As I’ve mentioned before, we are huge Lemony Snicket fans—and today, Calvin brought this lovely volume home from the library. I’m laughing already and I haven’t even read the thing yet.
But this post is not about delightfully droll books, dripping with sardonic humor.
This is a post about being asked about homeschooling. I have had a few people approach me lately wanting to know what curriculum to use and how expensive it is to homeschool. These aren’t BAD questions, but for folks just beginning to look into homeschooling, these are the WRONG questions to start with. Of course, they don’t know that, and it’s no fun being told you’re asking the wrong questions, but these really aren’t the best first questions to ask when considering homeschooling.
It’s natural enough to jump from “I think I want to homeschool my child” to “What curriculum should I use? And “How much does homeschooling cost?” but the answers to these questions depend entirely on a different set of questions, which are much more important, but may not be easy to answer without a lot of thought about them.
I remember when I first began researching homeschooling—I asked every homeschool parent I could find “What curriculum do you use?” and “How much does it cost?” and “How do you schedule your class time?” and EVERYONE answered “It depends.” I would press for details and I usually came away with some variation of “Well, we did this one thing, and it worked for awhile, and then we did this other thing, but now we do something else.”
Turns out, I was asking the wrong questions—but I only learned that after I fumbled through a few months of homeschooling, myself. THEN, I knew why I felt I was only getting non-answers. The homeschoolers weren’t trying to be vague—they were being honest. Their mindset and mine were very, very different—and I was asking them questions from a public school mindset—when homeschooling is altogether a different one. I was coming from a public school lifestyle. Their answers were coming from a completely different lifestyle. And, regardless of method or schedule or curriculum, homeschooling IS a lifestyle. I needed a paradigm shift.
So---what are the right questions for the homeschool-curious to ask?
Before you ask ANYONE else about homeschooling—you need to ask yourself:
Why am I considering homeschooling?
How do I define a good education?
What do I value?
What do I want my children to value?
What experiences knowledge do I want my children to have?
What am I willing to do or sacrifice to make that happen?
These are not simple questions—in fact, they can be kind of loaded—but they are absolutely necessary to answer for yourself. Once you’ve done that (and it takes some time---it’s a good idea to write it all down on paper---and write everything that comes to mind, no matter how silly or wacky your answers may sound) it’s a good idea to ask your spouse these questions—Have your partner answer the questions for him/herself—then compare your answers.
You may find you have similar definitions, values, and ideas (this is, of course, ideal) but you may find that you have wildly disparate answers to these questions. If that’s the case, before you can seriously consider ANY form of homeschooling, you need to work together to get on the same page—to have the same ideals and goals for your kids’ education.
These are not “sexy” questions—they require some real thought and effort—and might even require some deep discussions with your partner. If you have older kids you are thinking about homeschooling, it might be wise to ask them these questions and find out what their answers are.
When you have a pretty solid idea of what you, your spouse, and possibly your children think—you’re almost ready to ask about curriculum, cost, and schedules, but not quite—you need to do a bit of research first—your answers to the above questions will lead you to the KIND of homeschooling that will fit your family’s needs best.
More on that next time!