Freedom and Flexibility

[ 3 ] March 13, AD 2012 |

Guest post by Rebecca Frech

People often ask me why on earth we chose to homeschool 11 years ago. I’m not even sure that I remember all the reasons any longer, and am not 100% convinced that it didn’t all boil down to my not being quite ready to have my 4 year old be gone for the day. We began this journey with the idea that somehow it was temporary and that eventually we would put our children into some form of traditional schooling, either public or private. Homeschooling, in the beginning, was like a long last hug before they went to school.

And then it worked.

After that first year of my teaching her, our eldest was reading 3 grade levels above her peers. The public schools didn’t know what to do with her, and the private schools would only take her if we allowed her to skip 2 grades. There was no way my 5 year old was going to be in the second grade, and so we were stuck, happily so. For the next 8 years, our children “did school” at home with mom. While they were fascinated by school buses and the masses of children we’d see on playgrounds, we were all content to keep them at home.

It was only last year that the first of our children attended a school which wasn’t in my kitchen. Our son has vision issues and we decided to see if the special education department at our local public school was better equipped to help him that I was. It was then that I learned the truth of traditional schooling: Your children are gone all day.

We missed him throughout that whole long year, and he missed us, too. His one wish for this school year was that he would be allowed to rejoin the family doing math at the kitchen table. The teacher last year went too fast for him, he says. With an entire classroom of third graders to educate, she was unable to move at the slower pace our son requires, and he got lost along the way. That doesn’t happen here. I can move as slowly as each child needs, or sprint ahead when they really get going.

We aren’t tied to a schedule or locked into curriculum choices. When things don’t work, we have the freedom to change them. When educational opportunities unexpectedly arise, we can change the schedule for impromptu fieldtrips. We can adapt my teaching style and their learning needs to find something which works best for all of us.

There is so much freedom in homeschooling which traditional school teachers do not enjoy. When my children became infatuated with Ancient Egypt, we were able to spend a week traveling to museums to study mummies and canopic jars. The semester one of my sons discovered his love of gardening, I based all of his math lessons on plants and growing things. (You’d be surprised how many ways plants can be used in word problems.) My daughter who loves horses job-shadowed a jockey and learned about race track management. My son who creates costumes regularly emails a costume designer in Hollywood for ideas and inspiration.

Their non-traditional education is the reason why I have a 15 year old who owns her own business, and a 12 year old working on a business model and marketing plan of his own. It has taught them not to think outside of the box, but that the box never really existed in the first place.

Far from being the stereotype of sheltered, unsocialized individuals, our children are learning that education is never-ending. They are discovering that the world is full of people who are happy to share all that they know with people who are brave enough to ask the questions and patient enough to hear the answers.

11 years and a lot of work later, I would do it again the same way. There isn’t a day when I don’t look at my pupils and thank God that I just couldn’t bring myself to put her on that bus. The only hard part was taking the leap of faith that it could be done. The next 11 years? They just required love, patience, and the teachers’ manuals.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Rebecca-Frech.png[/author_image] [author_info]Rebecca Frech is a Cradle Catholic who came back to the Church in 2000, and thanks God for it every day. She lives just outside Dallas with the brilliant Computer Guy, their 7 not-quite-perfect children, and an ever-multiplying family of dust bunnies. When she’s not teaching math, neglecting housework, or reluctantly training for a marathon, she’s blogging at Shoved to Them.[/author_info] [/author]

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Category: Catholic Education, Columnists, Symposiums

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  • http://www.gadel.info GADEL

    Wow! Interesting. Home schooling seem a bit strange to us Africans though :) I also thought this was an interesting remark, “It has taught them not to think outside of the box, but that the box never really existed in the first place.” Thanks.

  • Edward G. Radler Rice

    Mrs. Frech,

    Thank you for this symposium on homeschooling. My wife and I have two girls, one almost a year old and the other about to be born.

    I don’t know if you have read Mariella Hunt’s symposium here at ignitumtoday, which was also very good. Regarding Hunt’s work, I contributed a long post.

    Finally, my wife and I are looking forward to homeschooling…

  • http://shovedtothem.blogspot.com Rebecca Frech

    Mr Rice,
    I’ve read a lot about the controversy with the Bishop of Austin.

    I don’t think that he understands the problems with Catholic education with which many of us struggle. They can be boiled down to two issues : 1) the Catholic schools in our area are Catholic in name only and (in the case of the high school near us which has a Baptist theologian teaching Religion classes) may actively be working to undermine children’s faith and 2) even if the schools are faithful (and Praise God for faithful schools!), many parents are unable to afford send their children to them. As a mom of 7, I know that the current tuition rates at our local Catholic school (even with the parishioner discount) would exceed the amount of my husband’s salary. To send our children to Catholic schools would require that I go to work just to pay tuition. Given the choice between unorthodox teachings ( I know this isn’t the case everywhere and wish it weren’t for us) plus bankruptcy and Catholic teaching plus financial solvency, we’re keeping them home