“Why did you guys decide to homeschool?” This is a common question I am asked on a very regular basis when other moms learn we don’t send our three year-old to preschool.
Most people expect me to respond with an answer related to how poor the public school system is here in Hawaii. Nope, that’s not it. While that was certainly a factor in our decision, it wasn’t our main reason. Not all of the schools on Oahu are performing poorly. There are actually some good schools here, public and private. I was inspired to teach my child at home, because of my child. In fact, I am confident that I would have reached the same conclusion if we were to live in another state, with a much better public school system.
Before now, I had never considered homeschooling as an option for educating my kids. I expected to send them to good a ole’ public or private school, where they’d be good students, make life-long friends, and enjoy learning from their teachers. I never questioned this. But, as the preschool enrollment window began to close and me and my husband sat at the kitchen table filling out enrollment forms, seeds of doubt sprouted.
I wondered out loud if sending our daughter off to school was really the best thing for her. I had doubts about the time she’d spend away from home under another adult’s supervision, who’d share in shaping and enforcing our child’s character and behavior. I thought about how her time away from her little sister would affect the strong bond they’d developed over the past year and a half. And I thought about how her rate of learning might be affected as a result of attending preschool.
My husband shared identical concerns and posed the question, “Why should we send her to preschool?” It was the perfect question to ask. Yet, it was a really difficult question for me to answer. They only thing I could come up with was that I didn’t want her to miss out on something. But, I couldn’t quite figure out what the something was.
Inspired to Homeschool by My Two Year-Old
My three and a half year-old “Kay” (not her real name) is a stick of dynamite. A petite ball of curiosity, energy, wonder, and excitement with a great sense of humor and a hefty sprinkle of sassy. She is sharp and was blessed with a beautiful heart and brain. And boy can she talk! She’s the type of kid who keeps you on your toes. She hits the ground running in the mornings, and always has five questions at the ready to fire at you. She thrives on routine and structure and loves herself some craft time! She likes to learn new stuff, she catches on quick, and she’s really good with her little sister (most of the time. They have their moments!!). I enjoy teaching her new things and being her mother. And trust me, it’s not always an easy job, especially when my patience is running on empty. Sometimes, she makes being a headhunter in Tokyo seem like a stroll in the park while eating cupcakes. She is an intense little thing. But I like her intensity, and I like her. She teaches me a lot.
Once Kay turned two years-old, I began sitting with her on a daily basis for about 15-20 minutes to teach her the alphabet, numbers, writing, counting, cutting with scissors- you know all of the stuff we’re ‘supposed’ to teach them in preparation for preschool. My husband was watching our mini-learning sessions and commented, “Takara, you should really consider homeschooling. You are a natural and Kay really likes it. Just look at how much she’s learning.” I smiled, but quickly dismissed his suggestion. In my mind, homeschooling was lame and just, weird. Excuse my bluntness here, to me homeschooling was what strange white people did to keep their kids away from being around other kids, thus, intentionally restricting their exposure to all types of situations and people. I wanted my kids to be traveled, cultured, educated, and exposed to all sorts of people and things. Public school or private school, I reasoned, were good enough for my kids.
Indeed, to say that I was reluctant to consider homeschooling would be a major understatement. I was NOT interested in homeschooling, at all.
That all changed one afternoon during our visit with family in Alabama. We were practicing writing her alphabet and I left her momentarily to check on her little sister. When I returned, Kay had written her name. We had practiced this together a few times, but I was surprised she did it without my help. I asked to her to do it again and she did, even better than her first attempt. She was clearly pleased with herself. So was I. That’s when the homeschooling seed fell and landed in my lap. I remember thinking, “Hmmmmmm, maybe I should seriously consider this homeschooling thing.”
And so began my interest in learning all that I possibly could about homeschooling my kids in Hawaii.
Five Things That Surprised Me About Homeschooling
I checked out as many books as possible from the library about homeschooling. I googled and read as many blogs as possible. I spoke with homeschooling parents. And, I joined as many group as I could on Facebook, trying to figure out how homeschooling might be a good fit with Kay and my family. There were five things that really stood out to me about homeschooling that pretty much solidified the decision for us.
1. Homeschooling is a more efficient use of time. This should go without saying, but I had never really considered the time-saving factor of homeschooling before learning about it. Did you know that most homeschooling families are finished with their learning by midday (12 Noon)? There is no homework to be completed outside of the classroom with homeschooling because all of the work is done at home. That means you and your kids get to spend more time doing things that interest them like playing sports, working on creative projects, participating in playgroups, etc.
2. There is no ONE way to homeschool. In fact, there are many ways to do it. I was relieved to learn this. I initially thought I’d have to recreate the classroom setting, schedule, and purchase a pricey curriculum to follow. But, that’s not even the case. Homeschooling is actually quite liberating. Everything depends on your kids, your family, your schedule, your home, and your kid’s interests. This especially resonated with me, because it just makes so much sense. As I mentioned earlier, Kay loves crafts, so I always make sure whenever I am introducing something new to her, we start off with a craft (paper, scissors, glue, stickers, crayons, washi tape, etc.).
3. Homeschooling is a better use of family resources. Simply put, it’s much cheaper to homeschool. Homeschooling is cheaper than public school and the quality of education and instruction is better. This has been proven over and over again. If you want your kids to get an excellent education with 1-on-1 teacher to student instruction, homeschooling makes a lot of sense all the while saving you a lot of dollars and cents in the process.
4. Hawaii is rich with homeschooling options. I was pleased to learn that Hawaii has a very active and growing homeschooling community, especially on Oahu. There’s a lot to choose from, co-ops, Facebook groups, location-specific groups, and age-specific groups, to name a few. I could go on an on about the homeschooling options available in Hawaii. And, I will- just not in the particular post. I plan to cover the homeschooling scene here regularly and in-depth. But, suffice it say, we’re not just winging here on the island by ourselves. Hawaii has a thriving homeschooling community.
5. African-Americans make up the fastest growing population of families choosing to homeschool their children in the United States. This particularly interested me, as I am African-American. Plus, it destroyed my theory about homeschooling being a ‘weird white thing’. Most importantly though, a heart-breaking reality for many black families is that the Pre-School to Prison Pipeline is a real thing. Black students are more likely to be labeled as problem children and are more likely to be suspended from public school, even as a preschooler. If you are parents of black children in the USA, I especially encourage you to consider homeschooling, or supplementing your child’s education with homeschooling. Relying solely on the public school system to prepare your child for success later in life is a sure recipe for failure. I firmly believe this is true for African-American students.
Here’s a very recent and sad CNN Video covering the Preschool to Prison Pipeline:
My Public School Background
As for me, I attended public schools in Decatur, Alabama. I’m a product of the Alabama public school system from kindergarten through high school. I was a part of their magnet program and was a good student, A/B average from elementary through high school. I loved school and as a little girl attending elementary school, I would often come home and pretend to be a teacher, assigning homework, grading papers, reading to my class of dolls and stuffed animals. In middle school, I played basketball, was Student Council President, and played clarinet in the band. High school, pretty much same story. Good athlete, band drum major, Senior Class President, good grades, AP classes, all of that stuff, plus some. With the exception of not having learned a single thing about the continent of Africa outside of the Atlantic Slave Trade (a major #FAIL, in my book), I was pretty happy with my public education experience.
I went on to attend college and I felt prepared. I graduated with honors from Howard University in Washington, DC and was awarded a coveted Fulbright Fellowship in Japan. For me, the American public school system had not failed me at all.
Going back to my husband’s question, “Why should we send our daughter to school?” I think a part of me felt as if public schooling worked for me, it could work for my children too. But the truth is, I want my kids to have a much better education than me. Exponentially better. I think homeschooling is one way to achieve that.
Why Homeschooling is a Good Fit For My Family
I think we all want the best for our kids. Best, looks different for each family. I’m no longer of the mind that outsourcing my kids education is best, especially if we are more than capable of doing it ourselves. I’m also not convinced that anyone will be as invested in my kid’s education more than me and my husband- especially when teachers have so many students to care for and educate.
Also, I value and encourage independence in both of my children and I’ve noticed that there exists a parent culture that is eager to push kids out of the house and into the arms of school, as soon as possible, all in the name of independence. I’m not convinced this is healthy or what is truly needed for any child. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mother these past three and a half years is, the more secure a child feels and the more attention they get at home, the more confident and independent they become.
These early years of development are very critical years in our eyes. That’s why I have chosen to stay home with my kids instead of working outside. That is also why my husband runs his own business and is flexible with his schedule. Of course, I absolutely understand that every family situation is different and not every family is able to homeschool their children. But this is what we feel is the right choice for our family.
Kay’s Pace and Love of Learning
So, one of my major concerns about Kay attending preschool was her pace of learning. Kay catches on quick. I am often surprised that she remembers things as she does. If we were to enroll her into preschool right now, I honestly think she would be bored out of her mind. She gets bored quickly, so I’m always thinking of new ways to keep her engaged and excited.
To give you an idea of the learning she’s done over the past year, Kay writes her entire alphabet uppercase and lowercase, her first and last name, she counts and writes her numbers up to 30, and she can read. I don’t share this to boast. This level of progress is quite common among homeschooled children. I share this to demonstrate what consistent and loving instruction at home by a parent for only 45 to 60 minutes a day can do. Kay turns four years-old in December and is on track to transition from a kindergarten curriculum to a first-grade curriculum, early next year. We literally sit down for learning time 45-60 minutes every morning, then go about our business with crafts, playtime, and fun outside of home. Please know that I’m not making her sit at a desk for hours on end, learning stuff. Most of the time, she is pretending to cook in her play-kitchen and creating make-believe meals along with her sister with play-dough.
We’re really happy that Kay loves to learn and we’d like to encourage and support this as much as possible. We love to teach her, and so far, homeschooling works for our family. So we’ve reasoned, if it’s not broken, why try fixing things with preschool? Why make her sit through things she’s already learned at home, all in the name of ‘learning to go school’?
What About Socialization?
Which brings me to the popular question, “What about socialization?” Like most parents, we considered preschool for the socialization factor. Most parents want the best for the kids and having a good social environment for their kids is very important. We are no different. It’s important to us that our children are growing up in a healthy social environment that will enable them to interact with children of all ages, as well as adults. I’m not convinced that putting my child in school for ‘socialization’ sake is the best way to achieve a healthy social environment and relationships though. We are a part of playgroups, she does gymnastics twice a week for the past year. There is no socialization problem to fix with Kay.
I could go on and on about socialization, bullying, values, but I won’t. There’s plenty of stuff out there if you google it. My girls are social kids. Both me and my husband are social people, so it’s simply not an issue for us.
Our Homeschooling Conclusion
So there you have it, in super-long written form, why we decided homeschooling in Hawaii would work best for our girls. I’m not sure how long we’ll do it for. I’ve committed to taking it one year at a time with each child and just see how it goes. If either of my girls decides they’d like to try attending school, we’ll totally support it. For now though, I’m really enjoying teaching at home and watching them both learn and grow. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that we live in Hawaii and learning outside, going on field trips, and enjoying this beautiful island is a tremendous advantage of homeschooling here!