Is the Fear of Gun Violence a Good Reason to Homeschool Your Children?
It's been a little over a week since the school shooting took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida bringing to light, yet again, the debate over gun control. According to one news article, nearby Collier County is anticipating an uptick in the number of homeschoolers as parents who feel this hit too close to home consider alternative methods of education for their children. Homeschooling is trending on social media nationwide and I've already spoken with a few friends and family members who are also considering it.
I am, obviously, all for home education, but I would encourage parents to think long and hard before making any sudden moves. Many homeschoolers would say that when you feel compelled to withdraw your child from school to do so immediately, but here, when the decision is highly emotional, I would advise parents to proceed with caution, especially if homeschooling wasn't previously on your radar. So, I thought up of a few questions you can ask yourself before diving headfirst into the world of homeschooling:
1. Do I really want to do this?
If you are the parent that will ultimately be responsible for homeschooling your child, is this your idea or is your spouse or partner or other family member trying to talk you into it? Maybe you feel as though what you want doesn't matter, that your child's safety is the most important thing but know that homeschooling is hard. Rewarding, but hard. If your heart isn't into it, then you may find it difficult to stay motivated. My heart is totally into it and it's still difficult to stay motivated. Withdrawing your child from school, only to re-enroll a few weeks or months later may not be the healthiest option. There is bound to be an adjustment period which could prove to be stressful not only for your child, but for you and the rest of your family as well. Yes, your child's needs are important, but so are yours and if you are participating daily in something that you don't really want to be doing, then everyone will suffer because of it.
2. Does my child want to do this?
As the parent, you may be done with sending your child to school, but is your child done with going? There is a very real social aspect to school. Although I think every parent at some point in time will tell their child, "You go to school to learn, not to socialize." Though all of your child's friendships can continue outside of the school day and they will forge new relationships with fellow homeschoolers, is your child ready and willing to make that change? If homeschooling is not what your child wants, be prepared for some resistance when it comes to completing schoolwork. Sometimes, my six year-old pushes back because he'd rather play with his Legos. Imagine the backlash from a fourteen year-old girl that would rather be with her friends!
3. Have I researched and feel willing to comply with my state's homeschooling laws?*
Some states, like Texas, have very friendly homeschooling laws. Here, home schools are considered private schools and go unregulated and unmonitored by the state. In the very rare event that you encounter an issue, all you would have to do is prove that your instruction is bone fide, in visual format and includes the subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and good citizenship. Other states are not so flexible. New York, for example, requires that each year parents provide a home instruction plan which must include the syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks or plan of instruction to be used in twelve, yes twelve, required subjects. Parents in New York must also maintain attendance records, submit quarterly reports to the district in which they reside and students must take an annual achievement test that has been approved by the state. Washington state requires that the homeschooling parent have college credit or be "deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction by the superintendent of the local school district."**
4. Do I have the resources to create the type of learning environment in which my child can continue to thrive?
Resources here could mean money, time, access to specialized services or a combination of the three. Homeschooling doesn't have to be expensive but if your child participates in extracurricular activities through his or her school that are not available to homeschoolers, will you now have to pay out of pocket for private sports clubs, dance teams or music lessons? Is he/she enrolled in advanced placement courses where credit could be forfeited? Be prepared to pay for duel credit courses at a community college to make up for that loss. Does your child receive services from the school district for a learning disorder or disability? Will those services be interrupted if he or she withdraws from the district? Don't forget to account for time in your schedule to plan lessons and enrichment activities. You won't be the one helping with homework. You'll be the one teaching the lesson, assigning the homework, grading the homework, AND reviewing the homework.
5. Is the family prepared for a serious lifestyle change?
Depending on the age of your children, the sudden presence of kiddos at home during school hours could have a significant impact on your daily routine. If you have young children, will one parent have to exit the workforce in order to be at home with them? Adjustments to your budget may be in the cards. That trip to the gym you usually make after dropping all the kids off at school-where does that now fit in the day? If you work from home, how will you adjust your schedule so that you can include time with your children? It's not impossible to get used to your new normal, but it does take some planning and a lot of patience.
6. Is it going to solve the problem?
Gun violence and mass shootings are depressing topics. These situations are especially sad and tragic when the victims are children in what should be a safe environment. Choosing to homeschool your children will keep them from becoming a victim of a school shooting, but unfortunately, gun violence isn't limited to schools. This problem rears its ugly head at malls, gas stations, concerts, clubs and churches. Hopefully, homeschooling is going to solve many problems for your family but I don't believe it should be used as a shield to hide behind. Unfortunately, choosing to homeschool isn't going to stop the next person that wants to do harm to others.
Teaching your own children is an amazing and positive experience for many families and I'd love it if yours became one of them. I just ask that you don't take the decision lightly and try not to let your emotions drive your decision making. Take your time with this one. I've been considering this option for several years, am in the thick of it now and still weigh the decision daily.