No two people are ever exactly the same. Everyone has their own unique interests, aptitudes, ambitions, and capabilities. People are, in short, individuals.
And yet state-run schools continue to treat education as a one-size-fits-all endeavor. For Paul and Mary Banducci, that was never going to be a workable option.
Paul and Mary have a 12-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son who have always been homeschooled.
“I started with our daughter because she wanted to do something, she wanted to learn,” Mary told me when I spoke to her and her husband Paul at their Clark Fork home. “So I started her earlier than she could be entered into a preschool. And then it was kind of like, ‘We really enjoy this!’”
“We realized fairly quickly that state-run education was going to have a very negative impact on our children, who were both going to want more than the regular experience,” Paul added. “In order to flourish, they were going to need more than the regular sit-down-shut-up for eight hours a day, five days a week.”
Mary has been educating her children at home for the past decade with help from Paul in subjects like history and economics. And despite the occasional moments of wistfulness when the school bus goes by, they’ve never regretted their decision or seriously considered sending their children to a state-run school.
Of course, that doesn’t mean homeschooling has always been easy. Like any important endeavor, there have been challenges.
According to Mary, “It’s constantly reassessing. Like, are we on the right track? Are we doing the right thing with them? Am I doing enough?” But with a shrug and a smile, she brushed those off as standard worries every parent deals with, regardless of where their children go to school.
This is not to imply that Mary or Paul are cavalier about their decision or that they haven’t taken their own worries seriously. But they can see for themselves how engaged and excited each of them is and how effective their methods are by being directly involved in the kids’ education.
Without the need to rely on second-hand accounts about attitude and performance, they can be confident in how much their kids are learning, how well they retain it, and how happy they are to be pursuing their individual interests.
But there are other challenges. As Paul explained, “With homeschool, you’re making a lot of different sacrifices. One of them is financial. We already are forced to pay property taxes, most of which goes to products, goods, and services we don’t even use and we don’t want. And then we have to pay again to educate our own children, which can be a frustrating and taxing — pun intended — experience.”
Mary added, “A lot of people think funding is an issue for homeschoolers, and I think that can be true. There are some resources, like Tech Trep Academy, that can help.”
Paul and Mary both mentioned Tech Trep Academy as a fantastic resource for parents to not only help pay for much of the curriculum and activities that their children use, but also to help provide a certain amount of structure to the day.
And for parents who are still concerned about the financial burden of homeschooling, Mary assured me, “It’s amazing what you can do with a library card and YouTube and being out in nature. I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, we need to have a ton of money to homeschool.’ No, you really don’t.”
For Paul and Mary, the decision to homeschool their children is a relatively easy one. Their children are thriving and feel empowered in their own education. They have the freedom to explore and pursue their own unique interests in their own unique ways. They interact easily with the people they meet, from babies to the elderly.
Most importantly, though, the children genuinely enjoy what they’re learning and they understand why they’re learning it.