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Education & Schooling

HOMESCHOOLING/ Educating Across the Generations

Alicia Van Hecke, both a former homeschool student and now teacher with six children, edits a popular resource website for homeschoolers at love2learn.net. In an interview with ilsussidiario.net, she discusses how homeschooling addresses the educational needs of children.  

homeschool_mollerus.jpg(Foto)

Alicia Van Hecke, both a former homeschool student and now teacher with six children, edits a popular resource website for homeschoolers at love2learn.net. She lives in the Milwaukee area. In an interview with ilsussidiario.net, she discusses how homeschooling addresses the educational needs of children.

You’re a second generation homeschooler, having been taught at home during the pioneer days of this movement and now raising a family of homeschooled children. What were the motivations for your parents and their generation, and is it the same now?

Sorting out motivations for homeschooling is a difficult thing. For any individual family there is likely to be at least three or four important reasons for their decision, such as: the expense of private schools, moral problems in the schools, some subjects (like Latin) not available in local schools, and special needs or interests that might cause the child to thrive at a faster or slower pace than most students. To be honest, our family’s motivations vary slightly from child to child.

I think the motivations of my parents and other homeschool parents a few decades back, like today, varied, but all were rooted in a common point – parents wanting the best for their children and too often not finding it within the school system. I think my parents were particularly savvy for their time in leaving the school system not only because of its own shortcomings, but also because they saw something unique and worthwhile in homeschooling itself. That concept has certainly grown within the homeschool movement. They saw homeschooling as something, not smaller than the school system, but actually larger. It is larger because it provides the leisure to make teachers out of the librarian, the museum docent, the parish priest, the older sibling, the next door neighbor, and the grandparent as well as the parents. This is a natural and beautiful way to learn.

One thing I’ve noticed in my own homeschool journey (including some time spent teaching in the classroom) is that the school system has a tendency to breed bad attitudes about learning. It’s not “cool” to learn. Additionally, after twelve years of mandatory education, many people end up looking at learning as something undesirable that must be trudged through because of a sense of duty and then finished with as soon as possible. Homeschooling gives students, not only the freedom to explore areas of interest with a certain amount of leisure, but also the freedom to not be burdened with negative social pressures against learning.

Another area where homeschooling tends to excel (though some schools are starting to catch on) is experiential learning – the kind that can’t be done in textbooks, the kind that requires exploring the out-of-doors or touching and playing with things and figuring them out at leisure. And experiential learning can have an enormous impact on a child’s interest in a subject.With our results-driven school system, this essential aspect of learning is often completely ignored.

Are homeschoolers considered to be on the fringe of society?

The simple answer is no. There are some stereotypes out there, but most people in the U.S. seem to accept homeschooling, even if they consider homeschoolers to be somewhat of a curiosity. We still do have the sense that, because we're a little different, because we're still a minority, because homeschooling is a movement that we care about, that we all function as homeschool ambassadors of sorts. It adds some pressure, perhaps, but also makes us more eager to share our joy with others who might be interested. (USA Today has recently reported that 6.8% of college-educated parents in the United States are currently homeschooling their children.)

It’s been commonly accepted for some time that homeschoolers are able to compete academically with their traditionally-schooled peers. The more common question in recent years has been "What about socialization?" Today, that has even diminished to the point where most people seem to view homeschooling in a positive way, but not necessarily as something that they themselves would do.

What happens when a homeschooled child wants to go to college? Are they prepared?


Comments
12/12/2009 - HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE (Anna Di Gennaro)

Good for you for looking into this! ANNA DI GENNARO