There’s a lot to be said about spending time with young children. Even though newborn bonding is said to occur in the first few hours or days following birth, it can take as long as several weeks or even months for those intense feelings to develop in some parents, according to medical professionals. There is nothing to be ashamed about if you weren’t deeply attached to your newborn immediately.
But, as more and more parents are discovering, there is another type of bond that forms between parents and young children. It can take the form of wonder at the rapid growth and development of the child’s unique personality, or a strong sense of responsibility for the care and well-being of a little human, or even a sense of overwhelming awe at the life that is in your care.
Sometimes it fills a parent’s heart with fear and anxiety.
The truth is that those feelings continue throughout the child’s life. And seldom is concern greater than during the preschool years, when the primary influence on child development is with the parents. At about age three, and continuing until a child enters kindergarten, the overwhelming parental concern is with child safety, health and emotional development. This is the time when personality traits and basic skills become apparent, and a family that encourages interaction with both adults and other children might feel they are doing all they can to encourage school readiness.
However, over the past decade or so there has been a growing sense that there are severe shortcomings and inequities in the public school system, and many parents are rebelling against mandatory public education that treats all learners in the same way. In addition, public school policies and curriculum vary tremendously from one state to another, and schools within a single district can also be less than equal. Comprehensive reform, although a policy priority, is slow to become reality. Thus, the growth of homeschooling has skyrocketed.
Schooling in the Modern Age
The National Association for Education Statistics (NAES) conducts a study every four years to determine the top motivations for parents who choose to homeschool their children. In 2016, an overwhelming majority — 80 percent — cited their concern about the environment of other schools.
Additional reasons included in the top five include:
- A desire to provide moral instruction, at 67 percent;
- Dissatisfaction with academic instruction in public schools, at 61 percent;
- A desire to include religious instruction, with 51 percent;
- A desire to provide a nontraditional approach to learning, at 39 percent.
Additional reasons, for the most part, were related to children with special needs, some of which were illness or lifestyle-related, such as relocation or other reasons.
A Short History of Homeschooling
The contemporary trend toward homeschooling began in 1977, when John Holt, a reformer who reacted against the prevalence of rote learning popular at the time, called for the “liberation” of students and promulgated a notion called “unschooling.” His ideas were supported by another educational reformer who advocated that children should remain at home until the age of eight or nine in order to gain a “firm educational, psychological, and moral foundation.”
Raymond Moore’s book, “Home Grown Kids,” was published in 1981, and became a sort of bible for early proponents of homeschooling. At that time, no state in the country had prohibitions against homeschooling, but some schools had stringent requirements governing curriculum and authorized “teachers.” Committed homeschool enthusiasts, though, worked with local school districts to enact reasonable guidelines.
Since the early 80s, all 50 states have come to recognize homeschooling options, although there is still no national directive that governs the practice. The height of the homeschooling movement occurred during the years 2011-12, but decreased by about 80,000 students for the 2015-16 school year, to a total of nearly 1,700,000 total students. Because some states do not require parents to notify authorities about their intent to homeschool, the numbers are, in some cases, open to question. Of the states where records are kept, California and Texas are the homeschooling leaders.
The Attraction of Homeschooling
Among the awesome benefits of homeschooling your kindergarten student, according to parents who do so, or have done it, is the close bond that develops between parents and children, without any expectation of performance measured against other students’ achievement. Anxiety and stress, even among younger students, is worrisome to many educators, and stress levels only increase as students progress through the grades. Even at kindergarten level, there is sometimes an emphasis on success that is unrealistic and unnecessary at a time when children are still developing an awareness of themselves and the world around them.
Grades and acceptance into an elite college were once deemed the ultimate success. Today, thanks to Millennials overburdened with debt and sometimes unable to secure fulfilling employment, there has been a shift of attitude that is realistic and refreshing. And, with current world problems, there is even more reason to reevaluate career directions and the seach for happiness and meaning in life.
Homeschooling may not be a panacea for a public school system in the midst of crisis, but for many parents it is a partial answer to what is wrong with modern education, and a step in the right direction. In addition, it does not represent an all-or-nothing decision. When a parent chooses to homeschool a kindergarten child, there is no commitment to continue through high school graduation. Indeed, many elementary-age homeschoolers go on to become top achievers in public or parochial middle school and high school. They are confident, mature, equally at ease with their peers and adults, and more than adequately prepared for continuing their education in a more traditional manner.
Homeschooling Allows Learning at an Individual Pace
Age is not necessarily a reliable determinant of readiness for the classroom. And learning styles differ tremendously. The truth is that schools are often understaffed, and that some children in a large classroom may not receive the personal attention they need to thrive.
Learning that is geared to a child’s personality and interests is more likely to produce true understanding and mastery, no matter whether it’s art and music, basic arithmetic or reading skills. A parent who is tuned in to the child’s fascination with shapes and colors can find resources that capitalize on those interests and use them to develop an individualized course of instruction.
If your kid just doesn’t “get” numbers written on a piece of paper, that’s okay. Save those lessons for another day, and count peanuts in a bowl, or spoons in the silverware drawer instead. There’s more than one way to teach basic math.
There’s No Need for Homework
When learning is a part of everyday life, there should be no delineation between activities. Homeschooling allows for scheduled activities that might be better defined and more formal than other experiences or play time, but learning continues throughout the day, and across all pursuits. A child can learn just as much about water flow and flooding by building a makeshift dam in the driveway after a spring rain as from a video lesson on how water flows from the river to the sea.
Also, math lessons translate perfectly to counting ingredients when cooking and measuring spices for a recipe. Spatial relationships are easily learned when setting a table. And there are numerous ways to teach about color. Magnetic letters and shapes lead to hours of educational “play.” Music and dance provide both fun and exercise. When school hours are undefined, school doesn’t seem like work.
Children Learn to Express Themselves in Creative Ways
We all know of times when there is more than one right answer to a question, numerous ways to solve a problem. That’s the beauty of the one-on-one relationship that homeschooling offers. It’s even better if you become part of a homeschooling group, or if you and other parents pool your expertise to produce online lessons that can be shared.
When there is no stigma attached to being different, there are no hurt feelings for non-conformity. Issues, if any, can be discussed and dealt with in personalized ways. Aside from age-related emotional flareups occasionally, there is little “bad behavior” in a homeschool environment.
Another benefit is that you, as the teacher, can better explain feelings and help a child deal with his or her reactions. A child needs to see sadness and anger, frustration and impatience, joy and disbelief, empathy and sympathy — the whole range of human emotion — expressed in acceptable ways.
In that way, homeschooling provides the stability and caring environment that is so sorely lacking in the world.
Real Life Experiences Are the Basis for Teaching
No matter how good a lesson plan or a textbook might be, there is no better teaching tool than real life. Caring for a pet or a new baby, helping a neighbor, weeding the lawn or watering the garden, cleaning house, preparing meals, writing a letter to Grandma, or shopping at the grocery store. These are all activities that your kindergarten student will love.
Don’t shield your child from real life. Instead, embrace the duties and responsibilities of your lifestyle, and show your child the way responsible adults make decisions, compare prices, pay the bills, stock the pantry, cook and clean up, care for the home and relate to the people around them.
It has been said often enough that children learn by watching the adults in their lives. Nothing can dispute that. If you want your children to grow up to be well-adjusted, functioning members of society, show them the way.
Homeschooling Days Don’t Have to Have a Schedule
It’s not really necessary that “school” be held Monday through Friday, if school is at home. Homeschooling can accommodate non-traditional family schedules; or actual coursework might be scheduled four days a week, with long-weekend getaways a frequent diversion. A virtual kindergarten might include online learning two days a week, dance and music lessons on different afternoons, and “field trips” on another morning.
Alternatively, mothers or fathers who work part-time or odd hours can schedule time with the child at their convenience. The flexibility of homeschooling is just one of its awesome benefits!
Peer Pressure Is Minimized with Homeschooling
There’s no doubt about it. Negative influences, temptations, bullying and other aggressive behavior, alcohol, drugs, sex and crime are pervasive in our society. While they may not be huge problems for kindergarten-age children, homeschooling at that age allows parents to discuss those problems in a factual, honest and caring way, pointing out that some behaviors are inappropriate and destructive, and laying the groundwork for older children to cope with the temptations they will face in the future.
If you choose to continue homeschooling past primary years, it offers even greater benefits and more safety from these damaging behaviors and destructive influences.
Homeschooling Produces Independent Thinkers
We all hope that our children will reflect what we believe are the best of societal traits and values. While many children grow up accepting and honoring parental values, others rebel. The best option for parents is to honor their personal beliefs, state their reasons, encourage children to question prevailing opinions, to seek reliable information, form their own conclusions and become independent thinkers.
Especially in these complicated times, the world needs creative, compassionate, well-educated, thoughtful and thorough leaders who will question the status quo and strive to do better for the future of nations, civilization and humanity. It’s a lofty goal, but one that should be at the forefront for any parent considering homeschooling. The future is, quite simply, in your hands as a parent.
Family Relationships Become More Important
In times past, extended families provided the school environment, and children had the opporutity to learn multiple lessons from younger siblings, parents, older adults, farm animals, hard work, nature and community. That kind of growing and learning experience offers a glimpse into some of the reasons that homeschooling is embraced as a viable option today. Our segmented society has abandoned those values in worrisome ways.
It is all-to-easy to see that family relationships have suffered, and to realize that a return to some of the tried-and-true values of small-town and farm life weren’t so restrictive and oppressive after all.
Although a reverence for the past may not be your primary reason for considering an online kindergarten, restoring strong family ties is not in any way a negative effect of home schooling.
Homeschooled Kids Pursue Activities that Interest Them
Because education tailored to a child’s own interests is, by its very nature, an exclusive domain, it’s important to remember that those interests may change rapidly. One day you might suspect you have a budding paleontologist because your five-year-old is fascinated by fossils, plants and dinosaurs. The next day that focus may shift to undersea exploration, to space travel, or to a quest for sunken treasure or climbing the world’s highest mountains. There’s no telling where imagination might lead a child.
The chances are at least fair to good that any of those early enthusiasms might be far from the path your high school graduate or young adult will actually pursue, but their world will be richer and their ability to consider new ideas and adapt to change will be forever strengthened.
The only possible caution is that, without some adult direction, children might shift focus and change direction so often that they will never be able to concentrate for long on one subject. That can signal a situation that requires some honest discussion to correct.
Vacation Time Isn’t Limited to Summers
One of the most awesome benefits to homeschooling young children is that winter trips and off-season vacations are as doable as summer camping trips or beach vacations. You’re not limited to school vacation travel planning or putting up with crowds and high prices.
The overwhelming majority of homeschooling parents are advocates of family travel as learning experiences. That’s something that’s just not possible during the normal school year, except in rare cases. It’s a proven fact that children who have some knowledge and experience with other cultures, foods, languages and traditions are more compassionate, understanding, open-minded and tolerant than those deprived of that early learning opportunity.
There are scores of other awesome benefits to home schooling, not including the safety factor. If you’re new to the idea, don’t hesitate any longer before doing some more checking.
There are many resources available to you. Homeschooling networks will offer a bounty of advice, and online resources will help you judge your child’s readiness and your own capabilities for success.
Is it time to begin the adventure?