The Organic Prepper: Why You Should Homeschool

Linnea Johnson at The Organic Prepper writes What, Me Homeschool? Here’s Why You Should Consider Homeschooling Your Children as many parents, now seeing what their kids actually learn in school as their kids work from home, come to the realization that they either don’t like what their kids are being taught or that their kids are learning better on their own and wonder if homeschooling must just be a better way to go.

Should you consider homeschooling?

Have you ever asked yourself what might possess someone to homeschool instead of getting a free education in the public schools?  Have you, friends, or family members had less than desirable experiences in schools, whether public or private?  Have you known children who were different, perhaps had learning differences, or were bullied by other children or in my personal experience, even by the teacher, and did not thrive in a classroom situation?

Here are some things to think about.

Does the classroom actually prepare kids for real life?

We spend the rest of our lives after we complete our schooling interacting with people of all ages, ethnicities, worldviews, abilities, and income levels.  Why would we expect children, who are kept almost all their days in classrooms of children and teens the same age, probably a similar income level, and with similar curriculum to be able to function effectively and happily in a world of such diversity?

Related: A Homeschooling Guide for Public Schoolers

Children are still figuring out who they are, what they believe about the world, and whom they can trust.  If a child is in the majority of a group, they will probably do just fine, but if they are different in some way, perhaps a more critical or deeper thinker, or one who needs more hands-on learning, or one who looks different, or one who comes from a different culture, or one who has different abilities, they will suffer cognitive dissonance at a young age and will be expected to respond as the majority responds.

Is cognitive dissonance bad?  Not always. That’s how we learn new things, but sometimes kids need support to help them bridge the two ideas or to decide if the new idea is one they can accept.

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefsideas, or values. The occurrence of cognitive dissonance is a consequence of a person’s performing an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and values; and also occurs when confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values. (Source)

Children are quick to “fix” other children who are different, calling them stupid, or ugly, or “not cool”, or clumsy, or _______… you fill in the blank.  You’re likely to harken back to your own experiences of this example of socialization, or more aptly, ensuring everyone thinks, looks, talks, and even believes the same way.

Is this what we want from a society that desperately needs creative thinking and different solutions to solve the complex problems we face?  Shouldn’t there be some freedom to think differently without being beaten down?

What are your beliefs?

Whether you believe freedom of thought is important or whether you believe your child’s natural abilities and gifts should be encouraged and nurtured, or whether you believe that the worldview of the majority is inconsistent with what you want your child to learn, there are a plethora of reasons to consider homeschooling.  In our family, we had a number of reasons.

One son had some learning differences and experienced bullying, another needed more hands-on learning than could be reasonably provided in a large classroom.  We ran the gamut between public, private, and homeschool, and experienced the pros and cons of each.  Heck, I even went on to get a masters degree in curriculum and instruction and started a PhD, became a licensed secondary education teacher, and in the course of my work experience taught everything from preschool music to English as a 2nd language, to high school technology, business, and personal finance to adult education.

To be sure, there is a best learning environment for everyone; it’s just a challenge to find it sometimes.  I wanted to be the kind of parent who helped my kids find out who they really were and to discover their natural abilities, and interests, without unduly sheltering them from others.  I wanted them to love to learn and to do it for the rest of their lives.  They took music lessons, played on teams, attended church and youth groups, did community service, and didn’t miss out on that time with their peers, but did have time to explore what really interested them and develop those talents.

Need More Reasons to Consider Homeschooling?

 Homeschooled kids score higher on standardized tests and are better adapted socially according to research. Lots of famous people have homeschooled and with good results.  Some post-secondary schools now prefer homeschooled students:

Away from the standardized tests and rigid schedules in public education, kids can let their creative sides flourish, learn about the world they live in, and, when it’s time, earn acceptance into the best colleges in the world.

“The high achievement level of homeschoolers is readily recognized by recruiters from some of the best colleges in the nation,” education expert Dr. Susan Berry recently told Alpha Omega.

“Schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Stanford, and Duke University all actively recruit homeschoolers,” Berry said.

However, it’s not that being schooled at home advances an application.

The real value lies in what the added freedom of homeschooling allows students to do with their time.

Tell me the truth…this isn’t all fun and games

Were there challenges on the homeschool path?  Sure.  You still pay your taxes that support the public schools and buy curriculum and lessons on top of that.  Parents need to find a way to teach and care for their children through co-ops or splitting the work between themselves and others and work to provide an income.  It’s not a choice for the faint-hearted, but it can be done, and there are some significant rewards including building a relationship with your children beyond dinner, homework, and bedtime.   Your children will learn to work together, work with you, and learn from you.  You can take outings or vacations, and not just on holiday weekends…(continues)

Mises Institute: The School Closures Are a Big Threat to the Power of Public Schools

Ryan McMaken at Mises Institute writes about how US school closures during this pandemic are changing the way people think about schools, confidence in the institution, and how it may lead to changes in the future. The School Closures Are a Big Threat to the Power of Public Schools

Twenty twenty is likely to be a watershed year in the history of public schooling. And things aren’t looking good for the public schools.

For decades, we’ve been fed a near-daily diet of claims that public schooling is one of the most important—if not the most important—institutions in America. We’re also told that there’s not nearly enough of it, and this leads to demands for longer school hours, longer school years, and ever larger amounts of money spent on more facilities and more tech.

And then, all of sudden, with the panic over COVID-19, it was gone.

It turns out that public schooling wasn’t actually all that important after all, and that extending the lives of the over-seventy demographic takes precedence.

Yes, the schools have tried to keep up the ruse that students are all diligently doing their school work at home, but by late April it was already apparent that the old model of “doing public school” via internet isn’t working. In some places, class participation has collapsed by 60 percent, as students simply aren’t showing up for the virtual lessons.

The political repercussions of all this will be sizable.

Changing Attitudes among the Middle Classes

Ironically, public schools have essentially ditched lower-income families almost completely even though school district bureaucrats have long based the political legitimacy of public schools on the idea that they are an essential resource for low-income students. So as long as the physical schools remain closed, this claim will become increasingly unconvincing. After all, “virtual” public schooling simply doesn’t work for these families, since lower-income households are more likely to depend on both parents’ incomes and parents may have less flexible job schedules. This means less time for parents to make sure little Sally logs on to her virtual classes. Many lower-income households don’t even have internet access or computing equipment beyond their smartphones. Only 56 percent of households with incomes under $30,000 have access to broadband internet.

Nonetheless, working-class and lower-income parents are likely to return their children to the schools when they open again. Many believe they have no other choice.

Attitudes among the middle classes will be a little different, however, and may be more politically damaging to the future of the public schools.

Like their lower-income counterparts, middle class parents have long been happy to take advantage of the schools as a child-care service. But the non-educational amenities didn’t stop there. Middle-class parents especially have long  embraced the idea that billions of dollars spent on school music programs, school sports, and other extracurriculars were all absolutely essential to student success. Sports provided an important social function for both the students and the larger community.

But as the list of amenities we once associated with schooling gets shorter and shorter, households at all income levels will start to wonder what exactly they’re paying for.

Stripped of the non-academic side of things,  public schools now must sell themselves only as providers of academic skills. Many parents are likely to be left unimpressed, and this will be all the more true for middle class families where the parents are able to readily adopt homeschooling as a real substitute. The households that do have the infrastructure to do this are now far more likely to conclude that they simply don’t need the public schools much of the time. There are now so many resources provided for free outside the schools—such as Khan Academy, to just name one—that those who are already savvy with online informational resources will quickly understand that the schools aren’t essential.

In addition to this, many parents who were on autopilot in terms of assuming they were getting their money’s worth may suddenly be realizing that public schools—even when they were physically open—weren’t that much of a bargain after all…(continues)

The Organic Prepper: A Homeschooling Guide for Public Schoolers

Kara Stiff at The Organic Prepper is a homeschooling parent and shares her thoughts with those who are attempting to home school their public school children during the Covid-19 pandemic – A Homeschooling Guide for Public Schoolers

My heart goes out to all the parents who were never planning to home school, but nevertheless find themselves teaching their children at home today. I chose this beautiful, crazy life, and I completely understand why some people wouldn’t choose it. But here we are. We have to do what we have to do. You don’t want them to fall behind. You don’t want to lose your mind.

Believe it or not, it’s a golden opportunity.

Caveat: these are only my personal thoughts. I’m not a professional educator, just a parent successfully homeschooling.

This advice is only for people whose greatest hurdle right now is remaining sane with the little ones. This is a high bar to clear, to be sure, but some people are facing the little people plus big financial problems, they’re sick or working through mental health issues, or they’re managing other emergencies. In those cases, if you’re keeping everyone more or less fed and warm then you’re succeeding, and you don’t need me to tell you to forget the rest for as long as necessary.

For everyone else, I do have a little advice. I’m sure you’re getting support from your school district, which is excellent. Worrying about what to teach is often a new homeschooler’s first and biggest concern. But deciding what to teach is actually the easy part, and now it’s mom, dad, uncle or grandma doing the really hard part: actually sitting with the kid, helping/making him or her do the work.

First, I think you can safely let go of the worry that you may not be a good enough teacher because you’re a terrible speller, or you think you’re bad at math. It’s good to know these things about yourself so they can be addressed, but the truth is that how great you personally are at division isn’t necessarily a predictor of success. Neither is how well you explain things, or even how well you demonstrate looking things up, although that is a priceless skill to impart to inquiring minds. To my mind, the most important skill for successful homeschooling is:

Controlling your own frustration

We adults are fantastically knowledgeable and amazingly skilled. No, really, we are! So we forget how hard it is to do seemingly simple things for the first time. I remember sitting in my college biochemistry class, listening to the professor say:

“Come on you guys, this is easy!”

Folks, I’m here to tell you that biochemistry isn’t easy for most people who are new to it, especially people who just drug themselves out of bed five minutes ago, possibly with a touch of a hangover. And reading isn’t easy for a five-year-old, and multiplication isn’t easy for an eight-year-old.

The parent has to slow down, go through it again, redirect the child’s attention for the hundredth time and explain the material in a different way, preferably without pulling out their own hair. You can develop these skills. Even if you’re new to it, and you don’t find it easy.

When it just isn’t working, the parent has to know when to shift gears and let it rest. Preserving your relationship with the child is always very important, but it’s doubly so when you’re home with them all day every day.

I think I can safely say that all homeschool parents want to scream sometimes. Many of us have threatened to send our kids to public school at one point or another (or maybe once a week). It doesn’t make you a bad parent or even a bad teacher, it just makes you human. In the last week, I have seen a bunch of public school parents join my online homeschool groups, and the outpouring of sympathy, support and good ideas from homeschool parents makes me tear up. We’re here for you. Get in touch.

Run your day in a way that works for YOU

Just because they’re usually in school for six or eight hours a day doesn’t mean you have to school them for six or eight hours a day. That schedule is a crowd control measure instituted for the good of society, not for the good of children.

My children are homeschooled primarily because I think a kid should spend a lot of time outside moving around, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do that and public school. My own public school experience was pretty different from the norm today, with much less homework and much more self-direction, but still, I feel that I didn’t get enough practice directing my own attention. Research backs me up on this: kids who get many hours of freedom develop excellent executive function, which not only makes them a valuable employee but also helps them run their own life someday.

At my house, we do about an hour of formal school work per day, six or seven days a week. The rest of the time the kids help me with gardening and animal care, climb trees and play in the creek, draw and write and read things on their own or together, and make stuff out of Legos. They have an hour of screen time each afternoon just so they will sit down and be quiet, usually a documentary. David Attenborough is definitely this house’s biggest celebrity. We’re also accustomed to spending several days of the week with other homeschool families, although obviously that is curtailed now due to social distancing.

Learning doesn’t stop when we leave the table, because kids are unstoppable learning machines when they’re not too tired or stressed out. I’m always available to answer questions and help look stuff up, and the questions are pretty frequent. An adult reads to them (or they read to us) books of their choosing at bedtime, and sometimes just after dinner, too. It’s also a pretty common occurrence in my house for a child to see an adult reading a novel, a piece of nonfiction, or The Economist, and request to have it read aloud to them, which we do. They also sometimes watch me balance the household budget.

The schedule that works best for your family might look very different from ours, and that is good. Children are people. People have very different needs, and one of the charms of schooling at home is that you can arrange things in a pretty good compromise to meet everyone’s needs. An hour or two of focused one-on-two attention per day is plenty of time for my four- and seven-year-olds to get well ahead of grade level on reading, writing, and math…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at The Organic Prepper.

FEE: Coronavirus May Lead to “Mass Homeschooling”

From the Foundation for Economic Education comes this article on how the coronavirus pandemic could lead to more homeschooling because of school closures.

s fears of coronavirus mount around the globe, cities and countries are taking action to prevent the new respiratory virus strain from spreading. While the virus has not yet hit hard in the United States, government officials and health agencies have enacted response plans, corporations are halting travel abroad, and education leaders are grappling with what a widespread domestic outbreak of the virus could mean for schoolchildren.

In countries where the virus is active, schools have been shut down and children are at home, learning alongside their parents or through online education portals. The New York Times reports that US schools have been prompted this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare for a coronavirus epidemic that could shutter schools and require alternate forms of teaching and learning outside the conventional classroom. According to Kevin Carey of the New America think tank, who spoke to the Times, coronavirus in the US could lead to “a vast unplanned experiment in mass home-schooling.”

It’s unfortunate that it takes a viral epidemic to spotlight the many alternatives to conventional K-12 schooling.

Indeed, in Hong Kong this is already occurring. The coronavirus outbreak led to orders for schools to be shut down in the city for two months, affecting 800,000 students. An article this week in The Wall Street Journal declares that “coronavirus prompts a whole city to try home schooling,” noting that in Hong Kong many children are completing lessons virtually through online learning platforms or receiving live instruction from teachers through Google Hangouts or similar digital tools.

It’s unfortunate that it takes a viral epidemic to spotlight the many alternatives to conventional K-12 schooling. Not only is homeschooling widely popular in the US, educating approximately two million children nationwide, but other schooling alternatives, such as virtual learning, microschooling, and hybrid homeschooling continue to sprout.

Interest in online learning options is sure to increase as the coronavirus spreads, but other in-person schooling alternatives are also likely to gain notoriety.

Virtual learning programs such as the Florida Virtual School, founded in 1997 as the nation’s first fully online public high school, and K12, Inc., one of the largest providers of virtual schooling, enable young people to take a complete course load and earn a high school diploma without sitting in a traditional classroom environment. Supplementary online programs, such as Khan Academy and Outschool, expand learning options and allow young people to dig deeper into topics that interest them or those in which they may need some additional help.

Interest in online learning options is sure to increase as the coronavirus spreads, but other in-person schooling alternatives are also likely to gain notoriety. Microschools, for example, are small, home-based, multi-age learning environments that act like a one-room schoolhouse, typically with no more than 8 to 12 students at a time. Prenda is a fast-growing network of these branded, in-home microschools, with more than 80 schools in Arizona alone serving some 550 students, and plans to expand out-of-state.

Like microschools, hybrid homeschooling programs and small, community-based classes for homeschoolers are also gaining popularity and may be swept into the limelight if conventional schools are forced to temporarily close. Operating with small, age-mixed groups of children, these hybrid models and classes offer an alternative to institutional schooling, avoiding large classrooms and crowded buildings. I have recently launched a marketplace platform, Unschool.school, that connects educators, parents, and learners to these homeschooling models and out-of-school learning experiences, fostering small group, in-person interactions in local community spaces, such as art studios, makerspaces, and spare dining rooms.

These emerging learning options outside of traditional schooling show not only that “mass homeschooling” is possible but also that it may be highly desirable. Personalized learning, small group interactions that build community and connection, and education without the coercion inherent in standard schooling are beneficial whether or not a pending epidemic is what exposes families to these education possibilities. Mass homeschooling may be just the cure we need.

Mosby: Off-Grid Education

John Mosby at Mountain Guerrilla blog has some good thoughts (as usual) posted on the reasons for and benefits of home schooling versus public schooling titled Off-Grid Education. Below is a brief excerpt from the article.

…Public schools can teach knowledge. Whether the knowledge they teach has any relevance to the real world, past the primary school grades, is open to debate, but the fundamentals of education: reading, writing, and arithmetic, the public schools CAN—and traditionally HAVE—done a reasonably good job of. The thing is though, any functioning adult, with the willingness to do so, can ALSO teach those, and will—in my experience—do a much better job of making them accessible to the child, than a school teacher.

My seven year old is an age-peer with second graders. She is currently reading Wildwood Wisdom, by Ellsworth Jaeger. Slowly, but she is reading it, and she carries it with her, all the time, reading sections that interest her, or come to her attention because of something she sees around the farm. Wildwood Wisdom, for those poor, sheltered souls unfamiliar with this classic of woodcraft, is a 474 page tome on outdoor living skills, written in 1945, and generally targeted at teenage and adult readers.

She also does basic arithmetic, including addition and subtraction, and is working on multiplication. She has also written letters and notes to friends and family, on paper, with pens and pencils.

It COULD be argued that we are a special case, because I have a post-graduate degree, and formal training in pedagogy, but that would be a bullshit argument, because people have been teaching their own children how to read and do arithmetic and write, as long as there has been reading, writing, and arithmetic. Again, ANY parent—or interested, functional adult—can teach the same basic knowledge that a public grammar school teacher can. From there, learning is—or should be—largely self-directed anyway. Sure, kids should probably know the basics of things like the Scientific Method, and Civics, etc, but guess what? If you know how to read, you can learn those things by….reading…and all it requires is interest. If that interest is not present, no amount of threats about “failing,” “bad grades,” or “permanent records,” is going to create that interest in a “student.” You know who does a good job of eliciting interest in young people about any given subject? The adults they are familiar with and respect, who display an interest in that subject…not public school teachers.

Values and beliefs have no place—whatsoever—being taught in public schools. Period. Values and beliefs are cultural artifacts depending on religion and cultural worldviews. It MIGHT have been possible, once upon a time, for teachers in small, rural communities, who attended church with the local community, and spent their social time within the community…and ideally, was raised within the community…to effectively teach values and beliefs in a schoolroom setting, but I have to be honest…

Click here to read the entire article at MountainGuerrilla.

FEE: In the Wake of Mass Shootings, Parents Reconsider Mass Schooling

From the Foundation for Economic Education:

In the Wake of Mass Shootings, Parents Reconsider Mass Schooling

Parents who remove their children from the confines of the conventional classroom are not running away from reality. They are running towards it.

In the wake of recent tragic school shootings, anxious parents are contemplating homeschooling to protect their children. After February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Miami Herald reported that more parents were considering the homeschooling option. And after Friday’s disturbing school shooting in Sante Fe, Texas, a local ABC news affiliate in Alabama reported the increasing appeal of homeschooling.

“If I had the time, I would teach my kids myself, and I would know that they’re safe,” a father of four told ABC station, WAAY31. A public school teacher interviewed by the channel disagreed with the idea of homeschooling. According to the news story, the teacher “says resorting to homeschooling is teaching your children to run from reality.”

But that raises the question: Is compulsory mass schooling “reality”?

Public Schools Are Consuming More and More of Kids’ Time

Segregating children by age into increasingly restrictive, test-driven classrooms where they are forced by law to be unless a parent or caregiver liberates them is hardly “reality.” What’s worse is that young people are spending increasingly more time in this coercive “reality” than ever before.

In the case of teens, spending more time in school and school-like activities may be further separating them from the actual real world.

For young children ages six to eight, schooling increased from an average of five hours a day in 1981-82 to an average of seven hours a day in 2002-03. And for today’s teens, schooling consumes much more of their time than it did for previous generations, seeping into summertime and other historically school-free periods. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42 percent of teens were enrolled in school during July 2016, compared to only 10 percent enrolled in July 1985.

In the case of teens, spending more time in school and school-like activities may be further separating them from the actual real world in which they previously came of age. As Business Insider reports: “Almost 60% of teens in 1979 had a job, compared to 34% in 2015.” Spending more time in the contrived reality of forced schooling and less time in authentic, multi-age, productive communities may be taking its toll on today’s youth…

Click here to continue reading at FEE