents of teaching their children in their home environment, the benefits are many.
For those that may not know much about it, home schooling is more than children sitting around the kitchen table, reading textbooks while Mom balances her checkbook over a cup of coffee. Home schooling is a big commitment typically requiring not only routine and discipline, but also a bit of creativity in order to provide an enhanced educational experience, preparing the child for higher education. While there are many curriculums that can be followed according to your state requirements and even lesson plans to be found through a variety of online resources and networking, it is the parents that can think outside the box in order to demonstrate or emphasize a lesson, that will make the most impact on their students. Home schooling your child means you have only your own financial restraints to consider and are not subject to the public school budget. Following this train of thought, it is much easier for a family that conducts home school to take an impromptu field trip to a local farm on a day when a calf is expected to be born, or to plan a trip to historic Philadelphia to learn about the growth of our nation. Even the simplest of tasks, able to be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home has much to offer. There is much to be said in the value of a simple daily walk with your children, having the freedom to assign them a different task relating to biology or physical education as you stroll.
Children that are home schooled tend to be very well rounded , both academically and socially, contrary to popular belief. You may think, yes, but where is the social interaction with their peers?’ One of the benefits of choosing to take the reins on your child’s education is the camaraderie with other home school families. If you took the time you notice, it is more than likely that resources such as your local library or YMCA have time set aside for home schooling groups. Participating in field trips and lessons with other families provides the social interaction children thrive on, as do any extracurricular activities they are undoubtedly enrolled in.
Having survived a public school system myself, I can say without a moments hesitation that if I had had the opportunity to go out to a pond and catch pollywogs and watch them develop at home while simultaneously awaiting for my jarred chrysalis I found in the field to open rather than read about these things in a biology book, my life may have taken a different turn into the world of zoological science. While I myself have not yet had the opportunity to completely home school my children, I like to think of myself as a Weekend Warrior, and rest assured, for those of us that can’t do it on a full time basis, teaching your children all you can in your spare time provides excellent hands on experience. For instance, while living in Vermont a few years ago, we ordered baby chicks, nurtured them, watched them develop and read all we could about what to expect during their next phase of development. The children, then 3 and 5, were very interested in everything from helping build and clean the chicken coop to watching how they ate and drank. We spent many hours holding our chickens, talking about their anatomy and being amused by them. The children never tired of getting up early to be the first one out to the barn to collect the fresh eggs and of course we all enjoyed the organic eggs our birds had produced. Even at their young ages, the kids totally understood the birds’ lifecycle, the benefits we reaped from having them, and the pride they felt in having a hand in it all.
During our time in Vermont, each day was a lesson. When there was a rock wall to be built along the perimeter of our property, there were the kids looking for worms to feed to the chickens, examining interesting bugs they found in nooks and crannies, studying snakes that would bask on the warm rocks (under our supervision of course, but eventually we all got very comfortable handling what were harmless garden snakes), and even discovering some very large millipedes that we kept in a tank as pets for a while, learning about what they ate, how they shed their skin, etc.
Providing your children with a hands on approach to education means you too will have to get your hands dirty once in a while; be prepared to plant seeds, pick up creatures you perhaps never thought you would, and most importantly, focus on seeing the world through your child’s eyes (in some cases that means literally getting down to view the world from their level). If we all took the time to see the fabulous wonders of the world in which we live through the eyes of a child, perhaps these hands on experiences would yield a whole new generation of well rounded, conservation minded, independent thinkers.