Tuesday, February 16, 2016

After Homeschooling K-8, Why We Are Sending the Oldest to a Public High School.

When we first started homeschooling, people would always ask me if we planned on homeschooling "all the way though."  And, I always answered with an "I don't know, but we probably will."

Except now we're not. 

Part of the reason is that situations change and locations change.  We've homeschooled in different states and different locations and one thing I've learned is that schooling options vary A LOT. 

Our oldest will actually be going to a small, public, magnet, "early college" school next year. Essentially it's a small school for smart/academic/serious students who wish to earn college credit while still in high school.  She was accepted into it, and we think it may be a good fit for her.  The students are generally more serious and well-behaved and everyone is expected to put a lot of effort into their studies.  

So we're going to try it.

I have to say that for the most part, I've loved homeschooling.  And, I loved all the people we have met through homeschooling.  And, I'll still be homeschooling the younger ones, but is a real relief not to feel the pressure of homeschooling high school next year.

Here are some of the reasons, I was hesitant about continuing to homeschooling through the high school years.  I fully realize that many people very successfully homeschool their children through high school and those students do very well.   I also realize that all children are different and have different needs. 

The stakes are high.   Elementary school is just lower stakes than high school. In the early grades, all you really need to worry about are the basics.  However, grades in high school can affect college admission which can affect future career options.   Academic skills you learn in high school can affect how one does in college. I realize that college is not for everyone.  Different people have different gifts and talents and not everyone needs college. But our family tends to be more academic and not so good at working with our hands.  We are highly educated, but absolutely terrible at things like home improvements, building stuff, crafty stuff, etc. . Now, if our children determine that they have a religious vocation and want to entire the convent after high school, that is great.  But otherwise, I see college in their future. 

The subject matter is more difficult.  With most homeschooling families, the older kids get, the more they are expected to work independently.  Which is a GOOD thing.  I feel as though our children have really learned to be self-directed, self-motivated, how to teach themselves.   The way we homeschool if that I generally assign work, help with any questions, and then go over the work and make them correct EVERY SINGLE THING they got wrong.   It seems to be working fairly well, but as the subject matter becomes more difficult, this process becomes more difficult.  I don't have the time to re-learn chemistry so I can help with it.   

The advantage of the classroom environment.  Not all students enjoy being in a classroom or learning with a group, but my oldest child DOES.  Throughout the years, she's taken several classes through various co-ops and seems to really enjoy the classroom environment.  Listening to lectures, the exchange of ideas, learning in a group all has its advantages.  Especially if you are learning with other students who are serious about learning as well.  When I was in high school and college, I generally liked attending class, just that energy of learning in a group was very motivating. 

Math/Science.  I have heard that homeschoolers in general tend to do slightly better in writing/language skills and slightly worse in math/science skills.Obviously there are many exceptions to this, this is just a generality.  But it makes sense to me.  Many homeschool curriculum and programs are very much liberal arts based and emphasize writing and reading quite a bit.  Plus, many homeschoolers love to read and have the time to do quite a bit of it.   Homeschooling programs oftentimes tend to focus on critical thinking and analysis.  Which is great.  But on the flip side, I do think there is a slight de-emphasis on math and science.  Of course many homeschoolers do quite well in these subjects, but on a whole. I think science is something that's a bit harder to do at home.  Let's face it, I'm not going to go out and buy Bunsen burners so we can have chem lab on my kitchen table.  I have absolutely zero desire to keep a dead cat in my freezer so we can dissect it.   However, I really want my children to have strong math/science skills.  Not that a liberal arts education isn't great, but I do think that it may be a bit easier to find a job in a career that requires more math/science as opposed to liberal arts (for example a career in the medical field or engineering as opposed to being a history or philosophy professor). We've had enough employment issues in our house for me to very much want my children to pursue a field of study/career that makes them highly employable. 

The $$$ involved.  Since I'm not about to have chem lab on my kitchen table with a toddler running around, there are many classes I would want to source out.  And I happen to live in area with an abundance of homeschool co-op classes  And homeschoolers can take college classes.  The problem is that all these things cost $$$ and you can spend quite a bit of time driving kids around to various classes.   Having to chauffeur a child to numerous outside classes sounds somewhat nightmarish to me.   Not to mention the cost of books and curriculum and maybe enrollment in a homeschool program. It can add up very fast.

My own limitations.  Like everyone else, I have limited time and limited energy.  Homeschooling takes A LOT of both.  In high school, the stakes are high.  I don't want my child to suffer because *I* am unable to keep up with homeschooling.  I think most homeschoolers have had times where homeschooling happened via Netflix.  And that is okay in limited amounts in the younger grades.  But not for high school.   I've managed go keep up with homeschooling thought a babysitting gig and working at home and pregnancy. I've homeschooled through multiple moves and new babies.  But it's not easy.  I place a high priority on a rigorous education.  So far, I think I've done okay.  It helps that my kids are naturally smart.  But, I'm just not confident in my ability, either with time or money to provide everything a high schooler needs. 

Motivation/Competition: Several years ago I remember talking to a veteran homeschool mom who stated that she put her boys in high school because they NEEDED the competition/motivation of being around other students and working for someone besides their mother to excel in school.  Now my oldest is a girl, and she's generally very self-motivated, but I can also definitely understand the motivation that comes from being in a classes and competing to get a high grade on an exam or paper.  I can understand that it's more motivating, working for someone besides mom. 

Homeschooling doesn't guarantee kids who remain Catholic.  Elizabeth Foss wrote about this.  Neither does sending your kids to a Catholic college.  Kids grow up and make their choices and keeping them surrounded in a Catholic cocoon isn't going to insure they remain Catholic.  I've heard people say things like "the reason they homeschool is to get their kids to heaven, not Harvard"...which is essentially pitting the child's moral life against their academic learning.  I think this is a false dichotomy.   Homeschooling doesn't guarantee heaven and Harvard doesn't guarantee hell . Not that any of our kids will ever go to Harvard, but you get the point.  In some cases I feel that being in a secular environment really makes a person's faith their own...it forces them to make a choice, rather just remaining Catholic because that is all they've been exposed to.  At least that was my experience with attending a public university. Furthermore, we are fortunate to live in an area where there are many awesome youth groups for Catholic teens, so our daughter will still be able to be friends with and hang out with other Catholic teens, even while attending a public high school.  

I realize that all children are different, but our particular children (much like my husband and myself) tend to be the "do-your-own-thing, don't-follow-the-crowd, immune-to-peer-pressure, I-don't-care-what-other-people-think-type."   Which is a good quality to have.  I think homeschooling for so many years does sorta foster that mentality, but I also think that some people are just naturally like that and our kids tend to have that natural "I don't care to follow the crowd, I'm not peer-driven mentality."    So we're optimistic that school with work out.  

And if it doesn't, we can always go back to homeschooling. 


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