Guest Author - Lorel Shea
School vs. Homeschool... Until quite recently, parents tended to fall strictly into one camp or the other. School vs. Homeschool was a loaded topic, with people on both sides losing sight of the real issues as they scrambled to justify their own decisions. Families consisted solely of schooled or homeschooled kids, and rarely changed sides or kept a foot in each camp. Occasionally, a family would make the leap from traditional education to homeschooling, and embrace the new educational model for years to come. Conversely, once in a blue moon a homeschooling family would decide it was time to put the kids into school. But both schoolers and homeschoolers usually stayed close to their own kind, and observed the other group with suspicion and disdain, if not outright hostility. Kids did not move freely from one world to the other.
My family's educational path started out fairly traditionally. I was a parent who shopped carefully for the “perfect” preschool for my child, and was very involved when my boys attended school. During the one year that I had one child in school and another learning at home, I felt conflicted and as if I didn't really belong to either group. The adults I ran into at my older son's school gave me odd looks when I mentioned that I was homeschooling my younger son. My younger son and I missed out on some really fun homeschool activities because we were tied to afternoon pickup at the bus stop. The homeschoolers I met that year were very kind, yet I had the feeling that they didn't quite understand us sending our oldest to school. Eight years later, we have cobbled together an array of early college, online classes, and child-led homeschooling which presents a completely unique situation for each child in the family. We identify ourselves as homeschoolers, yet we take advantage of trained instructors and mentors as much as possible, and socialize freely with families who choose public or private school as well as those we know from the homeschooling community. I call it the best of both worlds!
I credit the internet (Thanks, Al Gore!) with the current increase in homeschooling. People are learning about homeschool methods, shopping around for resources, and educating themselves faster and more easily than ever before. Likewise, parents are becoming savvy to educational options available at institutional schools, and figuring out how to advocate for their children. The internet has enabled us to become wiser and better informed directors of our childrens' educations.
More and more often, I see parents willing to shift gears and look at social/emotional as well as educational fit for their children. Academics are usually foremost in a parent's mind when they think of school, but both academic and social/emotional aspects of schooling need to be monitored and adapted as the child grows. Parents of gifted children especially, tend to be flexible and look outside of the box to find the best possible educational plans for their children. School vs. Homeschool is no longer a longterm lifestyle choice, as smart parents and school administrators are growing more comfortable with children moving back and forth as time passes and needs fluctuate. I see this happening all the time, and I am glad for it. Many gifted children I know have gone back and forth between learning at home and at school. Their parents have spent long hours searching for the right school and the best way to accommodate their child's special needs. Gifted children can go through developmental stages very rapidly, and may outgrow a certain placement or solution within a very short time period.
Over the past few years, I have observed the following changes:
The highly gregarious and very bright Miss S was the last child at home when her siblings left. Coming from a family who homeschooled three children all the way to college, she decided to give middle school a try, and found that she loved it. I congratulate her parents for listening to her needs and doing what appeared best for Miss S.
Master M attended traditional school with a double grade skip, but found that even that radical accommodation wasn't a great fit after the first year. His parents allowed him to homeschool for a year, try another school, and then homeschool again. He's probably going to attend a private high school next year, and his family is hoping that this will carry him through to college.
Young Master K was an advanced homeschooler permitted to take a few courses at his local public school. He enjoyed the classes for a semester, went back to full time homeschooling for a year or so, and this year is a full timer at the middle school. He's missing some of the freedom that homeschooling provides, yet also enjoying the positive feedback he gets from his teachers.
School didn't challenge Master J, and only touched upon his special interests, history and art. He was happy to begin homeschooling as a young teen, and direct his time and effort to studying his favorite subjects. He kept in touch with his schooled friends, and made new friends through his homeschool group. His transition to college was an easy one, as he had accumulated a fair number of college credits from summer programs and dual enrollment at a community college.
These are just a few examples of how kids can benefit from a less rigid way of viewing education. Some families afterschool, while others have kids who simultaneously attend both types of school. There's no need to be antagonistic, as BOTH are valid educational options! Throughout the year, my husband and I are constantly talking about options and challenges, and taking stock of how the family as a whole is functioning. We try to keep our minds open, as after all, the only thing that is constant, is change!