Homeschooling: a good option?
But aren't they lonely?
Home-schooling parents hear this question all the time.
At a recent sports day held for home-schooled children, over 30 families showed up. There were so many children they had to be photographed with the panoramic photo setting. It was pretty clear that families who home-school are not alone in Bermuda.
Mother-of-three Nicole Simons decided to home-school her oldest son, Joshua (now 11) after just two months in primary school.
“He liked it at first, but then he started to hate it,” she said. “One day in my fight to get him ready for school I just said to myself, ‘Why am I doing this?'”
That was when she made the big decision; after the next school break, Joshua wouldn't be going back to school. She was going to home-school him. She also home-schools his siblings, Noah seven, and Abby three.
Rusheika and Joe Furbert's son Micaiah (now 11) also started off in a mainstream primary school. In his case, his first year was a happy one, but Mrs Furbert was concerned that a regular school might not be a good fit for her second son, Eli, now nine years old. He was more of a hands-on learner and an out-of the box thinker, and she couldn't see a mainstream teacher having the time and patience to cater to his needs. She gave up her job in human resources to home-school the two boys and their siblings, Eden, seven, Marcus, four and Issaiah, one.
“We want to be able to give each of our children what they need in a way they need it without being in the mainstream school system,” said Mrs Furbert. “For one of my older sons, we use a spelling programme that is very kinaesthetic. It uses hands, ears and eyes. In a mainstream classroom, I am not sure a teacher would have time to give that full focus that I can give him.”
There are no easily attainable numbers on how many families home-school in Bermuda, but an informal group called the Bermuda Homeschool Network sees regular participation from 20 to 30 families. The organisation arranges regular get-togethers between home-schooling families, including the sports day held earlier this year.
Mrs Simons said loneliness is not an issue for her children.
“We have such a wonderful community of home-schoolers on our island that we're constantly socialising,” she said. “Whether it's play dates, sailing, drama class, Boys Brigade, Sunday school, friends sleepover, and other things,” she said. “Sometimes I feel my children are over-socialised.”
She herself was home-schooled and never felt like she was missing out.
Mrs Furbert said homeschooling has made her family very close knit.
“The kids are experiencing life together,” she said. “If you are out of the house for eight to ten hours a day you don't really get that. It has slowed our family down. We are not rushing here there and everywhere. There are so many things that are just as important or even more important than academics, such as our faith, and our value system.”
Kristina Moniz home-schools her four children: Jacob, 15, Ruth, 12, Isaac, nine, and Joey, six. Her husband, Zach, works long hours as the marketing director for Lindo's. She feels they would hardly see their children if they were in the mainstream school system.
Michelle Wheddon has been home- schooling her four children, Moriah, 13, Gideon, ten, Liam, eight, and Asher, six, for nine years. She said it's not always easy.
“The first year was really hard,” she said. “I tried to do it on my own with no support. I was burned out by the end of the year and thinking of putting Moriah in a school. Then I called a friend of mine who had been homeschooling for a long time and she told me about the home-school e-mail list. Once I met all of these lovely families who home-school I haven't looked back since. They're such a wonderful support system.”
It's sometimes difficult to find some down time as a mom, she said. The Wheddons try to get out of the house a lot.
Mrs Furbert said it's rare that a day will go by where she doesn't question what she's doing.
“This is the sixth year I have home-schooled and the first year I feel more settled in our decision,” she said. “It has taken us five years for me to get to this point. You have to adjust your expectations.”
Mrs Wheddon said the best thing about home-schooling is getting to be the biggest influence over her children.
“If I see an attitude I don't like I address it straight away,” she said. “They know our values and morals and why we have them. In fact, it's part of our curriculum.”
Mrs Simons said the best thing was getting to watch her children learn and grow as individuals.
“I get to prepare my children for their future and that's such an amazing thing to be able to do,” she said.