Thursday, October 22, 2015

But what about...

Even after 14 years of this homeschooling gig, and no matter how many times I reiterate WHY we homeschool and that those priorities are WAY more important to us than any other possible factor as to why we would put our kids in traditional school, we still get lots of "but what about________?" (insert your favorite school memory or program or reason here)

So that's what I'll focus on today.  The buts.

But what about sports?
Upward Football League
I love sports.  I was an athlete all the way through the collegiate level.  Sports are great for teaching discipline, teamwork, diligence, and many other things.  It's great exercise...which we could all use more of.  So yes, I agree that sports are important.  But homeschooling does not disqualify you from participating in sports.  Most young Olympians are, at least for part of their lives, homeschooled.  There are even professional athletes that were homeschooled.  Ever heard of Tim Tebow or the Williams sisters.  And here are a few more.

In the state of Florida (and many others as well) it is legal for homeschoolers to participate on athletic teams for the school they are zoned for.  Also, many private schools welcome homeschoolers on their sports teams.  Personally, I've found that some of the best athletic programs aren't even attached to schools.  The parks department and a handful of churches host their own leagues.  Upward programs are also available in many areas.  I love this program because it teaches MORE than just the game, it also focuses on sportsmanship and character development.

But what about opportunities like student government?

My daughter in her service committee brainstorming different ideas for her club to serve their community.

OK.  I was on the student council one year in high school.  I think we met three times. And I don't remember anything we did.  And while I'm sure there are many great things that it CAN teach you, as you can tell, it didn't make a HUGE impact on me :)  BUT again, I do see value here.  It's nice for students to learn how to run meetings, to gain leadership experience, to have the opportunity to participate in a governing body and learn about democracy and how organizations like this run, and to perhaps do something together to give back to their community.  But student council is not the only venue for doing this.

My kids are involved in 4H.  When I was growing up in Indiana, 4H (or so I thought) was for farmers.  4H kids showed pigs and raised rabbits and shucked corn. Boy was I wrong.  4H is SO much more than that.  My kids participate only at the club and county levels (they also have district, statewide, and even national events).  4H is a national youth development program.  Think of the clubs as these little independent student councils that are working together to learn leadership skills and serve their communities.  The meetings are run by the students.  The students are elected into office by other students.  The officers set up and approve agendas and projects and events to suit the group's needs and desires.  Meetings are generally held once a month, with events spread out throughout other times. Tell me again what my kids are missing by not being in student council?

But what about dances and other social events?
We even have opportunities for those awkward pics!
Have you read the news lately?  Every year for prom and other dances, there are a handful of high schoolers who leave for the dance but never return.  Not beating down any doors for my kiddos to have a chance at that.  Also, I attended several of these events in my own middle and high school years, and while there were a few that were fun and even memorable, none of them were life-changing.

But again, I do see value in fellowship and social events. And celebrations are important!  That's why MANY homeschool groups have these events as well.  In our area there are annual homecoming and proms for homeschoolers.  Not to mention all the support groups who have beach days, museum meet-ups, park days, field trips, movie nights, skating events, and MUCH MORE.  There are graduation events, as well. In all honesty, there are probably MORE opportunities to socialize for homeschoolers because, well, we work at it.  We are intentional with it.  And because of that, it is often more meaningful. And to be honest, probably a little safer as well.

But what about friends?
As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, there are SO many opportunities for our children to socialize.  We have 4H, church, sports leagues and programs, dance and voice lessons, taekwondo, support group events, and the list literally could go on forever.  But let's talk seriously about this friendship thing.

When I was in school I had about two to three girls at any given time that I would run with.  Did I know more than that?  Yes.  Did the fact that I actually KNEW OF thirty other ten year olds when I was ten add any value to my childhood experience?  Probably not.  Friends are one of those things you measure qualitatively not quantitatively.  It is not about the number of friends our kids have, it's about the quality and experience in those friendships.  I personally don't want to throw my kids into the throngs of the popularity game.  It's over-rated and potentially damaging.

Full disclosure here:  When my oldest was 13, he went back to school for a few years.  It wasn't my idea, but I chose not to fight him and his father on it.  He suddenly had MANY new friends. More than I could count. More than I could know.  Friends who had parents I knew nothing about...whose lives I knew nothing about...whose values I knew nothing about.  Friends who had other ideas about what was right and wrong and who sometimes had parents that just didn't have the time or resources to stop and pay attention to the decisions their kids were making.  And this affected my son.  It affected his perception of right and wrong...too soon. As his parents, we lost even more credibility and some influence because now his peer group was HUGE and VERY different than us.  So while yes, the amount of friends he had grew, so did the amount of drama, conflict, negative influence and so many other things.  Be careful what you wish for.

Still.  Loneliness is hard. There have been seasons when my other children have gone through a time with fewer friends.  It is hard to watch your child be lonely.  But as an adult, we also have those seasons.  Instead of trying to "fix it" for them, if we can encourage our children through these times and teach them that they that will pass and how to effectively get through them, we are only better preparing them for life.  That is our goal, right?  Not happy kids...but successful and grounded adults. I also know that my times of loneliness are often also times of personal development and a strengthening of my faith.  I lean on God more than people.  My faith grows.  There's more time for introspection, for thinking, for reading, for service, and for other things that a full social calendar often interfere with. When we make decisions based on what makes our kids happy in the moment, its easier at that time, but in the end, we pay. And speaking of paying...

But what about the cost?
Yes, public and charter schools are as much as they do not collect tuition.  But you get what you pay for.  Any finance person will tell you that there are more costs than just the immediate monetary ones.  You may not have to pay tuition or purchase curriculum, but what are the hidden costs?

Time with your child is one.  And your child's very own time for himself is another.  Traditional school takes time.  As homeschoolers, we can get done in 3-4 hours what it might normally take a couple eight hour days in a traditional school setting.  And then there is homework.  So they're gone all day, and then they come home with more work to do.  Many will often spend as much time doing homework than you might spend doing regular homeschooling work.  Throw in an extra curricular activity and you might get an hour with your kids a day if you're lucky.  And you'll need to use that to feed them and prep for the next day.

Flexibility is also another cost.  As homeschoolers, you have control over your own schedule.  If you want to take a vacation in November when there are no crowds, do it.  If you need to take off out of state for a month and take care of a sick relative or go on a mission trip, do it.  If you want stay up late and spend more time with dad, who works late, and wake up at 9am instead of 6am, do it. No mad dashes out the door to catch the bus.  No doctors notes to explain absences. No getting permission to raise your child the way you see fit.

When companies need to do something that does not directly affect their mission or vision, or does not involve critical or valuable materials, they outsource.  However, they would never hand over valuable product or intel, or anything they hold near and dear to their vision or philosophy to be outsourced.  This is because if the outsourcing company balks or fails, it can directly effect their bottom line and even have a huge impact on the overall success and even survival of the company.  Our children are the most precious and valuable gift we've ever been given. Raising them might very well be the most important thing I do in my life.  And God placed them under me and has gifted me with exactly what is needed to lead them.  And if there's something else they need, He will provide that as well!  If I outsource this responsibility to someone else, they absolutely will not be as invested as I am.  And that can lead to costs that I am not willing to pay.

What are other "buts" you've run across or are wrestling with now in regards to homeschooling?  Would love to continue this conversation in the comments below and even to point you to resources that can help!