Nurturing the Whole Child
Educational equity is one of the most important aspects of a child’s foundation. Parents want their children to succeed academically and grow into adulthood with multiple employment options, healthy socialization skills, and a multitude of other talents and skills. For most children, this means entrusting their educational pathways to the public school system, or for others, maybe a private school like Montessori or Waldorf. What happens in the classroom will help this child grow as an individual and aid in developing lifelong learners and strong positive character traits. Recently in the Valley, there has been an increase in parents who are benefiting from taking control of their child’s academics and bringing them back into the home for school.
Homeschooling parents in the Valley highlight the benefits of educating their children at home, including an increased opportunity for character-building based on personalized foundational principles and values that can not be found outside the home.
“People get the misconception that when they homeschool, it’s just subjects, but once you start homeschooling, you realize that, yes, subjects are important, but what you’re dealing more with is character training. We get to work on character training when we spend most of our waking hours with these little humans,” said Mio Cabeza, a 10-year homeschool mom of four children in Edinburg. “My husband and I wanted to have the biggest and strongest impact on their lives emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.”
In addition to being the strongest impact on your child, one Valley mom says homeschooling encourages a lifelong learning lifestyle.
“Even though there are a lot of different homeschool learning philosophies, most of them do focus on the fact that learning is not just something you do during a set amount of time, learning is all the time,” said Melissa Nuñez, homeschooling mom of three years and mom of three. When parents carry out one-on-one learning, it is easy to navigate through multiple questions, delve deeper, or repeat a certain subject. “My son has the opportunity to be open-minded, learn, be wrong, make mistakes, and we’re doing it all together and I like the way that works,” Nuñez added.
Confidence is another benefit that comes from children who are able to converse frequently and achieve educational goals at their own pace.
“One thing people notice about my daughter is that she’s so well-mannered and behaves more mature,” said Nicole Armijo, a three-year homeschooler and mom of three children in McAllen. “People notice she’s so good at making friends, she goes up to kids at the park and asks them their name. She’s just more confident.”
One of the reasons Armijo attributes homeschooling as a boost to her daughter’s confidence is because if her daughter has an issue with another child during play dates or co-op homeschool groups, she is able to talk through her dilemma immediately.
“We talk about how to deal with the situation,” Armijo said. “I think it’s helped her with her confidence and with her maturity. She doesn’t lash out or act ‘her age’ about it.”
Olivia Lopez, a three-year homeschooler, and mom of two children in Raymondville also highlights the changes in confidence she sees in her daughter and the compliments in maturity and advanced critical thinking skills her daughter receives from people in their community and church. But another aspect of homeschooling that has been beneficial for their family is flexibility. While both public school and private school students attend a scheduled eight-hour school day, homeschool children have the flexibility to start school at whatever hour is best for them and commonly finish their work within a couple of hours.
“My husband and I do ministry and sometimes we’re on call and up late at night,” Lopez said. “My daughter can sleep late the next day and we can start school when she wakes up. The schedule is the biggest drive for us.”
While homeschooling does present challenges for every family, Cabeza says the countless benefits of homeschooling outweigh any presented downside. “I knew the bonding and the time I was spending with my kids would outweigh the struggles,” she said. “We always do things together as a family and you get to witness the fruit in your kids.” For each family, the trials of education at home differ, but all parents guarantee that socialization is not one of them.
For most parents with children in an organized school system, the idea that your child will no longer have friends if you started homeschooling is inapplicable. In fact, socialization outside of school is more accurately compared to real world interactions. Children are able to converse with people who are in all age groups and all walks of life while in social situations outside of the public or private school classroom.
“We are exposing them to adults, younger children, young adults, teenagers, and kids their own age everyday,” said Nuñez of her 7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. “My son can have a conversation with a 7-year-old, a 15-year-old, or a 30-year-old, without hesitation, he has so much confidence. … The longer I homeschool, it just seems like such a funny thing to be worried about, because we interact with people all the time and with all ages — not just with their age.”
So whether parents choose to homeschool because of freedom in educational choices, individualized instruction, stronger family ties, or flexibility, they only hope for the best outcome for each individual child. All parents agreed homeschooling does not have merely one face. It is the least restrictive style of learning and each family benefits from different styles.
“It’s a passion for me when we talk about homeschool — we’re not just talking about notebooks and textbooks, we’re talking about the whole person as an individual,” Cabeza said. “We want the whole person, the student, to be nurtured in every way, shape, and form. In every capacity we want to understand, how do they learn best? And that takes time, investment, and a lot of prayer and guidance.”