by Keli Kirwin

Is there more to health than sex, drugs, and rock and roll?

Is there more to life than diet and exercise? 

Lifestyle choices are sometimes overlooked as the choices that they are. Local customs influence laws by setting a social standard. Some choices are effectively eliminated whenever the social norms become so ingrained that anything counter causes fear or distrust in the larger public. The restriction might then become prohibitive at the legal level. 

Recently, schools nationwide moved to online distance learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some parents are using this experience as verification that they cannot homeschool. Others are choosing to leave public education and become home educators (pointing out that distance learning with a public school is not homeschool). Private school families have also been impacted. Online charter schools were already established with home learning via online distance learning so the epidemic has not been as large a disruption for those families. 

The way in which our children are educated directly impacts our daily life. Each day is a building block of health. The things we do every day build up our wellbeing, or chisel it away.  We know that cardio is good for heart health, even if we ignore it and choose to be sedentary instead. What about the lifestyle choices beyond diet, exercise, and vice? Health is multidimensional and multifaceted. Overall wellbeing is not dominated by physical health alone. For many, it has become clear that their children’s education is a lifestyle choice far too important to be made by established social norms.

It is a misconception that the average parent is not smart enough to teach their child well. Some believe that it might be ok for a teacher to become a homeschool parent because that teacher spent so much time learning to manage a classroom that they will be better prepared to educate their own children. On the contrary, many homeschooling parents consider themselves to be reclaiming their education. They find the process of teaching their own children to be empowering. Their intellectual health is nurtured and strengthened.

Living on one income while one parent stays home full time may be a financial challenge. That does not necessarily mean that home education will be the downfall of a parent’s financial health. Many homeschool parents are self-employed, work odd shifts, or otherwise have flexible hours which allow them to be home during school hours. Adjustments often can be made to accommodate financial needs. Financial sacrifices such as long term opportunity loss should be carefully weighed  whenever choosing to step away from the workforce. 

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Health and safety in the workplace absolutely applies to homeschooling families. A safe learning environment is beneficial to parents as well as children. Homeschooling families may participate in weekly co-ops or meet for social outings and those locations must be safe in addition to the home. Co-ops may require minimum commitment or be more formal and include a board of directors and act nearly as a private school. Some are academic focused and others are formed for social gatherings and field trips. Group hikes and sports teams add a social aspect to physical health. One homeschooling method or philosophy even encourages swedish drills throughout the day to maintain the level of activity necessary for focused lessons. Participating in the right co-op, or choosing not to join, is individual to each homeschool family. They can be a fun contribution to the social and even mental health of the family. But, being part of a community regardless of schooling choice is important for every person.

 A common myth is that homeschool is dangerous for a child’s social health and that homeschooled children will turn out ‘weird’ and unable to socialize with their peers.Some critics of homeschool believe that children will inherently be in danger without the checks of mandatory reporters, specifically public school teachers. A recent essay published by Harvard asserted the very thing. An upcoming symposium invites only those with traumatic family experiences who were schooled at home and those who are fearful of homeschooling. Renowned homeschool leaders and other experts were not invited to the discussion. 

Many families choose home education as a part of their home culture. Parents feel that being together as a family and being in charge of their children’s education is part of who they are, an aspect of their identity.It certainly is a lifestyle choice that every dimension of health is built upon every day.

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