School at Home vs. Homeschooling

Now that families are settling into an isolation routine, I thought it worthwhile to distinguish between schooling at home and homeschooling.

When my mother was small, she contracted polio. Over the course of her childhood, she spent many months at home recuperating from operations. During that time, the school district regularly sent a teacher to her apartment. I believe the teacher came once or twice a week though I am not sure; my mother rarely spoke of those years. Those sessions, coupled with a sharp intellect and parents who valued learning, seemed to have been most successful. Missing classes, facing poverty during the Depression and immigrant parents for whom English was not their first language didn’t hold my mother back. She joined her classmates when she could and eventually graduated college at a time when that was quite an achievement.

My grandparents had never heard of the term homeschooling. Rather, circumstance dictated that my mother was often schooled at home. I assume that her parents made sure that she finished her assignments, but they trusted the visiting teacher to supervise what she was learning. Today, when many schools are closed, circumstances are leading many children to similarly be schooled at home.

What is the major difference between schooling at home and homeschooling? I’d like to suggest that it is a question of (with thanks to President Truman) where the buck stops. If your children are home and you are making sure that they are online or on the phone for classes being presented by their teachers and doing whatever work they are assigned, then your children are schooling at home.

On the surface, it is possible that a homeschooling parent’s activities might look exactly the same. Especially in higher grades, many classes take place online.  While many, probably most, homeschooling parents do the bulk of the teaching themselves, one can homeschool by assigning others to the task or using a step-by-step curriculum. However, there is a major difference. Trustworthy homeschooling parents accept the responsibility for choosing what their children are learning and with whom they are learning.

Having that mindset is where the fun begins. Yes, a child may attend a homeschool class, online or in-person, on the origins of World War I as many of our children did because we knew of an outstanding teacher, but they learned American history with me at home. Maybe they are part of a drama group learning a play by Shakespeare, but reading A Tale of Two Cities with a parent is a regular nighttime activity. Each part of the child’s education is monitored. The homeschooling parent accepts the onus—and the pleasure—of ensuring that her child is well-rounded and educated in the intellectual as well as the spiritual and emotional realms.

The reality is that every parent should be a homeschooling parent. No child should be mindlessly sent to school because “that is what we do.” Perhaps a child has excellent teachers most years in most subjects but, every once in a while, the teacher simply isn’t up to par or the social atmosphere is toxic. It is the parent’s job not to simply accept that but rather to work around it.

If having your children home has you overjoyed when you see the quality of work their teachers are sending, rejoice. If, instead, you see a lot of busywork, confusing guidance and even ideas that contradict your own, then use this wonderful opportunity to replace that portion of schooling at home with your very own homeschooling creation. Why settle for school-at-home when you could embark on the adventure of homeschooling?

2 thoughts on “School at Home vs. Homeschooling”

  1. On point, as usual.

    I would love it if you would address how you introduced your children to art history and “the classics,” if you included it in their education. Majoring in art in college, I had to be exposed (pun intended) to all of the famous artworks, although I was spared the live nude models in drawing and painting classes. Frankly, the nudes not only bother me from a modesty standpoint, but all of the depictions of David and other biblical figures in the nude are outright offensive.

    1. Suzanne, I remember using an art history book and pictures from Calvert schools. We also did jigsaw puzzles of some classic pictures of Impressionist artists. I can’t say classical art was a feature of our homeschool, but between some museum visits, some Sister Wendy videos and general exposure, I think my kids got pretty good exposure.

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