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Entries in Homeschoolng (4)


Thoughts of a retired homeschool mom

Homeschooling is one of those topics that immediately polarizes people. It is sure to generate discussions that range from spirited debate to acrimonious harping. Our two older kids had a few years in public school before we pulled them out; our youngest was in kindergarten for four months before. They all went to public high school. I admit that an initial part of it was due to negative influences at their school, but those influences were mostly the classroom dynamics and how they interfered with, and often impeded, learning. During those first six months of homeschooling, when I saw what the kids could accomplish, there was no question of stopping just yet. We were motivated not by fear but by a vision of what we wanted our kids to learn.

Many parents begin homeschooling out of fear, and that is understandable; we all want to do the best for our children. But fear isn't primary reason most parents take on homeschooling. And I don't know any homeschoolers who choose to homeschool because they think it is salvific. That mistaken belief is the brain child of an opponent of homeschooling who is offended by the thought that a parent believes she can educate her children as well, if not better, than the public system. There are some parents who are more concerned with protecting their child, but in general, it is an erroneous stereotype.

Homeschooling is hard work, and it demands not only a significant time investment, but a financial one. It is demanding to be both parent and teacher. It is too much work to sustain if our only motivation is fear. Fear can be a good motivator, but it's not the best one. For us, homeschooling meant we could be pro-active, not re-active regarding our kids' education. We had a vision of what we wanted our kids to have learned when they were finished school. That was by and large the attitude I encountered.

My family is fortunate in that we know both sides of the debate, homeschool and public school. We saw first hand the benefits and drawbacks of both. I wish people were able to have understanding of both scenarios before they begin to criticize the other. Ignorance exists on both sides, and we need to understand the reasons for one another's views. We are very reluctant to honestly evaluate our pre-suppositions. At one time, I swore I would never homeschool, but talking to other homeschool parents began to make me re-evaluate my pre-suppositions. I am thankful I did.

My days as a homeschool mom are long over. My kids have all graduated successfully from university, with two of them going on to graduate school. It didn't make me a perfect parent, and it didn't prevent my kids from behaving like kids do. But I taught them how to learn, and I taught them how to have an inquisitive mind. That makes it all worth it.


I'll never regret homeschooling

In 2000, my husband and I pulled our children from public school mid-year. There were many reasons. Our plan was always to take things year by year. I had no idea how it would go, but as that first few months unfolded, I began to see the benefits. And one of the greatest benefits was time.

Time for kids to play: a five year old being homschooled doesn't need more than a couple of hours to finish what he needs to do for the day. Kids learn a lot from independent play, and there was time for that. My two boys, two years apart, had incentive to buckle down and work because they could play. I will always have memories of them dashing upstairs to the bedroom to get out the Lego or go outside with their bikes. Play is good. Today, kids' play is so structured and micromanaged. Free play or time to do absolutely nothing are good things; they foster the imagination.

Time to be together as a family: I never realized how much the school schedule controlled us until we get out of it. There were no more rushed dinners in order to get out of the house for music lessons, soccer practice, or kids' club. We could have music lessons at 2:00 in the afternoon, and we did. One year, our piano teacher even taught here at the house in the morning because it worked for everyone. We took vacations when we wanted. Off-season vacation prices are great and we found fall was much better for vacations than the summer.

Time to explore: Homeschooling gave my kids a chance to investigate whatever they wanted. My daughter was able to indulge her voracious reading appetite with historical fiction and a heavy doses of Agatha Christie and Lord Peter Wimsey. She was able to focus on her piano playing at the time, and write as many stories as she wanted. My boys were able to nurture their musical interests. They were able to work at their own pace, faster or slower as the case may be, without anyone hurrying them or asking them to wait.

Time for good books: We read together every morning. I can't remember everything we read, but that first year we read the Chronicles of Narnia. My youngest was only five, and he was allowed to listen as long as his attention span would allow. Eventually, when he was nine, he read them on his own. We read the stories of Redwall, and I even did my best to make the accents of the animals in that series. I cried when I read the end of Charlotte's Web, and I had to get one of the kids to finish "In Flander's Fields" when we read that out loud on November 11th one year. 

Time to talk: When we homeschooled, it was possible to take bunny trails in any discussion of schoolwork. There were no deadlines, only guidelines of when we wanted to get done. Taking thirty minutes to talk about something related or something unrelated was possible because there was always time.

There are holes in every education. One cannot learn everything and every student will leave their school years with gaps in things learned. Even the years they spent in public high school left holes. No education is perfect. I don't regret sending them to high school despite some of the issues.

And I will never regret homeschooling because it was a worthwhile investment of time with my children. Think about it: generally speaking, the majority of our lives is not spent living with our parents. The years with our children fly so quickly. My children are young adults now, and it's work to schedule a time when we can all be together. I'm glad I had that time with them when we did. It was worth every moment, good and bad. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.


From the archives: the power of George Lucas

Over the weekend, someone came to my blog and found him/herself in the archived posts, at a post entitled "The Apostle Paul Meets George Lucas."  The post was from 2004, when I first began blogging, and it's about my son's writing assignment.  I thought I'd share a snippet from it it today because it made me smile, remembering how much joy and laughter we had during homeschooling years.  My son was twelve years old at the time.  When I told him about this post, it sparked a conversation between him and my younger son about the appropriateness of what he'd done in light of the assignment.

Well, it's official; pop culture has made an impression in this household. A perfect example was the writing assignment Patrick completed yesterday. He's learning how to develop the topic sentence of a paragraph by using details. In order to help with this, I took a passage from the book of I Timothy that discusses the qualifications for being a deacon. He was to take five things from that list and use them as details. His topic sentence was good; it was something along the lines of "There are many important qualifications for being a deacon." One of the qualifications he chose was that a deacon cannot be a new convert. Now, in the original text, the reason a deacon cannot be a new convert is because he could become "conceited." This, according to the New International Version. Patrick's rendering of this item was expressed as: "A deacon may not be a new convert because he could more easily turn to the dark side." I could not keep from laughing, and he's a good sport, so he didn't mind. I began to have visions of the deacons in my church congregating at the front of the sanctuary with their light sabres, all decked out like Obi Wan Kenobi, ready to cut down any who would behave in such a way.

The ensuing argument between my two boys was the fact that Patrick was supposed to use his own words. My younger son protested that "the dark side" were George Lucas's words. The discussion devolved further, touching on language issues to the Ewoks.  This transpired between getting into the car and and opening up the doors of the foyers at our church, so that we were discussion very unspiritual issues as we went into the building.  Once again, it is seen that we a very weird family.


Let's not make homeschoolers look like idiots

Yesterday, Tim Challies had a book review about a book called Going Public:  Your Child Can Thrive in Public School.  Of course, anytime one discusses this issue, there are extreme opinions on both sides.  Because Tim's blog has a wide readership, the extreme positions are evident in the comments.

I think the book is probably a good resource.  If the purpose is to equip those parents who do not feel that they must homeschool, then it's a good idea to have some resources to help them with that.  If those of us who really support homeschooling want to have a voice to say with regard to the benefits of homeschooling, why would be deny the ability to do so by those who don't?  Tim made a comment early on with regard to wanting to keep the discussion on track and he said this:

Let's not get too off-track here. I know lots of people want to talk about whether we should Christian school or homeschool. I just got an email telling me that I'm definitely going to hell for putting my kids in public school

It's comments like that last one that make me, as a former  homeschooler, really annoyed.   I don't know what the exact wording of the e-mail is, of course, but any time someone who homeschools implies to someone else that homeschooling is a necessary element for their salvation, I get annoyed.  It isn't.  And when homeschoolers do that, they don't do anything to legitimize homeschooling.

When I put my kids into public school for high school, I was ostracized by other homeschoolers, in real life and in internet circles.  I had one woman whom I had always enjoyed interacting with on a homeschool message board e-mail me and tell me that my children would never be able to learn any truth in high school.  That is not the kind of thing you tell a fellow homeschooler who already feels like a loser because she is putting her kids back in the system.

When a homeschool parent makes the decision to re-enter the public system, it is a very difficult and daunting one.  We know that there are things like drugs and alcohol in public school; and yes, in the school.  If you don't know that, you're deluded.  We don't want our kids living in that kind of sketchy environment.  We are daunted because we know that public education is dominated by a secular, humanist, feministic curriculum and we know that our children are going to wrestle with what they hear.  We know this, and we are concerned, because we don't know how our kid is going to cope with that.  Have we done our job well?  We have taught them the truth; we trust God, but the fact of the matter is that a young person may really have a hard time with those things, and that may cause some discomfort.  Before I put my kids in public school, I watched other homeshooled teens enter the system and be swayed by what the heard.  So, yes, it's daunting.

When my kids said they wanted to try public school, I felt like I had failed.  They wanted to spread their wings a little and when the kids get older, you just can't tell them their opinions don't matter, especially when it becomes clear that they are stronger in areas than you are.  There is no way I was going to be able to provide the kind of depth in math and science that my son was interested in pursuing.  I could not replicate a band for him to play in.  I could not provide a debate competition in a law class for my other son.  We live in a small town; options are limited.  They wanted these things.  I love teaching and I love learning, and when I came to grips with the reality that I could not do it all, it was rather devastating.  When other homeschoolers told me what a mistake I was making, it didn't help at all.   If homeschoolers want people to receive them well, they should be above reporach in their conduct, just as much as we would like those on the other side of the issue to be.

My youngest son is about to begin his last year of high school.  My other son is about to begin his second year toward a Bachelor of Church Music.  My daughter is beginning her Master's Degree in English.  The older two both maintained an above 80 average by the time they graduated.  My youngest son has done that as well so far.  Yes, there have been bumps.  Yes, there are things that I hate, but what is really kind of interesting is that all three have mentioned at some point a regret that they didn't try to stick it out longer at home.  They have all seen the pitfalls of public high school and the benefits.  One of the things my daughter got to do in high school was be on a Mock Trial team in her law class.  She benefitted from that; she learned how to make an argument.  Sure, I could have taught her that at home, but the teacher who taught her was better at it than I.  I think, ideally, a homeschool family benefits best when the dad and mom can share teaching, because men and women have different academic strengths, and they can balance each other off.  If we had been independently wealthy, I would have have my husband teach math, science, and logic, and I would have done the rest.  But these are realities we live with; all they had was little old me, English-History-Writing-Language biased I tend to be.

And now I am rambling.  I feel strongly about homeschooling.  I wish I could have done it all through high school, but I just didn't have what it takes.  However, I am grateful for the years we had, and the last thing I would ever do is tell someone he's going to hell for sending his kids to public school.  When homeschoolers say things like that, it makes me embarrassed for them, and annoyed that they would disparage the name "homeschooler."