Mayim MishegaasMayim Mishegaas

Why Mayim chose homeschooling

And it's not about 'being too cool for school'
By Mayim Bialik     Published on 08/11/2015 at 8:15 AM EDT
Mayim likes spending as much time as she can with her two boys.

When people hear that my kids are homeschooled, I know what they think: here’s yet another entitled celebrity mom who thinks her kids are too good for school and wants them privately tutored rather than send her kids to school with the “masses.”

Well, pretty much none of that is true and I’d like to explain why my kids are homeschooled.

My ex and I decided to homeschool our children when I was not acting, nor was I planning to be an actor again. I had been an actor in my teen years and then went to college where I got an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish studies, met the man I would eventually marry, and got a PhD in neuroscience.

Our first son was born while I was writing my thesis and our second son was born just after. I was teaching Neuroscience, Biology and Chemistry in the homeschool community in Los Angeles and had been influenced to homeschool by a few of the wonderful La Leche League breastfeeding support group women I had met while struggling to breastfeed my first son.

Homeschooling appealed to me for the following reasons:

  1. It gives you positive control and knowledge over not only what your child learns but how they learn it. You are in charge of the syllabus, the curriculum, the classes or tutoring you set up; you can determine what style of classroom works for you (if any), or you can teach in your own living room with everyone in their PJs.
  2. It gives you the ability to set your and your family’s schedule. Every day is like summer, homeschool families often report!
  3. The world is used as a constant tool for learning, and schooling is not a compartmentalized activity with homework being doled out by the hour from the time children are in kindergarten. Achievement is determined by the family, not an outside entity.
  4. The social struggles, peer pressure, bullying and lack of supervision that oftentimes leads to problems are minimized in a homeschool environment. In addition, for socially conservative types like me, the ability to potentially minimize a lot of our culture’s influence which can lead to peer pressure and negative outcomes is comforting. For example, in many homeschool circles, girls and young women tend to dress more conservatively and less like Ariana Grande on that billboard in her underwear. The potential for drug use or bullying, or pornography circulating among young boys—which happened at every school I ever went to—is also minimized. In addition, you often see unusual or quirky homeschool teenagers in particular feeling the freedom to be themselves without the embarrassment that typically exists in large classes in school situations.”
  5. Parents are in charge of their child’s learning in a way that complements both their child’s interest and their personality.
  6. “Late” or “atypically” developing children have the freedom to grow at their own pace without the pressure or stigma associated with being “behind,” especially in school environments where testing is the way achievement is assessed.
  7. You get to decide how and what your children learn, rather than correcting a school’s curriculum or perspective. For many religious homeschoolers, this means controlling, for example, how evolution is taught, but for people like us, it also means teaching both sides of, say, the Columbus “discovering” America story, and both sides of similar patriotic topics that are actually much more nuanced.

Given all of that, as well as the rising costs of private schools and the problems many public schools in Los Angeles have, my ex and I decided to try homeschooling and continue it one year at a time as long as it worked for our kids.

At almost 10 and 7, our sons now take classes at a resource center with other kids one day a week. They attend school-type play days at two different parks in Los Angeles where there are classes as well as free play and tons of social interaction. The thriving world of homeschooling has proms, Halloween balls, arts and crafts fairs, yearbooks at the end of every year, sports teams, outings and field trips, and a tremendous amount of opportunity for parents to learn from each other and share resources and give each other support.

Who’s in charge of this? Not me. I do a lot of things, but I can’t hold down a full time job and also homeschool single-handedly. I am the working parent. So my ex gets all the credit for making all of that happen. My ex takes the boys to their classes. He helps them with schoolwork. Working together, he and I choose what classes they take and what tutors they have (right now, music and Hebrew and Jewish studies are the classes we hire tutors for), and we figure out scheduling. When I am not working and am with my boys, we do schoolwork. But mostly we do other stuff, because I miss them when I’m working and we want to just goof around and play and watch movies and stuff like that.

I don’t know any other celebrities who homeschool. My social circles are full of non-celebrities. All of the families I know who homeschool do so because they believe in it. Some are religious, but many are not. Many of these families go without any vacations or fancy cars and houses because they live on one salary so that the other parent can homeschool the children. That’s not trendy or Hollywood; it’s just the way a lot of families want to live.

I commend my ex for being the at-home parent and schooling our boys so well. He bears the brunt of the driving and shlepping and planning. I am grateful to the women in my community who showed me how it’s done and to the friends we have made who share our concerns and struggles and help us figure it out.

Mostly, though, I am grateful to my kids who have shown us time and time again that learning is amazing, the world is constantly teaching us, and if you love waking up and learning and you soak everything up like a sponge in the way only small people can remind you to do, every day can feel like summer for grown-ups too.

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