A candid, and pretty raw look into why we decided to homeschool.
If you don’t know me, let me take a quick minute to introduce myself!
I’m Rocheal: mom to Kellen (almost 13) and William (3.5), wife to Will, and dog-obsessed with our white lab puppy, Yeti.
Back when I had a real job:
I graduated from GSU with a degree in Early Childhood Education and a certification in General Special Education. During my teaching career I earned my gifted cert. So I’m certified to teach Pre-K thru 5th grade gifted, special education, and general education and Pre-K thru 12th grade special ed.
I taught fourth grade general ed, special ed, and gifted and I served as the grade chair over our fourth grade team. Then I quit my job. 🙂
What I do now…
I started my wedding and corporate event photography business in 2018, which has become my full-time gig.
Onto the reason you’re here…
Should I homeschool?
This is SUCH a loaded question and is different for every single family. For me, a huge part of it was being in the educational system and seeing first-hand what matters most to the administration, how teachers have to answer to that, and how it all trickles down to the students.
We chose to leave public education for three big reasons
- What I saw from the inside, as a teacher (testing-related is what I’ll focus on here but there are TONS of other stuff)
- Academic progress
(Note: At the end I’m going to discuss, very quickly, the difference between homeschool and online learning.)
1. What I saw from the inside: Testing
In short: Schools provide the state with test scores. A school’s success is determined largely by said test scores. Therefore teachers are measured almost entirely upon their students’ test scores.
Bottom line: Students are expected to perform.
Gwinnett, where I taught, tests students the following ways:
- Classroom tests given throughout the year based on the teacher’s discretion to measure mastery of classroom content
- Classroom tests given throughout the year based on the grade level’s and administration’s discretion to measure mastery of classroom content
- District Assessments given county-wide to students every 4 weeks (plus the pretest) to measure students’ mastery of content being taught (ie. Academic Knowledge and Skills: “AKS”)
- State Assessments given state-wide to students at various times during the year (depending on which assessment) to measure mastery of content being taught (ie. Academic Knowledge and Skills: “AKS”).
Students start testing in Kindergarten. The Kindergartner’s know they’re testing, and that their performance matters. But most Kindergarten teachers don’t make a huge deal out of it because they know it’s not developmentally appropriate.
By 3rd grade, students start taking the state assessment and that’s a huge deal and the kids know it. In fact, starting somewhere around 1st grade and especially second grade, their teachers start talking about the state test and how important it will be that they do well on them. It’s high pressure.
Side note: A school’s success is largely measured upon the fourth graders’ state assessment scores.
You do the math…
So, in Gwinnett, there are 180 school days. In fourth grade, we spent over half the school days doing test prep and/or testing.
As a parent, I understood the school day continued normally when it wasn’t testing time. No big deal, right?
As a teacher: that’s NOT how it went. Testing days were hard on students and so almost never included teaching new content.
Kellen is social. He gets along with everyone and is a friendly kid with a big heart. In school it seemed like *everyone* had some sort of drama they were dealing with regarding some other kid, and Kellen was constantly jumping back and forth between friends because goodness forbid he didn’t take a side.
My kid was learning it was socially acceptable to get involved in someone else’s drama (and bring others into yours when you have some). Not Cool!
In the evenings I felt like I was trying to unparent the things that were taught to him during the day because teacher’s just don’t have time to really >>>deal<<< with this stuff!
3. Academic Progress
In 2nd grade, Kellen tested into Gwinnett’s gifted program. So from 2nd – 5th grade he was in the gifted program.
Yet, as a parent, I watched him struggle with homework and his grades were inconsistent. Sometimes he would have 100s and sometimes he would have 50s. Conferences were almost always seamless, sans the times they casually mentioned he was chatty.
When I asked Kellen why he didn’t ask his teachers for help, he told me he didn’t know what to ask them because he understood it at school. He was in trouble A LOT and we were both frustrated. I felt like my relationship with him was suffering, and yet I felt like I lacked control. (SO frustrating)
My bestie talked me into it
After about a year of talking it out with my husband, we finally decided to explore homeschool curriculum and assess Kellen to just **see** where he was. Just in case we wanted to actually take the leap.
We were terrified of taking that leap, though. And no one was really into the idea of homeschooling except me. (And so I questioned myself.)
The day I did placement testing with Kellen the summer after he graduated 5th grade was the day we decided to homeschool. He tested on a 2nd grade ELA (English & Language Arts) level and a 3rd grade level in math. (Yup. In Gwinnett’s gifted program since 2nd grade and supposed to be going into 6th…)
Why we love homeschooling
EVERYTHING listed above is GONE.
Testing?? Whenever we want. And exactly HOW I want to do it. And I trust the results!
Socialization?? I’m in charge of 90% of it now, and I LOVE it. No more social BS at school, no more absorbing all that maladaptive crap that happens in the public school system.
But– he has neighbor friends who do go to public school, and he plays outside with them pretty much daily. Do they cuss? Yep. Do they have their own little social dynamic issues? Yep.
But it’s now a small percentage of his social development rather than almost all.
Academic Progress? Get this: Kellen has progressed 3 grade levels in math and 4 grade levels in ELA and we’ve only been homeschooling 2 years. (And the first year was a BUST!)
Think about it: It’s nearly all one-on-one instruction! And instead of the school year being taken up by testing, field days, conferences, teacher work days (we all know kids don’t learn when the sub is in…), and all the other stuff I haven’t mentioned, we hit the books hard and then we play hard.
OH!!! Did I mention he NEVER went on field trips??? (Like, only one his entire school experience) Since starting homeschool (before COVID hit) that’s all we did.
Not every kid is like my kid. But as a teacher, I can tell you that moms who want to homeschool for the RIGHT reasons (not because you think it’ll be easier or because your kid is constantly in trouble in school and you think homeschooling is your ‘out’…) rock it.
If you think for a second that you’re too busy, know that there are TONS of resources out there for your family.
If you think there aren’t opportunities for social development in homeschool, you’re dead wrong. Kellen is MORE socialized now than he ever has been, and his confidence has soared. Kids are supposed to be with their family. And it’s the family’s responsibility to expose the kids to as much as it makes sense for their family.
We’ve gone on I don’t even know how many field trips over the last two years, and as soon as stuff opens back up we’ll continue.
Is the Western Education system the only system that breaks kids up so rigidly by age?? Homeschool isn’t that way. My 3 year old went to most of the field trips my 12 year old went to, and learned right alongside him. Kellen communicates with people of all ages now, and that wasn’t the case in the public education system.
Not to mention: NOTHING is segregated. There are kids of all abilities, all personalities, all socioeconomic statuses, etc. in our groups. And he learns how to walk around the loud kid(s) in the bunch so that he can hear the presenter during field trips.
OH!!! Last rant, I promise: Have you thought about HOW our educational system IS here?!?!
Let me explain it the way I saw it when I was teaching:
- Kids are taught they have inferior knowledge, and adults are the experts in everything. So they learn to basically aspire to grow up; this is still a belief in some adults!
- Kids are taught to sit down, be quiet, and listen to the teacher.
- Kids are taught to ask for permission to do ANYthing.
- Kids are taught to stay on task.
Let me tell you how I think it should be:
- Kids are experts in a variety of subjects, and they in fact do know things adults don’t know. They’re interesting and they have fantastic ideas to contribute.
- Kids should be encouraged to seek facts, come up with beliefs, and contribute their experiences.
- Kids should be taught that they’re in control of their own choices and that those choices have consequences and it’s no one’s “fault” but theirs.
- Kids are frequently reprimanded when they’re excited about something in the public classroom (because imagine if 30 kids got excited; I frequently caught myself shushing my students!) Kids should be encouraged to get excited about learning and stay curious!!! Sometimes those curiosities lead to completely different paths and suddenly them being ‘off task’ leads to a fantastic discovery.
So this is why we decided to homeschool.
If you have questions for me, please ask!! I’ll try to find some time here shortly to gather up all the resources we use in our curriculum and how we take advantage of so many field trips.
The difference between “homeschooling” and “online learning”
Let’s break it down in the simplest way possible!
Homeschool is done on YOUR schedule, based upon your beliefs, where you get to decide the curriculum, how it’s taught, the testing (for the most part) and how it’s administered, and literally all the things.
It’s all yours. The law basically says your kid has to be learning academics for four hours each day.
Online Learning is public school, online. There are different programs, but in short your student is expected to adhere to the same public school practices overall, it’s just done online.
Pros: free curriculum (IMO, most of it sucks)
Cons: pretty much everything else, IMO.
For now, if you’re thinking about homeschooling but aren’t sure where to start:
It’s okay!!!! Relax. We took 3 months off when Kellen started homeschooling because I felt like I wanted to just play with my kids and get to know Kellen again. After all, he’d spent most of his days at school before we pulled him out and I hardly saw him.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about getting started, just relax. Seriously. 🙂 It’ll all be okay.
Check out Part II: Common questions about homeschooling