Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How Homework is Hurting His Family

Imperfect Homeschooler newsletter subscriber Michelle Leichty sent me a great email the other day. She shared her response to a newspaper columnist whose family's life is being run by his son's homework. Check it out:

"How Homework Is Hurting Our Family"

This was the headline of a column in Sunday's Daily Herald, written by Jeff Opdyke. His column for The Wall Street Journal is entitled "Love & Money." To read his column, click here.

I had to respond - I was so glad that my 4th-grader is not under the kind of stress his 5th-grader is! Here's what I wrote:

Mr. Opdyke,

Thank you for your column on Sunday about how homework is hurting your family. I've heard similar complaints from parents with children in the public schools in my school district - although I don't think it starts as early as fifth grade. I was struck by your column especially because my oldest son is nine years old, and in fourth grade - I cannot imagine him having the kind of stress your son has.

He is not under that kind of stress for one major reason. My husband and I have decided to teach our four children at home. Your column on Sunday made me so thankful for that decision. We started homeschooling when my oldest was going into kindergarten and I was expecting our fourth child three weeks after school started. For a number of reasons, we decided it would be less stressful on me if we kept him at home (it seems counter-intuitive, but it really was less stressful).

Here are some reasons why we still teach our children at home:

1. Much less stress on our children. Not only less stress, but they learn to love the process of learning. They aren't learning information because it'll be on a standardized test - they are learning because it's interesting. The longer I've homeschooled, the more I've realized that learning really happens all the time - not just between eight and three on school days. As I write, my oldest has taken the initiative to start preparing for an upcoming science fair with our homeschooling group, and has already made a plan for the history fair next February. Instead of dreading these projects, he eagerly anticipates them.

2. More free time. Because I'm only teaching four in my home, we are able to complete our formal schoolwork before noon. If my older two still have work to do after lunch, it's because they've dawdled (lesson learned!). Every afternoon, they have time to play with their siblings, read books that interest them, draw, color, or just play outside. Unstructured time is so important for children, and I'm glad that our schedule allows my children several hours a day.

3. Learn to balance school (eventually, work) with real life skills. Since my children are at home every day instead of school, they are learning from a young age how to manage a house. This may seem a bit silly, but is really an important life skill. They are learning to make breakfasts, lunches, plan dinners. They know how to clean the bathroom, sweep the floor, do the laundry. The bonus for me: help with the housework, and self-sufficient children.

As I read your article, I thought about the amount of time, energy and stress you and your wife are putting into one child's school work... and now even hiring a college student to help. I realized I probably invest about the same amount of time and effort in teaching my four children their formal schoolwork (ages 9, 7, 6, 4), but with much less stress for all of us.

Admittedly, homeschooling requires financial sacrifice. I do not work outside the home (although I run a business from my home), so my husband and I have chosen to cut back financially in many areas, such as:

*We live in a small, older home.
*We drive older cars - currently both are over 10 years old.
*Our vacations are to visit family members or friends - not resorts or Disney World or overseas.
*We shop at thrift stores, wear hand-me-downs.

We happily make these choices - especially since it means less stress on our children, our family and our marriage. Because we homeschool, homework actually helps our family.

Didn't Michelle do a great job of making the case for homeschooling?

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