Peer Pressure in Home Schooling – I Mean…Really?

I was very happy to connect with Beth and more than pleased to have her cover this topic here. I know I have participated in more than a few “what are you doing” conversations in my parenting time. For a homeschool mom I sure haven’t been writing much on the subject lately. I have, however, been noodling some posts I want to write soon on all the different ideologies and philosophies that have phased in and out of my kids education. But until the noodles cook into a good post, read what Beth has to say on the pressure us moms (and dads) can go through.

Beth, a home school mom and teacher, lives with her adorable son and yummy chef husband on Johns Island, SC. She loves her life and sharing her time and energy with parents and kids as they home school. She currently has two blogs, www.classesbybeth.blogspot.com (home school) and Every Spiritual Blessing at www.bethhempton.blogspot.com where she currently features excerpts from her upcoming book.

Peer Pressure in Home Schooling – I Mean…Really?

How many homeschool moms does it take to choose curriculum for one child?

One, but only after she has surveyed at least a dozen other moms for their opinions!

Peer pressure runs rampant in home school circles even though it is only discussed in hushed tones and whispers because we really don’t want to admit it exists. However, we have a responsibility to expose it for what it is! :) I’m not referring to peer pressure among our teens and students. I’m concerned about the peer pressure among our moms!

All joking aside, I first began to realize that that peer pressure existed when I started attending home school support group meetings over a decade ago. Having previously taught in a private school, it took me by surprise to discover that home school moms aren’t overly confident. They are bold in standing up to the government and school boards, unsupportive family members and friends, but struggle with making serious decisions for their home schools and their children without seeking out their peers. In some situations, it seemed that even spouses were considered less influential than other home school moms!  Consider the following:

  • Reasons for home schooling – A few years ago, one of our local private schools lost a significant number of families to home schooling. When I spoke with some of the moms, I discovered that at least a portion of them had decided to home school because other families were taking that route in response to a disagreement with the school headmaster. At that time, I wondered how many would home school for more than a year. By the next year, several of thsoe families returned to the school because they didn’t realize what they were getting into with home schooling. They didn’t really comprehend the absolute commitment required! Reasons for home schooling need to be personally grounded within your family. It is definitely not the time to try to keep up with the Jones’!
  • Number of children – As a mother of two, I found myself explaining to other moms that I had tried for more children, but God chose to give me two. With so many friends having four or more children, I often felt like that girl who just couldn’t afford the latest fashions. I wanted to be belong, but I really couldn’t make myself like the other moms. I have spoken to other moms with one or two children, and while there are more smaller home school families today, sometimes you feel pressured into a having a larger family or feel less than perfect if you don’t.
  • Curriculum – I have many home school friends with shelves and shelves of curriculum. Every year, they seem to second guess what they previously used. As well, if one mom mentions that she has experienced success with a particular curriculum, ten other moms run out to purchase it. I remember my first curriculum convention in Dallas, Texas. I had taught school for over eight years and I felt extraordinarily overwhelmed by all of the options. I couldn’t imagine how moms without any education experience waded through all of the choices!  I solved this issue for my family by writing my own curriculum. For some families, it may not be a particular curriculum, but rather a teaching philosophy such as unschooling or the Charlotte Mason method. I belong to several small groups online designed for those who follow CM methods. Early on, I noticed that many of the moms really didn’t understand CM or what she espoused, but like the “idea” of CM because they had friends in the small group. For some, it could lead to a better understanding, but for others, the time might be better spent.
  • Scheduling – As a mom who is considered experienced, I often get asked about how we schedule our day. This question comes up every year in our support group and I am always surprised that families struggle with how to schedule their school day. I wonder how they scheduled their lives before home schooling. Did they ask their neighbors or family members when they ate meals, bathed, did yard work etc? I doubt it! My advice when moms ask is to design a schedule that fits your family’s values and lifestyle. Many home school families have unique situations like a parent that works at night or a parent with a chronic illness. No single schedule works for everyone and trying to adapt your family to the majority may only cause frustration.
  • Outside activities – You have probably laughed when people ask about your children being socialized. If anything, it seems like homeschoolers socialize in relevant ways more than most kids. Our kids don’t just go to outside classes together, they do service projects, athletics, holiday parties, field trips and more! Since they don’t spend all day with their friends, this time together is even more valued. However, the peer pressure issue bubbles up when moms start talking about what their children do outside of home schooling. So many moms feel pressured to not allow their children to miss out on any experience. I often hear moms complain about schooling in the car because they have so many activities and classes for their children. I teach classes in literature, history and writing. While I encourage parents who need my expertise to put their children in my classes, I don’t think that my classes are for every child. I have noted that in the past, I have greater enrollment among moms who know one another and discuss my courses. On the surface, that sounds wonderful, but the key to all of it is the motivation behind attending my courses. I’ve had parents want to enroll students when they’ve already had the subject matter in another way simply because other friends have enrolled their children. Over-scheduling our children because other families do so ultimately results in frustration and fatigue for both you and your children.

Please don’t get me wrong…I believe that supporting one another through home schooling makes so much sense. There’s a great deal of anxiety related to being solely responsible for our children, but faith in the fact that we were meant to teach our children and no one else could love them more should be our primary focus!

Have you had times when you felt pressured to do certain things or behave in a certain way as a home school parent? Or do you think I’m completely off base? I’d love to hear from you either way!

Steve Spangler Science

OK, I admit that I am a total science geek. Kid science though. Guess that explains the whole stint as a 4th grade science teacher :P So, I was beyond geeked when I found out that one of my twitter pals @colosciencemom worked for Steve Spangler Science. I was even more geeked when Steve and Susan asked me to come in and talk homeschool science with them last week.

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I tried to play it cool but come on, the offices are so freakin’ fun I was like a kid in a candy shop. I mean where else can you go to work, get paid to blow things up, mail mannequin body parts to people for fun and decorate your space like this?
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Steve is known as a “teacher’s teacher” and we had a very interesting conversation about teaching homeschool parents to be “cluster leaders”. Building off the theory that by teaching teachers and parents HOW TO TEACH science we are able to give our kids a much better experience, we brainstormed how best to reach out into the homeschool world. Steve had a great point that sometimes we do these really great little science tricks with the kids but they don’t really walk away with the lesson of how to use the scientific method- how to be curious about their world, test their hypothesis, learn that failing and retrying is not only OK but sometimes preferred.

Steve gave me some awesome experiments to do with the boys. We just did Jelly Marbles and Water Cubes and really worked through the scientific method with them. I will be posting that soon along with lots more in my homeschool science section.

One of the things I really like about Steve Spangler is that he truly loves what he does and is passionate about reaching the next generation of scientists.   His teacher training classes look amazing and are pretty break even for them. Apparently you leave with so many take home items. But I wonder even at a break even price, would YOU go to a one day bootcamp for around $200? I probably would, but am I in the minority here? What do you think? and did you know that you can sign up to get an email for the experiment of the week which USUALLY is stuff that you have in the house? Pretty cool, free way to get some fun science in your week.

Steve also asked me about the money we get from the state for homeschooling. I know that Nevada did not give any funds directly to parents and I am pretty sure that Colorado does not either (PLEASE correct me if I am wrong and tell me how to get it). Does your state? If they do, what do you spend it on?

I really want to know what you think so lets get the dialogue rolling!