Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

Why Not School?

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This question comes up all the time. Why don’t I just put the kids in school? I swear, I get tired of answering it. Still, I find it useful to remind myself from time to time. I get tired of the questions. Sometimes I wish I could just print out an FAQ and hand that out to everyone!

Why do you homeschool?

This is always the first question. I’m always tempted to turn around and ask, “Why do you send your kids to school?” I never do because in many cases I get non-answers thrown at me about how it’s normal or they couldn’t do anything else for this or that reason. For working moms, I get it. For most moms, their answers are more of an avoidance of the issue. They don’t want to take the time to think about why they do it beyond social norms. But that’s not answering the question, is it?

I choose to give my kids an education at home for many reasons. Keeping my kids at home means spending more time with them, creating a closer family bond. I think I can do a better job educating my kids than an overworked teacher with little time for one-on-one attention that is forced to adhere to some standardized routine. My children are learning in a true-to-life model, where they might have to take the initiative and pursue their own interests. This also means learning and working in a diverse age group instead of structured to only work with kids their own age, something that only ever happens in schools. They learn their social skills by interacting with family, friends, and adults, which reduces the bad habits they learn in school and keeps bullying to a minimum. The kids also have an opportunity to work at their own pace, which really means no child is left behind. They’re supported through their struggles and aren’t punished for being too successful. Finally, and this one may make me sound like an anti-government conspiracy theorist, I don’t want the government to tell me what, when, and how my kids should learn. It’s bad enough I’m forced to pay for it. If I could boycott the school system, including pulling my tax dollars from it, I would. That’s just how strongly I feel about it.

But wouldn’t it be easier? Think of all the free time you would have!

Wait, free time? We’re clearly not on the same page here. This often comes with a break from the kids and time to myself. In other words, life is supposed to be easier if we send the kids to school, but is it really?

Let’s look at my schedule if I sent the kids to school. I would have to get up every morning at about five in the morning. This is when would get the kids fed, dressed, and ready. Then I would have to pack all four kids in the car, regardless of their ages. At this point, Beekee would go to the elementary school and Corde to the intermediate. By the time all four kids are in school I would have to drop off and pick up at four schools. They could take the bus, but parents are charged for that, so I avoid it. For the time being, I would still have two little ones at home, so I wouldn’t have that magic kid-free time. Around three the routine would be to drop everything I’m doing and pick the kids up. This means errands, visits with friends, appointments, and whatever else I do needs to fit into that window along with naps, chores, and everything else. When the kids come home I would be helping with homework. By the time that’s done, I need to get dinner done, manage baths and showers, and send everyone to bed. Having such an early morning means I would make lunches, but be too tired to do more than go to bed. There goes my time with Oz after he gets home. It would leave me to be busy and disconnected with my family, not to mention the kids being upset at having to miss their favorite shows. Then there’s meetings with teachers, picking up sick kids, and who knows what else would come up.

Currently my schedule is so much easier. I get up around seven on most days, six on co-op days. The kids get up when they’re ready, some days as late as nine or ten. They go outside after breakfast and run around outside hour or two if the weather is nice. Then they come in and sit down for some school work. Thanks to the co-op, this is about twenty minutes to an hour for Beekee. For Corde it’s about an hour. We read a chapter or two of a book together, usually their classic novel for co-op. Corde works on her reading for a half hour. Then we include other lessons, like cooking and baking. We go outside and learn from nature. We watch television (not that! Anything but TV!) When I go run errands we take our lessons on the road. We hold conversations too, like why something works a certain way, or about laws, or whatever it is the kids are curious about while we’re out. At the end of the day we watch shows like Bones and Sleepy Hollow together. The kids also like Master Chef, especially since this time is with kids. American Ninja Warrior is also a hit. It encourages the kids to be super active. On top of that, we know someone that’s going to try and make it on the show. In general, it’s chill and relaxed. I get things done on my schedule. I can relax while getting them done. Best of all, my family can stay connected and in touch with what everyone else is doing. I have so much more free time than I would if I had to run around doing all those crazy errands.

You would save so much money!

This one makes me laugh. School supply lists in our area have some ridiculous things. Since when do school kids need Clorox wipes? Between crayons, markers, glue, paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, and all the other crazy stuff, it gets expensive. That’s not even counting the supplies for projects to be done at home, posters, science fair projects, and all that. From a friend’s estimate, school supplies cost her somewhere around one to two hundred dollars per student. Then there’s the cost of school clothes. Most kids I know have a set of school clothes and their play clothes. How much does a new wardrobe cost these days? I can easily see spending a couple hundred dollars at non-secondhand prices. With all the pressure to keep with the trends, I can see my kids begging to buy whatever is in style that year. Maybe not Beekee, but definitely Corde. Then there’s the cost of transportation. The bus starts off at thirty dollars for one child per month. If I wanted to put Corde and Beekee both on the bus it would be just under sixty dollars, since they’re nice enough to discount additional children. By the time all four are school age I would be paying about a hundred dollars a month, not counting for price hikes. The cost of gas to get them all where they need to go wouldn’t be much different if I end up getting a mom-car, something I’d really need if I were taking all the kids to school. Oz and I would have massively conflicting schedules, so I would really need my own car. That’s yet another expense.

Homeschooling is cheaper. No one cares that the clothes were given to us or they came from a thrift shop. My kids aren’t pressured to follow the trends. They also don’t need school clothes that are kept nice and play clothes. They just have one set. This means my clothing budget can be inexpensive or free. Many of the school supplies can be shared or eliminated. After all, why would I need to get Clorox wipes or tissues for each kid. I can even go green and give my kids handkerchiefs that can be washed. I clean my home with green products, eliminating the need for chemical wipes. We only need one set of crayons and markers that can be shared by everyone. These can be replaced as needed instead of every school year. The same goes for glue, pens, pencils, paper, and everything else. Even with projects and all that, I probably spend less on general school supplies than a family with a single child in school, if you don’t count books. We wouldn’t worry about books were it not for the co-op. And, yes, the co-op is expensive, but even with transportation, books, and the cost of the co-op, it’s still cheaper per child than having them in school. I save a lot by keeping my kids home.

And, sure, you can spend a small fortune on curriculum, supplies, field trips, and all of that. Homeschooling can be expensive. So can sending your kid to school at private or boarding schools. You can put your kids in all kinds of classes, sports, and activities. That can get expensive. It’s all in the choices you make.

What makes you think you’re more qualified than a teacher with a degree in education? They’re trained to teach kids. You should have to have the same training as other teachers.

What makes you think teachers that are trained to churn out equally qualified kids like an assembly line are more effective than I am? I know my kids on a personal level. I know what they are capable and where their challenges are. I can take the time to build a tailored plan to meet their needs. I can move at their pace, focus on their interests, and provide a more diverse education in less time than a normal school day. If I get to subjects I have a hard time with I have options. There are curriculums with teaching guides. I could hire a tutor. I could swap with another parent that’s challenged in areas I’m strong in. There are co-ops and classes available that allow my kids to learn from a different parent. Some kids even take college classes at that level. There are plenty of options for the things I don’t feel ready to teach.

There’s a lot more to say on the topic, but we’ll save that for another day.

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Author: Fox

With four kids in the house, who has time for much? Well, we're trying to make it work, trying to get as close to our unschooling roots as we can while state restrictions and family pressures try to stand in our way. Every day is a new adventure.

6 thoughts on “Why Not School?

  1. My husband went on a business trip last week with a co-worker from Germany. He’s a younger man, unmarried, and thought it was wonderful that we’d been married for so long. But when homeschooling came up, he said “Oh! There would be no reason to do that in Germany! The schools are wonderful, and they’re on every corner!”
    My husband tried very briefly to explain that we weren’t homeschooling because we didn’t have access to good schools, but it was pretty hopeless. “But what about friends, etc?”
    It was a good reminder for me that some people truly have NO concept of home education- it’s not that they’ve thoughtfully decided that it’s a bad idea; they’ve never even considered it. Hard to imagine but I guess it’s true. I tend to get annoyed when people aren’t respectful of our choices (mostly I feel like it’s no one’s business) but I’m trying to not judge others too harshly for their limited thinking.

    • I recently brought up the question of what would happen if public school just ended for good. The answer was an uneducated workforce, sectarian conflict, and religion bringing us back to the dark ages of science, because that’s what happened when other countries tried it. In other words, America would fall apart without the schools there to hold it together.

      Coming from the point of feeling like I wasn’t qualified to teach my child originally, and being completely afraid of curriculum and failing my child, I no longer fear an end to public schools would mean mass chaos. Homeschoolers and unschoolers are always right there to take new families under their wing. That’s why homeschooling and unschooling succeeds. Our support systems make it seem as natural as breathing. That’s like other families and school. It’s comfortable.

  2. I bristle everytime I am asked why my 12 year old son is homeschooled. It annoys me to the core. And it happens at every single time we step a foot off the farm and into town. The moment the question leaves the strangers mouth (it is almost always strangers, people who don’t know us anymore than the man in the moon eating green cheese knows us) I get defensive and sometimes down right indignant. One would think that after having been homeschooling for 6 years now that I would be immune to the “why do you homeschool” peanut gallery.
    I agree that homeschooling is cheaper. The last year that my son was in public school we dropped $260 on uniforms and supplies….$260 spent before he had ever even stepped foot in the classroom. That was just the beginning as all thru the year we were nickeled and dimed to death on a weekly basis for something…field trips $20 or more depending on where the class was going, school pics (the smallest package was $60), the book fair, fundraisers, teacher appreciation gifts, donations for (fill in the blank), etc…. it never ended. And all we had was one kid in the school system. I cannot even begin to fathom the cost times two or more kids!
    What about my free time I would have if her were in public school? Honestly I have more free time now than I ever had when he was in public school because I can work free time around our schedule. Not that I get a lot of free time because between the homeschooling, this farm and all the chores here that have to be done, household chores and I myself being back in college there simply isn’t a lot of free time going around here anyway!
    I do enjoy reading your blog every evening when I get a few minutes. I can’t remember how it was that I actually stumbled across it but I think it was thru Living and Learning With Our New Normal.
    Oh and I’m a big fan of Sleepy Hollow too!! It is filmed in the area that I live in so everything you guys see in the background is stuff that I pass by on a regular basis!

    • Oh, that’s fantastic! It looks like such a beautiful area. It makes me homesick. I was originally from up North and can’t wait to get back.

      And a farm? I can see why you’re so busy! I dream of the day where I can at least have a large garden and some chickens. It seems like it would be so much better for us.

      I love Living and Homeschooling with a New Normal. They’re such a fantastic family. I love to read them.

      As for homeschooling, I totally understand. That’s how it’s been with us, new neighbors, strangers, people who haven’t gotten used to us yet. I get tired of the questions. I kind of just wish homeschooling was the common schooling and sending your kids to school was unusual.

  3. Well said! We used to get this one a lot: “Aren’t you worried about them getting socialization?”

    When our son was high-school age he chose to go to the local public high school (he’d been homeschooled up that point). He did just fine. Our daughter stayed in homeschool all the way through graduation. Here’s the thing about socialization: our son is a homebody and he never chose to get active in clubs, sports etc. He had plenty of friends, but they chose to hang out here. Our daughter, on the other hand, is an extrovert and she seems to know every kid in the county. She was constantly doing things away from home in her spare time and went to three different proms. Even leaving aside a discussion of the merits of the “socialization” that usually comes along with institutional school, the point is how much a kid “socializes” is going to be much more a function of that kid’s personality than whether he or she is in an institutional school.

    Both of our kids recently graduated college and are getting their starts in the real world. Homeschooling may not make sense for everyone but it was a great thing for our family.

    Great post.

    • That reminds me the two girls I met in Switzerland. They were both homeschooled. They were so friendly, polite, considerate, and intelligent. They both saved up money to go backpacking in Europe before they went off to college. It was my first introduction to homeschoolers. I remember thinking they seemed so much more grown-up and mature than the kids in my school. I was impressed. I think more people need to get to know grown or soon-to-be-grown homeschoolers. They’d probably have less of the image of awkward kids in homemade clothes about 30-40 years outdated with no social skills. I’m sure that still exists, but most I know grow up and no one would guess they were educated at home!

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