I was homeschooled for eight years, from age 11 through to college, before it was a novel way for tiger parents to show off their dynamic commitment to their children’s education. Now, if millions of parents and families are suddenly going to be homeschooling their kids for the coming weeks (and, let’s be honest, quite likely beyond), it’s worth trying to think about how to do this in a manner as smooth, healthy and wise as possible.
Learning at home is quite different from learning at school. It requires us to reorient how we think about learning in general, and how we approach the process with our children – maybe even with ourselves, too. Historically, education has been the province of parents. But the question of how kids spend their time, and learn, and grow, is one to which society as a whole should pay more substantive attention, instead of leaving it to the professional advocates and their tired debates about charter schools, unions and uniforms.
Homeschooling is at once traditional, radical, empowering, frustrating, revealing and, most importantly, not quite any of the above. That’s because it is, by its nature, highly dependent on the individuals involved. Spending very long stretches of time with my parents (I’m an only child) was both the most trying and also the most positively formative part of being homeschooled. Finding my own motivations to overcome setbacks was the most difficult. Browsing whatever ideas and subjects piqued my curiosity was the most rewarding. For this and other reasons, try not to compete with all your friends (online and off) about how much your child is hitting the proverbial books. Not only is it morally and intellectually detrimental – it teaches kids the wrong lessons about what’s important – but homeschooling is one of the best opportunities you’ll get to indulge in more substantive and important comparisons in the first place. Try to use this opportunity for something genuinely alternative.