By Alessandra Oliveira, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Alessandra Oliveira is a wife, mother, and blogger who writes about home-schooling her daughter on her blog, Adventures of a Homeschool Mom.
To decide to home-school a child is not something to be taken lightly. Parents have to consider the child's needs first and foremost. Other important considerations are curriculum choice, socialization, financial strain, time commitment, and personal sacrifices. One big question that needs to be answered is "Why do I want to home school my child?"
Among the reasons some parents choose to home-school are: Dissatisfaction with traditional schools, religious beliefs, bullying, ability to custom-design learning for their child, and a desire to spend more time with their children.
I started home-schooling my daughter when she entered first grade. I call myself an "accidental" home-schooler because I didn't really plan to home-school. I fell into it due to circumstances. Looking back, I know I made the absolute right decision for our family. While my husband and I are totally committed to providing a wonderful, supportive learning environment for our daughter, not everyone in our family has been as enthusiastic. I have faced countless questions, odd looks, even criticism about our decision to home-school. Some people try to be polite and offer advice; others will ask the most inappropriate questions. With time, I have learned to deal with all of this scrutiny and misguided input. I am now able to answer questions and explain my reasoning without sounding defensive nor apologetic.
I must admit that a lot of what I hear are things that I actually thought before I started to home-school. I had a lot of misgivings about home-schoolers simply because I did not have enough information. Here, I have compiled some of the most common misconceptions about homes-schooled kids. These are all things that I have faced along my own home-schooling journey. I hope to help dispel some of these misconceptions with a dose of reality from someone who's "been there, done that.”
Myth 1: Home-schooled kids are weird
Reality: This is one of the most bothersome generalizations for home-schoolers. After all, no one wants to be thought of as weird. Home-schooled kids are given the freedom and encouragement to be themselves, to explore who they want to be. The advantage is that home-schooled kids do not have to worry about bullying or pressure to fit in. They are not being pushed to smoke or date before they are ready. If those are the experiences that constitute being called "normal,” I'm sure many home-schooled kids would rather be labeled weird.
Myth 2: Home-schooled kids are social misfits
Reality: Because homeschooled kids are exposed to a wide range of situations and opportunities, they are better equipped to adjust to change and new situations. Kids in traditional schools are exposed to many children, but in classes with kids all their own age. In contrast, home-schooled kids are exposed to children of all ages, even adults, so they are better prepared to handle varied social situations. Home-schooled kids can interact comfortably with people of all ages. Home-schooled kids have also been shown to be better problem-solvers because of their exposure to many different situations.
Myth 3: Home-schoolers are against traditional schooling
Reality: Some people who choose to home-school may, in fact, find fault with traditional schooling. However, many home-schoolers have no problem whatsoever with traditional schooling. In my own personal experience, the public school was not the issue. I happen to live in a district with fantastic blue-ribbon schools. My decision to home-school had nothing to do with the public school system. It was a personal decision based on what was best for my child. Some people find that home-schooling just fits their lifestyle better.
Some parents choose home-schooling because their children are not being challenged enough in public school or their special needs are not being met. In traditional schools, kids are restricted by time, what they learn has been pre-selected for them, and they have to spend countless hours inside a building, usually sitting for many hours. Home-schooling allows kids the freedom to learn anywhere (the world is their school room). Home-schooled kids have no limit to learning. They can follow their own interests in choosing what to study. Home-schooled kids are not bound by the clock - They can study any time of day, allowing for flexibility to pursue other interests.
Myth 4: Home-schoolers are religious freaks
Reality: While some parents choose to home-school their children based on their religious beliefs, there is a growing trend in secular home-schooling. There are many reasons for choosing home-schooling. Religion may be one of them, but it certainly is not the only one.
Myth 5: Home-schooled kids sit around the house all day
Reality: Home-schoolers view schooling differently than most. They find learning opportunities throughout the day, wherever they are. Learning can take place in the backyard, the park, the supermarket, or on a trip. Homeschooling has built-in flexibility which allows kids to visit museums, galleries, bookstores and many other places much more frequently than children in traditional schools. In addition, home-schooled kids take part in sports, extracurricular activities, book clubs, choir, field trips and more. The possibilities are endless. Homeschooled kids rarely sit around doing nothing.
Myth 6: Colleges don't want homeschooled kids
Reality: Colleges are seeing an increasing number of home-schooled applicants. As home-schooling is becoming more prevalent, colleges are adapting their admissions criteria to allow home-schooled kids to apply and be admitted. Colleges are quickly realizing that home-schoolers excel academically because they are more mature, have impeccable study and time management skills - typically things that are not taught in a classroom. Home-schooled kids also do extremely well on standardized tests and are self-directed learners, things that colleges view positively.
As home-schooling becomes more and more popular in the U.S., I hope that people can be open-minded and respectful, regardless of their personal opinions. I sincerely believe that knowledge is power and it can dispel prejudices and misconceptions.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alessandra Oliveira.