I have to get something off my chest. It’s about what education is and what makes home education work. It starts with money. Education is not about buying the right stuff. A good education is not expensive. I’ll admit that in the past, people were limited educationally because they couldn’t get their hands on books or see outside their own farm or neighborhood, but that just isn’t the case in the United States today. We have public libraries in every city and an internet connection is a must in every home. Yes, there may be exceptions, but I’m talking generalities here.
The most important thing you need to educate your own kids is to be able to be at home with them. If you have a partner that can support you and the kids while they are young, you have a huge advantage over any expensive education system. If you have a vehicle and gas to get you around, you’re sitting pretty!
How can you give your kids a practically free education? Again, it starts with you. Educate yourself and take your young children along for the ride. That doesn’t mean go back to college! It means read an article online, open a book, visit a museum, watch a movie, or have a discussion. Create and cultivate in yourself the life long learner first. Do it right in front of your family. Your kids will follow suit in their own way.
Go to the library and check out any books you and the kids like and read them. Don’t study them, just read them! Go the park and explore. Walk around your neighborhood. The grocery store, the post office, the bank, etc. are all potential field trips when you look at them like a child would. Instead of rushing through the grocery store with your list, involve the kids with making the meal plan, the list, and the budget. A couple of dollars of their own to spend at the grocery store or save for the future is a lesson plan all of itself. Actually working with money goes a lot farther than talking about it. Go through the store and answer all the questions they have, have them find things, substitute things, and explore the store like you’ve never been there.
When we allow our kids to explore their world, if we can be patient and quiet while they do so, they get so much out of it. They become more interesting people. And we can see the world in a whole new way. We can do this everywhere we go.
When my boys were very little, the regional park was amazing to them. We spent hours there every week. We loved amusement parks but rarely went inside. They thought the shopping area, pond, and Independence Hall was Knott’s Berry Farm. And Downtown Disney, its fountains, people, shops, and hotels was the best part of Disneyland. We went to beaches, parks, free museum days, all over Southern California. Small local museums are usually only a couple of dollars donation and we always brought a picnic lunch for all of us. My sons wanted lunch boxes like school kids, so they each had one with their name on it and a backpack to carry it in.
My point is that you don’t need a packaged curriculum, the monthly craft/science box, the big organized field trips, or extra-curricular classes to give your kids a great education. You just need to be with them, be patient, and help them explore the world around them safely. We unschooled the whole time, but even if you want to home educate in a more traditional way, there are tons of free resources on the internet. You may have to piece it together and you may have to open your mind to some unconventional ways of doing things (i.e. Mad Libs instead of grammar workbooks), but it is very possible to do this on your own without the state school system breathing down your neck.
I always see private home education as an entrepreneurial thing, a do-it-yourself, be your own boss, kind of thing. What are the benefits of private education? No state standards to keep up with, no grade levels, no mandatory number of days, no testing. That’s just the start. To me, the best thing I got out of it was a sense of self-reliance. I second guessed myself all the time, especially when my sons weren’t behaving the way I thought they should. I’m lucky I had an amazing partner that could see outside my day to day life and remind me that many of my perceived “problems” were just parenting/relationship adjustments. It had nothing to do with school.
I don’t begrudge people the choice to use the public charters to homeschool. If the education the public schools are giving is what you want, without the crowd control and classroom bullies, then charters would be fine for you. But if you want something different, if you want the education outcome to be different than the seniors graduating this year, then there are other options out there. Private education is feasible, even on a tight budget.