Sometimes as a homeschooling mom I worry about the things my children might miss out on by not attending a traditional school. Other times I am reminded of the things I am glad they are missing out on.
Case in point. My 6-year-old, Evan, attended two years of half-day preschool at our church. He enjoyed it and so did I. (I am not good at playing with preschoolers. So sue me.) Evan is highly extroverted and also thrived on the daily interaction with other children. But the experience was not without its drawbacks. Evan was not a model preschool student. Evan is also a highly opinionated and expressive child (okay, okay--bossy), traits which on more than one occasion led to frustration (okay, okay, major meltdowns) on his part because people weren't doing things The Right Way.
We got through it. We were blessed with small classes and patient and loving teachers. In truth, it wasn't that bad. Before Evan, I was spoiled. My first two children were a classroom teacher's dream: introverted, quiet and obedient to the extreme, and content to be left alone in their own world. They have been almost abnormally "good" and easy children to parent. With Evan I have for the first time experienced what it is like to see the teacher coming your way and not know whether the news is good or bad.
Evan may not be in school anymore, but his classroom days are not over. He attends Sunday School every week, and that, too, has been a struggle at times. My husband and I try to drop in on his class frequently to give the teacher moral support and see how Evan is doing. Last week there was only one teacher (there are usually three) so I decided to stay for the entire session. The experience left me once again feeling vindicated in our decision to homeschool. There is no way I would want to subject either Evan or us to the struggle that would ensue if he were in school.
First off, please understand I am not criticizing the teacher. I don't teach Sunday School. She does. That makes her a hero in my eyes. My point is not to criticize the teacher but to illustrate the limitations of the classroom setting, limitations that would turn into daily frustrations for my child and me.
One of the primary characteristics of traditional school is the schedule. Since we're all doing the same thing, we all have to stay on the same schedule (especially when there's only one teacher). When it's time to move on from one activity, everyone has to move on together. Several times last week I witnessed Evan's vexation at being told it was time to stop what he was doing and start doing something else. He wasn't finished yet! Because I was there I was able to help him through the transition, but had I not been there it would have likely been much sturm and drang.
Another thing I observed was Evan's finishing a project and strongly desiring for his teacher to look at it. She was too busy (understandably so!), and he had to settle for receiving affirmation from me instead. I did my best.
As class was wrapping up, the teacher asked Evan to help out by picking up some pencils. I was walking around picking up things, too, and overheard a couple of Evan's classmates planning an ambush: when Evan came by their desk, they would throw handfuls of cotton balls at him. No big deal, right? They're just cotton balls. Another kid would probably laugh and throw the cotton balls right back. Not my kid. If I had not been there to intervene we would have no doubt had a major incident. I know from experience and talking to Evan's teachers that Evan is often selected for teasing because he never fails to put on a good show. You want to create a major eruption? Evan is your best bet.
None of this is meant to fault the teacher or the other children. They are all functioning the best they can within the parameters of the classroom setting. But for me and my kid those parameters are not acceptable on a day in, day out basis. By the end of the week we would be even more exhausted than we are now.
There are advantages and disadvantages to any method of schooling. Each family must decide for itself how those ultimately add up. I know there are things that my home educated children will miss out on. But we have decided, at least for now, that the positive things they will be deprived of are outnumbered by the negative things they will be spared, and that the benefits of being at home far outweigh the drawbacks.