Michelle Yoo, of Lodi, homeschools her four children, ages 10, 7, 5 and 2; along with working full time as a real estate agent; and serving on the parent advisory board of FISH Home Education Network, a Christian network of homeschooling families from Madison and surrounding communities.
Q: Tell me a little about your background and what you do for the homeschool community?
A: I’ve got four kids that we homeschool. I actually joined FISH when I was pregnant with my first. I’m also administrator of the Madison Area Homeschoolers Facebook page, which has more than 600 members and serves religious and non-religious homeschool families. We’ve had a lot of membership requests in the last couple months.
Q: How did you get involved in homeschooling?
A: (Before having biological children) I fostered kids, two of which I ended up adopting. Foster kids tend to not do well in school. After adopting my oldest, I thought I can’t possibly do any worse at home (than what was happening at school). It was never something I planned on doing. After that it became more and more clear it was the right path.
Q: Have you had many inquiries from parents about homeschooling as parents work to decide the best education option now that many students won’t be returning to in-person instruction, at least initially, this fall?
A: Yes. I had 100 inquiries over the last two weeks to the Facebook page. I ask three questions of everyone who asks to join the Madison Area Homeschoolers Facebook page: Are you currently or do you plan to homeschool; where do you live and why do you want to homechool? What worries me is that I don’t want people to think that what they were doing when schools went online last year was homeschooling. That was not homeschool. I don’t want people to think homeschool is sitting in front of Zoom five days a week. We homeschool, but we’re going places five days a week. Taking the classroom setting and trying to bring it into the home is not a successful way to do it.
Q: What are some things parents should think about when deciding if home school is best for their children?
A: I hear so many people say “I don’t have the patience to do it.” I don’t think I’m a successful teacher, I could never replicate a school setting. (But) I do know my kids’ personalities and when you get into a routine that fits your family, it’s not as hard as people think. You can work full-time from home (and homeschool). It’s hard, but it can be done.
Q: What are some advantages to homeschooling?
A: You can really tailor it to fit what your child needs and what you need as a parent. Normal or virtual public schools are being told by the school system (that kids) need to be sitting in front of Zoom for X-number of hours a day. That may not fit your child’s and your needs. When you choose to homeschool that’s taken off your plate. What I can do is let my children sleep till 9 a.m. and I can do my work from home in the morning and maybe start (lessons) at 2 p.m. Or maybe we’ll do a lot of work on Saturday. For the child, it’s really nice to tailor to what they want. My older child is really into rockets right now. He’s learning a ton of physics just by learning to build his rocket. He learns a lot faster ... and with a lot less headaches than me sitting down saying “OK, let’s do chemistry.” My second youngest is really good with math and in reading is doing OK. We focused more on math and now he’s more interested in reading. We had the flexibility. All my kids are ahead of where they should be by public school standards.
(Also) when you have kids in school, you have them picking up on behaviors or things I don’t really enjoy. We don’t have that problem at home. (In addition) the kids are forced to be more helpful and responsible because otherwise I would lose my mind. They have jobs and a routine.
Q: What are some of the disadvantages?
A: It’s not cheap. Some people are more creative than I am. I spend a fair amount on curriculum. (Also) we have to be more intentional about social interaction.
Q: What are some personality traits in children to look for that might show if homeschool will suit them best?
A: I think kids that are anything outside of the norm academically would really benefit from home school. Kids who would have delays probably would benefit from homeschool. My oldest is considered highly gifted. Children like that I could not imagine him in public school. He’s far surpassed me already in math. And that’s great, because there are online resources. He has a special interest in number theory. I get him books and he can really grow .. and doesn’t get picked on.
Q: Does a child’s age play a role when making this decision?
A: For young kids, once they hit a fourth grade reading level they can often learn independently a lot better. Previous to that it’s one-on-one parent time. They’re not going to learn math unless you’re right there.
Q: Are there any common misconceptions parents have when it comes to homeschooling?
A: That we basically sit down and do school at home. And people still wonder about socialization. Some people think your kids are going to be the weird ones. (However, at the grocery recently) the cashier remarked how extremely well spoken (my son) was.