In most respects, I am a very traditional American adult, raised in a traditional American middle-class educational system. I figured since I made it through and did well enough in life that the traditional educational model was good enough. In fact, why even consider another model unless you can afford private school – which is typically just an upscale version of the same traditional model with some extra frills.
When my 5th grader was moving to the middle school I realized for a variety of reasons that the traditional model was not going to meet his needs. A creative and sensitive soul who required more time to process school work and had many extra-curricular interests, the traditional middle school day would overwhelm him. His peers were taking the 7AM bus to school, carrying 30+lb backpacks plus instruments if applicable, changing classes every 45 minutes, bussing back home, trying to avoid confrontations with misbehaving kids and arriving exhausted with hours of homework left to do in the evening. I realized this would crush him and we would end up only a minor part of his newly budding teenage years.
By happenstance, something caught my attention about an introduction to charter/home-school programs. Our family attended the introduction and we decided to give it a try as an alternative schooling option.
At first, we were confused by the lack of stress, self-paced educational programming and increased time that our family spent together participating in his educational process. We worried that his progress would be stunted by what appeared to be a lack of work volume. We asked ourselves “was he falling behind his peers?”, “would he get enough social time?”, “would we be adequate instructors at-home?”.
What we found was that participating in homeschool brought us closer to our child so that we could continue to speak into his life. We found that his learning often also became our own, exploring topics together that we did not have any answers for ourselves. We found that our child is growing as a healthy, empathetic person who is learning to think independently and become self-motivated. We also appreciate that negative peer influences, common at this age, play a minimal role in his life. We discovered that the quality of teacher facilitation in and out of the classroom exceeded our expectations for excellence.
Another wonderful aspect of this alternative educational system is the opportunity for continued parental involvement. With virtually unlimited opportunities to help or share skills with the kids, the kids learn to see adults as a trusted, respected and appreciated resource. The benefits from the adult side of the fence are immense including a sense of personal fulfillment, connection with the class, and being part of the kid’s lives at this critical stage. When traditional school tends to end a parent’s connection to their children, this alternative model not only inspires learning but strengthens family bonds.
For someone who once thought that home-schooling programs were for people who wanted to withdraw from society, I cannot say enough about how this alternative educational model creates better people, better citizens, and sometimes better parents! I only wish that I had had the opportunity to attend a similar program.