We recently had the opportunity to chat with homeschool mom Jessica Cooper, who just began her homeschooling journey with three-and-a-half-year-old Cody and Horizons Preschool. Mason, 17 months, learns along with his big brother at their home in Ohio. Here’s what Jessica has to say about homeschooling.
AOP: You just started homeschooling. What are the pros so far?
Jessica: Oh, wow, the pros are never-ending. One that led us to homeschooling is that if one of our children needs a little extra time to master a concept, we can give him that time without the typical pressure of group school of falling behind or being measured or compared to peers. We strongly believe every individual is unique and different in learning style and interests, and having individualized education allows them greater freedom to reach their true educational potential. On the flip side, if they are more interested in a particular topic studied, we can give them the extra time to dig deeper into what interests them.
School can be integrated into life. We don’t have to have a set schedule every day where we are sitting at a desk learning the alphabet or numbers. When we are out shopping or just cooking dinner, we can count with our three-year-old. Every time he points out letters, he recognizes a teaching opportunity. Another pro of homeschooling, we hope, is that our kids will not get discouraged with education and the rigidness of schedules and attendance polices. Although rules and abiding by policy are important to learn, by schooling at home, we can institute and teach those concepts when they are ready to learn them, without adding unnecessary pressure at young ages, when learning should only be exciting and a time of discovery. Also, they are not exposed to social pressure when they may be too young to deal with it.
Homeschooling also seems to help foster a strong family unit for us. We live together, learn together, take care of each other, etc. My husband often travels for work, and having the flexibility to pack up our school stuff and go with him not only allows our family to stay together, but we can also find cool field trip opportunities along the way.
As a parent, I don't have to miss a moment of my child's growth – the twinkle in his eye when he learns something new or discovers the colors in nature or the wonders of the world. I can't imagine giving that up to someone else for seven hours a day, five days a week.
I can get hugs and kisses all day long. Reading stories is more fun cuddled up on a comfy couch. We can take our books outside on a pretty day and work on the deck or in the grass. I know where my kids are and how safe they are 24/7. If we are running late, we can skip putting shoes on, or just wear pajamas all day. If we had a special event that went late the night before, we can just start school later the next morning so everyone can sleep in if needed.
Another plus is that I will be forced to face my shortcomings and weak subjects, like spelling and history, when teaching those concepts to my kids, although I am excited to have a second chance to learn those tricky concepts alongside my kids.
AOP: What are your homeschooling challenges?
Jessica: The only one I have found so far is the pure exhaustion I feel some nights when my head finally hits my pillow. But it is a peaceful exhaustion, one of complete contentment that I am doing what’s best for my kids, and I enjoy every tiring moment of it. The other challenge we are working through is finding the homeschool networks in our community. They are there and they are vast, and once we found one, it was like a huge underground community, much larger than we imagined. Of course the critics of homeschooling will always present a challenge, but my husband and I are solid in our decision to homeschool and ready to defend when appropriate or confidently accept the criticism.
AOP: How do you teach?
Jessica: I use Horizons Preschool as the basis for my daily lessons. I outline the lessons the night before, and then expand or adapt from there. I try and let Cody decide the order or type of activity we start with, so he learns decision-making skills, and I get an idea of his preferences. I have researched many other curriculums, but found AOP to have the most diverse options for the future and a more colorful PreK curriculum. Cody loves school and asks to “do school” just about every day. The retention of a preschooler amazes me. Mason tries so hard to keep up with his bother. He loves being included in everything.
AOP: What makes you unique?
Jessica: I don’t think I’m much different from many moms. I wake up every morning, and I’m grateful for one more day with my kids. I cherish every moment I have with them. Although I get frustrated and overwhelmed with the hectic nature of life and raising toddlers, I try very hard to continually look at my kids as a blessing that I only have a short time with before my job with them is done and it will be time to send them off into the world, and hope and pray I did well as a mother. I want to raise well-adjusted children who grow into the type of adults who are admired and respected, contribute to their community, love their family, and are happy. I want them to appreciate the important things in life: family, relationships, and the love they share with others.