I Don’t Have Enough Patience For Homework, Much Less Homeschooling
I hear this one all the time, in fact I just heard it yesterday at baby Hannah’s 2 week well baby appointment (grown an inch and gained 8 oz!).
“Seven kids AND you homeschool! You must have so much patience. I go crazy just trying to help them with their homework!”
First off let me say I am no model of patience. I often have to put kids (or myself) in time out so I can take a minute to calm down breathe and regroup. I lose my temper and raise my voice far more often than I would like to admit. That said homeschooling is absolutely NOTHING like trying to help your child with homework. My oldest attended public school through 8th grade. I had many days of banging my head against the wall trying to help him with his homework. Here are a few reasons why homeschooling my other kids is completely different from homework.
Homeschool is Individualized
One of the best things about homeschooling is that I can tailor the lesson to the child. Instead of boring worksheets full of math problems we can practice our addition by counting m&m’s, subtracting how many birds we saw from how many bugs we saw, or calculating how many times we need to use the 1/4 cup measuring cup (since it’s the only clean one) to measure 1 cup of flour. We can read the books that they choose on the topics they are interested in. We can learn about whatever we want whenever we want to learn about it. It isn’t a fight to get the kids to learn. They WANT to learn. They need to satisfy their curiosity. Rather than fighting them on doing the work the teacher assigned we simply enjoy learning about whatever catches their imaginations.
Homeschool Happens Before Mental Burnout
If you have ever worked a job that you didn’t love you know how emotionally and physically exhausted you are after a full day of work. Now imagine that your boss sent you home with a few hours of extra work every night. You don’t get paid for this extra work, but if you came back the next day without doing it then there would be consequences. Would you sit down cheerfully at the end of every day and complete your assigned work quickly with a good attitude. I doubt it. Why do we expect this of kids? Most homework, especially in the younger grades, is completely pointless. It’s just buy work assigned to get them used to doing homework. in fact recent studies show that homework does absolutely nothing to aid in the learning and retention of material taught. Even in the older grades homework is rarely necessary to truly learn and grasp the concepts, yet it is still expected. “There are simply no compelling data to justify the practice of making kids work what amounts to a second shift when they get home from a full day of school,” says Alfie Kohn, an expert on child education, parenting, and human behavior, as well as the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. When homeschooling you aren’t battling this mental fatigue while teaching. It is a MUCH more pleasant experience than homework, I promise!
Time for Sun, Active Play, and Imagination
When I was in elementary school we had a morning and afternoon recess for 15 minutes each and lunch for about 30. In middle and high school there was 5 minutes in between each class and a 45 minute lunch. Those were the only breaks we got! Some schools have even less free time than that. Often that time isn’t really free either, there are LOTS of rules about how to play and often games organized by adults trying to keep hundreds of kids under control and uninjured. Playing freely is as crucial to a child’s development as academics, yet we are completely starving our kids in this area. By the time they get home from school they have a ton of pent-up energy and are grumpy and belligerent from not having received the mental and physical stimulation that their bodies need. This isn’t’ a problem when homeschooling. In fact my kids spend the first several hours of each day playing freely, mostly outside, before we ever attempt to even sit down and read a book together. In the young ages we are completely focused on developing relationship skills, good morals, and healthy physical bodies before we push any academics at all. Our academics are learned through the course of their play. We can talk about ANYTHING they want while running around the playground. We go on nature walks to learn about bugs, animals and plants rather than just read about them. We work in our garden and talk about how seeds grow into food. We cook together to work on fractions and talk about how molecules move faster when things are hotter. Everything can be hands on and interactive to capture their attention and give them the much-needed physical and mental outlets for their energy and creativity.
You are the Mentor Rather than the Enforcer
When you are helping a child with homework you are merely enforcing the requirement that another individual has placed upon them. You may not even know how the work was taught or really how to help them. You may secretly think it is as pointless as the student, yet you must push them to complete it anyway. You are reduced to the role of prison warden. As a homeschooling educator you are now in the role of teacher and mentor. You get to decide what is taught, when it is taught, and how it is taught. You can gauge your child’s ability, interest and attention span to create an appropriate learning plan. You are in control of the situation, not merely a pawn to someone else’s desires. As you work with your child to take their interests and desires into account you may be amazed at how eager they are to learn and do assignments. You also have the ability to decide when to ski ahead because your child doesn’t need more practice on a subject or hold back because they aren’t quite understanding. This avoids the burnout of either being frustrated by homework that doesn’t make sense or bored by homework that is too easy and therefore pointless for learning.
Time to Build Relationships
The most important reason why homeschooling is nothing like homework is simply the time you have to build a relationship with your child. When a child is in school for eight hours a day and travelling to and from for another 1-2 hours a day there is such a small window of time to really work on building a relationship. Add in any extracurricular activities they may be involved in and there really isn’t anything left. When you take homework and try to cram it into those few precious hours you have outside of school to be together it can leave you both parent and child feeling resentful. Children need both quality and quantity when it comes to building a solid relationship with their parents. This is almost impossible to achieve while dealing with homework, but quite simple when you are homeschooling.
Opportunities for Autonomy
When in school a child is rarely given many choices. hey are told where to line up, where to sit, what to work on, what color crayon to use, what book to read, even what game to play and how to play it during their few opportunities for physical activity. Many of the choices they are given are simply an illusion because they are only allowed to choose within prescribed boundaries. You may choose activity A or activity B. You may color whatever you want, but you only have these 8 colors to use and one piece of paper. By the time they get home they are sick and tired of being bossed around, and certainly are in no mood to willing cooperate with you enforcing the additional “bossing” that has been sent home in the form of homework. It’s no wonder so many kids have attitude problems, anxiety, or even depression. They feel completely out of control. They have very few opportunities to truly make choices. When you homeschool you can give your child a lot more control over their own life and education. Free play time can truly be free play full of choice making opportunities. Their interests can guide what you choose to learn about academically. They can help you plan outings to parks, museums, and other locations. The more they are able to be in control in their lives the less they fight you on the things that you do need to tell them to do. Also you may be very pleasantly surprised to find that as your children are allowed to learn within their interests they take the reins and run with it and learn far more than you would have ever thought to teach them.
Insights From Other Homeschooling Moms
I asked a group of homeschooling moms on Facebook their thoughts on this topic and got several great responses. Hopefully something I’ve written above or something one of the other moms says below will motivate you to take that jump if you’ve been on the fence about your ability to homeschool your child.
“My daughter attended Kindergarten and 1st grade at public school and she struggled. A lot. We stopped working on homework assignments. The anxiety she was experiencing was just too much. Plus, I felt that her behavior and emotional well-being was more important at age 6 than spelling lists. As her behavior and anxiety escalated and her academic progress not only stopped, but regressed, I knew we had to homeschool her. I was homeschooled most of my childhood, so even though the task seems daunting, I knew it could be done. I’m living proof. I was terrified that any learning at home with her would resemble that dreaded homework. And at first it did. Slowly but surely we’ve unlearned homework and the negative associations and we’ve learned together that learning comes in many different forms. My goal now as a homeschool parent is to create a learning environment in our home and every aspect of our lives.” -Kari Holker
“The way I see it is that we’ve been conditioned to think that we can’t handle our kids once they turn 5. So many times I’ve pointed out to moms that they were adequate enough when their child was younger and there is no magic switch that flips when they turn 5 that makes mom no longer adequate…We spend the first 5 years teaching them to eat, walk, talk, dress themselves, learn manners, etc. why does it have to stop when they turn 5? It’s natural to teach our kids.” – Katie Powell
“I didn’t understand why there always seemed to be so much tension and contention in the home once my kids would get home from public school. I would always have the best of intentions and hopes for that sweet conversation about their day… It wasn’t until we started homeschooling this year that I realized how much they were just releasing frustrations from school at home. Although there still may be moments of tension here and there, the feeling in the home, the sibling relationships and my relationship with each child has improved night and day. ( And I thought I did have a pretty good relationship before. ) But I honestly had no idea what was happening everyday, was a reflection of what they were dealing with consciously or subconsciously at school.” – Dori Glen
“Homework was horrible for my kids and me. My kids were done doing school work! They just wanted to go play. They were exhausted and just wanted to be a kid. We started homeschooling after this Easter and it’s totally different. The kids do want to work. Just not all day and all night. They want to learn and it’s so much more enjoyable for both of us!! Less stressful and I know when they just need to play. We work at our own pace and can do the work anytime.” -Melanie Sanchez
“I think a lot of the frustration with homework is it’s not child-inspired or child-led. The parent often resents the work as well, since it is either busy work or it’s clear that there was insufficient teaching (or at least insufficient understanding) prior to the assignment. Since the parent has to pick up where the teacher left off, there is frustration in feeling boxed in to the teacher’s way of doing things rather than unlocking the natural teaching style that will come to each parent as they use the world as a classroom to teach their children.” -Stephanie Jackson
“Home school is the only time you will experience not only who your children really are, but also how they think, how they respond to problems and how they communicate. School is a draining, boring, time taxing box that, in turn, makes the only precious hours you have with your children at home draining, boring, and time taxing with hours of useless homework. At home learning is streamlined, interesting and tailored to each child. Home school will also allow you to see your children for who they are. And they are so much better than you can imagine!” -Joni Johnson
Has the fear of homeschooling being an extension of the homework battle stopped you from jumping in? What other fears keep you from pulling your kids out of public school? If you’ve already taken the leap what has your experience been with home educating rather bs. helping with homework?