Saturday, April 4, 2015

Do You Have to Be at Home to Homeschool?

I was reading a blog the other day in which a mother who devoted her entire day to homeschooling her two boys felt overwhelmed, and she did not seem to be able to accomplish anything else in her life.

I thought back to the time when I was home schooled by my own father, from age thirteen to age sixteen. My father did not stay home to homeschool me. He continued to work. My mother was the one who stayed at home and prepared the meals and made sure that the household ran smoothly. But my mother was not my teacher. She did  not supervise my lessons or grade them or do anything that pertained to my school work. She did prepare my lunch, and she took care of my much younger brother all day. But my father was the headmaster of our school, and he taught all the classes, except for English. Because he was not a native speaker of English, he delegated that task to an English teacher who came by once a week.

                                                     Me in my home school T-shirt
                                                     Our school was named after the Israeli poet

Once a week, on Sunday, my father would have a long teaching session with me. Sometimes he was quite frustrated with my lack of talent in mathematics. Sometimes I was quite frustrated by his uncompromising teaching method that did not adapt to my limitations. But even though I did not accomplish everything he had hoped for me, the homeschooling was not a complete failure, as I was able to gain knowledge of history and languages and literature that is far greater than most American students get in high school. At sixteen, I began college.

Whatever regrets my father may have had about the homeschooling experiment, his entire self-worth was not tied into it, as he never gave up his life's work to engage in it, and he continued working on many other projects, both at his place of employment and at home, while he was also running our little home school. He was not so overwhelmed that everything else fell by the wayside. And as a result, I also did not see him as exclusively my teacher or caretaker. In fact, even when he was my only teacher, he was never my babysitter.

I got to know my father as a person, and I did not judge him solely on his success or failure as a teacher -- or as a parent. I was very much aware of his other accomplishments

                                          My father and I at the airport with one of his planes
                                          Aza, our dog, is careful as she approaches.

The same thing, I believe, was true of the relationship of Theodosia Burr with her father.

Burr directed Theodosia's studies while serving in the Senate and was always correcting her compositions, even from a distance. However, his duties as a father did not keep him from following other pursuits and having a career of his own.  He was not so overwhelmed by directing his daughter's studies that he could accomplish nothing else.

One of the problems with today's conception of homeschooling is that it attempts to replace the public schools, and the public schools keep students occupied all day long, because one of their main functions is to babysit children, replacing the stay at home mother or nanny, more so than the tutor or the father who directs a child's studies while doing something else, too.

Parents do not have to be nannies in order to be good parents. Those who instruct their children do not have to stay home, and even if they do stay home, they can follow other pursuits. A teacher, to be a good teacher, does not have to keep a child occupied all day long. Even a mother who stays home is entitled to some time to herself. But in order to let the mother have that time, you also need to loosen the reins on the children. They need to have some free time, too.


  1. Very interesting. When I was a child, there was no one in my area who was allowed to be home schooled. It was compulsory to attend school to age 16. and parents could receive fines if they did not get their child to school. There also were limitations on how many days a child could miss each quarter for being sick, which I thought very unfair, as no one could help being sick. I really didn't learn much in school that was useful later, except for English grammar. I despised math, because the math teachers had their pets and ignored those of us who weren't skilled in it. I utilized my biggest skill, reading, to expand my education beyond the public school system. I liked art class, but did not have great teachers there, either, so my artistic endeavors sort of died in early college years. I did like my Spanish language classes even though the teacher was quite bland. History and government classes were a total waste, they were always taught by football coaches who of course had other things on their minds. I wanted to take Latin in high school, but a couple of years before I got there, they took it off the curriculum. My mother was the one who taught me how to read when I was very little, before kindergarten. By the time I was 7 I could read at a eighth grade level, so of course was quite bored by the assignments of reading Dick and Jane books.

    1. Hi, Pam. It sounds as if you were a precocious reader and possibly hyperlexic. It's too bad the school system let you down. You probably would have made much bigger strides at home. I think mandatory education laws do not actually foster a better education than people would get if left to their own devices. When I was homeschooled, we were not absolutely sure whether it was legal or not, though my father did study the education code in force at the time. There was a provision in the Texas law that said "kindness to animals" had to be part of the curriculum, so whenever we took a break from more serious studies and played with the dog that was termed our "kindness to animals" lesson.

    2. Hi Aya, well the town I am at is a rural community which has never had much funding for advanced studies. There wasn't even a gifted and talented program until a few years after I had graduated. There is a local junior college which I attended for two years on a free scholarship, and then I went to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, for my final two years to get an English/Journalism degree. I had been accepted to both the University of Kansas and Northwestern University, but couldn't go to either due to lack of funds for tuition and costs. My original intention was to become a cinematographer but that changed since I could not go to any school which offered film courses.

    3. It's too bad you could not go to Northwestern due to the cost factor. I am sure that would have opened whole new vistas for you.

    4. I especially regretted not getting to Northwestern at the time, but over the years I have realized that actually I did exactly what I was supposed to do. There are many positive things that never would have happened if I had gone to Northwestern, and I don't sit around and wonder what would have happened if I had chosen the untraveled road.

  2. I seems all the behavior of kids is micromanaged these days. I have seen teachers and home schoolers alike scolded for they way they hold their pencils. When I was in school they just wanted us to write, and no one was scolded for how they held a pencil. We all remember one teacher my sister had who constantly was micromanaging the kids by telling them how to sit in their chairs. I think that would get exhausting after awhile.

  3. Sorry I mean public schoolers and home schoolers alike seem to be micromanaged here.

    1. Yes, that does seem to be the case, Julia, and it is hard on everyone.