In the next few posts I wanted to discuss home schooling and some of the perceptions of home schooling.
I have heard from my wife on occasion a number of woman who wanted to, or would like to homeschool, but they haven't or won't because their husband isn't supportive. I can picture in my mind how the scene plays out (it's happened a time or two between Cherie and I :-)). It starts out with your wife telling you about something she's been studying, researching, reading, and/or talking about with someone else and almost immediately you start to think, "please don't change how we do things, I just got used to the way were doing things now." As you listen to what she has to say, you realize that what they're saying isn't bad per say, but it's not something you are ready to delve into. So, you say something to the effect of, "Well, I'm not ready to go down that path, but if you're willing to put the time and effort into it, then by all means have at it. Just don't expect me to do too much right now." What you really mean to say is, "I'm comfortable with how things are, so don't change anything." This attitude of "do what you like at your own expense" is the first major hurdle you might have to overcome, and definitely won't help your wife and children in their transition to home schooling.
The above mentioned attitude might not be the only thing stopping you from accepting and supporting your wife and kids from being home schooled. There are probably a number of prejudices, perceptions, and misconceptions of home schooling which needs to be addressed and/or resolved before you can consider home schooling seriously. Thinking back on my first introduction to home schooling, I probably had the same concerns most men do, not the least of which was socialization. (I dare say by mentioning that socialization was even a concern my wife is probably rolling her eyes, getting ready to point out a blog post she wrote on the topic, or preparing to write another one about the matter.) I was worried my kids would be weird, socially awkward misfits, and that they would be missing out on a lot of valuable friendships and experiences school has to offer. When I went to school I had fun, had a lot of great friends, did some very awesome things and I wanted my kids to have the same experiences. Let's face it. You want to be able to relate to your kids, and what better way to relate to them than to have a shared experience like school. Plus, let's not forget the potential benefits to your wife of having time to herself during the day depending on how many kids you have and how old they are.
Let's start with the prejudices, perception, and misconceptions of home schooling. Honestly in my home I don't really think of what my wife and I (mostly my wife) do as home schooling. I prefer to call it, "Independent Studies with a focus on Leadership Education." Firstly, it sounds more collegiate. And secondly, it more accurately describes what we're trying to do with our children. But, rather than debate semantics with people every time they ask if we home school, I just say we home school.
Now let's talk about socialization and the perception that your kids will be socially awkward and/or weird. If you and/or your wife are socially awkward, weird, different, etcetera, then chances are your children will be that way too. If their strange at home, they'll probably be strange at school, and school is a very unforgiving place to learn that something you do is not accepted amongst the masses. Now let's say that you are the optimum of sociality, there is still no guarantee they won't develop their own quarks, which again could land them into that unforgiving school of learning by getting teased. Thinking back on my own public school experience the sociality I learned was about how to be cool and how not to be made fun of. Lest you think I have some vendetta from my own experience, I don't. I wasn't made fun of in school, and I was generally accepted amongst all groups, but I was no idiot either. I learned from the mistakes others made. The mistake most kids made was they were different from the cool kids.
At the heart of public school socialization is peer pressure. I'm sure there are exceptional schools where peer pressure at school moves kids to be more studious, learn their strengths, learn to be more compassionate, moral, honest, and learn there are no limits to what they can accomplish if they put their minds to it. However, I would venture to say the norm of public school peer pressure is quite the opposite. It can take a child who loves to read, accepting of others, and who loves to learn and turn them into someone who throws books under the bed, makes fun of others, and who would rather sit in front of a video game all day rather than take time to learn about the world around them. When they enter into junior high school and high school the social pressures go up. They are pressured into imitating an adult world they think they understand. They will be exposed to things that could influence the rest of their life. If I as a father can teach my five and six year old to stand firm in their morals as well as continue to develop their love for education and learning, then I will. I believe then best way to do that is by teaching them at home, where their social pressures are that learning brings happiness, enlightenment, and appreciation for life. I will give them a firm foundation so that when they are at the age where they enter the heavier social pressures of imitating what they think adult behavior is cool, then they have all the tools to withstand and make the best and correct decisions. Home schooling (at least at my home) isn't about shielding children from socialization, it's about teaching them correct socialization. It's exposing them to teams, interaction with adults, acceptance of others despite what age they are, teaching them how to talk in front of groups, teaching them that to take changes without fear of being made fun of, and teaching them so much more than public school can about how to correctly socialize with others.