It was several years back when I had a conversation with Amy Swindell about homeschooling. As a fellow-homeschooler, it wasn’t unusual to find myself discussing the topic with other parents, and we’d mentioned it in passing before, but this was the first time we’d actually discussed homeschooling to any length.
For full-time, traveling racers who have school age children, one of the biggest questions is always, what about school?
The majority of drivers that are on the road full time are still young enough that, if they have children, the kids are usually school age.
There are really only three options for this situation.
1. The spouse stays home for the years that the kids attend school while the driver goes on the road.
2. The driver races locally until the kids are out of school.
3. The kids are homeschooled on the road.
There’s sort of a fourth option that’s actually the most common: racers whose spouse and kids stay back home during the school year, then head out on the road during the summer vacation months. But, really, that’s just a variation of option No. 1.
There’s really no reason to get into the benefits of choosing to keep your kids in public school, as there’s no shortage of media promoting public schools.
However, I’d also urge racing families to take a serious look at the benefits of homeschooling their kids on the road before writing it off.
For starters, obviously, racers who want to go on the road fulltime and have an opportunity to do so shouldn’t assume that 10 or 12 years down the road a similar option will be waiting, or that they will even necessarily still be fulltime racers in another decade or so.
Waiting for the kids to finish school before living the dream may not be a realistic option.
Another thing to consider is the actual education your child can receive. As Amy pointed out that day, her and Sammy had traveled thousands of miles each year, year after year, criss-crossing the country on their way from race track to race track, from coast to coast.
But it wasn’t until they began homeschooling their son (and future racer) Kevin that they actually began to make stops along the way.
In addition to finally taking advantage of the opportunities that all that traveling provides and creating fun family moments, there were unlimited educational opportunities. Instead of sitting in classrooms seeing photographic images or videos of historic places and natural wonders, how awesome is it to be able to stop there and explore them in person?
As Amy stated that day, they’d been driving by all of these places for years and never made the time to stop.
If there are other racing parents that are homeschooling as well, then there may be other kids for your children to socialize with. And, if it doesn’t appear to be working out the way you’d hoped, you can always change course, double-back, and re-enroll your child in public school at any time.
Let’s be clear: It’s not for everybody. If you’re kid wants to play on a school team or be a cheerleader, or take advantage of some other club or option that your local school system offers, homeschooling may not be for you.
Where your child is educated is a very personal decision, and should be made solely based on what works best for your family’s situation. Despite being a homeschool parent, in 1996 I created a “stay in school” program in which drivers held forums in schools (as well as for homeschool groups) across the country, promoting education.
I certainly have nothing against parents making the decision that public school is their preferred option.
However, since both of my daughters have been homeschooled, I can also say from experience that there are plenty of advantages to the relationship you can build with your kids, the customized education you can give them, and – to be blunt – the things that are going on in public schools that you may not want them in the middle of, both academically and socially.
For starters, I’ve never heard of homeschool kids who were traumatized from bullying or suffered with abusive teachers.
Our older daughter reached high school age around the same time we relocated to a small town in Ohio. Many of you may have met Shawna in years past, as she’s manned the Sprint Car & Midget booth at the Knoxville Nationals, the Chili Bowl, the PRI show, etc. It seemed an ideal time to explore whether or not we’d robbed her of the “school experience.”
So, we experimented with a year of public high school. Despite being on honor roll, her experiences with both teachers and students (in particular, teachers) were not very positive. So, we tried a year of private school, and again the experience was not as positive as homeschooling. So, we returned to homeschooling.
These days, Shawna is happily married, living in Europe with her husband and our two grandchildren, speaks four languages, and was certified by a German university for a career in translation and interpretation. And, we had experiences traveling to, and working, race events together that other families don’t get to experience.
So, do I feel like our daughters have missed out on anything by not going through the public school system? Umm … no, I don’t.