Saturday, October 28, 2006

Why We Homeschool

Below are some thoughts on homeschooling from my wife, Kathy. Kathy posted this on our family website and was writing for the benefit of concerned friends and family who may not understand the decision to teach our kids at home.

I hope to write about this in the future, but if you're interested, you can check out my earlier thoughts on education and socialization.

Anyway, here is Kathy...

As promised, I've tried to put together some reasons for those of you who were blindsided by our decision to start homeschooling the boys. I've got a little sleep under my belt, so maybe I'll be a little more coherent than the previous entry about this. This is going to be a long, long post, so if you don't really care just skip it!

Religious reasons: First, as I mentioned before, God has entrusted these kids to us and it's our responsibility to raise them the best way we can. That doesn't just mean reading and writing, but all aspects of life. Spiritual disciplines, manners, cooking, personal responsibilities, household responsibilities, the value of money, etc. Darrell frequently paraphrases Doug Wilson, "We are responsible for what our children learn, whether we are the ones who teach it to them or not." All children are unique and have been given special gifts from God. We can give them the tools, time, and encouragement to explore those gifts. I feel sorry for kids who spend eight hours at school, come home, try to unwind for a little while, eat dinner, do homework for two hours, see mom and dad for an hour, and go to bed. Our family can now work together, play together, learn together, serve together, and follow God's will for us together. Building a strong family life is always a priority in serving God.

As Christians, we want to have not just academically successful children, but wise children who have been brought up learning how to fear and serve the Lord. Proverbs 13:20 says "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed." Who are some of the foolish? Proverbs 22:20 says "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." Of course there are others who are called foolish, but that seems pretty straightforward to me, the heart of a child would be one example. How are my children supposed to combat their natural foolishness by being immersed in a "peer group" of fellow fools all day? Also, Proverbs 22:6 (I like Proverbs!) says "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Now, of course you can train your children after school hours, and being around fellow foolish children all day does not take away our responsibility as parents to wash that foolishness from them, however as homeschoolers our job is so much easier! When something happens with one of the boys, either in words or actions, we can stop what we're doing and address the issue, correct it, and repent of it if necessary. If they're in school, we have to wait until hours later, rehash everything that went on (if his memory is correct), then try to deal with it when we only have one party present . . . if we hear of the incident at all. A peer group is not always a positive thing. More on that later! There are oodles of passages in the Bible about instructing children, as well as the family, those are just a couple.

What makes you think you can do what a teacher went to college for? First of all, as a favorite saying of mine says, "God does not call the equipped, but He equips the called." I felt a very real burden put on my heart for homeschooling. Believe me, it was not any person that put it there. I can understand now why some people feel as if they were being called to homeschool. I felt that call. I was very, very opposed to the idea as recently as last fall. Frankly, now that I look back I can see how selfish my reasonings were (no quiet home for me while kids were in school for the day, in fact much more time spent with the kids; constantly looking for educational things to do, thus taking even more of my free time away; among other things). My opposition included not feeling adequate for the job. There are people that spend years in college preparing for this. I'm a mom. Of course, then I realized that I had, in fact, already been homeschooling. All the kids learned to walk, talk, socialize with others, learn their colors, numbers, shapes, etc. that all kids have to know before entering kindergarten. They learned Bible stories, music, how to bake . . . or at least how to assist the baker. They learned how to serve others when they help a baby brother or helping one of us with a chore. They learned how to think of someone hurting and how to help them. Andrew, with his less than stellar Kindergarten experience, had to homeschool after school so he could understand what wasn't made clear earlier in the day. Four hours at school lead to frustration and confusion, ten minutes with me lead to understanding and comprehension. He needs hands on learning, they do worksheets. He needed some extra time to understand a phonics lesson, they moved on the next day. He was quickly loosing his love of exploring things and learning in general. But back to my original question above. After seeing different "teacher resources", I noticed that almost everything I was seeing did not have anything to do with academics. It was all crowd control techniques and time fillers. Since most of a school day is wasted time anyway, what with bathroom breaks and recess and waiting until someone can find something for me to do since I can't go further on my worksheet, do we really need more time fillers? My kids learn best from me. I know my kids like no one else does. I know how they learn best. I know what their passions are. I know how to research things to help them explore their passions. No teacher, with twenty other kids in the room, can possibly serve my child like I can. No teacher, with twenty other kids in the room can give Josh what he needs physically to focus. If I don't understand a subject well enough to teach it to my children, I learn it then pass it on or we learn it together. This has already been the case with History and Science this year. I didn't know anything about ancient life, but I do now and I'm learning more as we go along in our schoolyear. I don't know everything there is to know about the different animals of the world, but we are learning together thru our materials. We also can spend more time on a subject that interests them. We pretty much dumped sting rays one week for science because they were enjoying sharks so much. More on that later too :) There are plenty of things I'll have to learn right along with them, or if needed there are cottage school or tutors. This year I didn't want to begin the year with more on my plate that necessary. That way I could get used to homeschooling while just worrying about the basics. That left out formal art and music training. Now, our Andrew loves art. He loves, loves, loves art. There was a class being offered every other Friday for this school year at a nearby church. It is being taught by a homeschool mom who is an artist. This is a great way for her to earn some extra money (it pays for the curriculum they use with their kids), and allows kids interested in art a way to have formal instruction pretty cheaply. Andrew loves it. Music has not been added yet aside from singing songs together. Formal music instruction will be added next year. Our kids will be expected to learn a musical instrument . . . at least one. If they become interested in voice lessons, we can find that for them. The homeschool groups around here provide group classes like choir, or references for individual instruction. Some subjects (like learning an instrument) would be taught by a private teacher whether they're in a school or homeschool. If our kids struggle in a subject and we need help, we can go to a tutor just as someone in a school would. In later years, we may need lab equipment, or we can do chemistry thru a cottage school. We can do either one we like. Anything the schools can buy, so can homeschoolers. This is a major difference from a decade ago. I can buy slides of different organisms to study. I can buy dead frogs to dissect. Of course, I certainly may not want a dead frog to dissect. Then it's off to the cottage school!

Divided Loyalty/Respect. This leads me to more of our experience in a school. I can tell them when to brush their teeth, but not how to write? I can tell them it's time for bed, but not what the next phonics rule is? We ran into divided obedience quite often last year. "But my teacher said _____" Well, we're telling you that's not how it is. Obviously, we don't know what we're talking about. His teacher said get the work done as quickly as possible so you can have your free time. We said do your work correctly, and if it takes longer so be it. A child, when trying to be obedient as he should be, is confronted with school he is put in a position where he learns to obey whomever is in charge at the moment. This is not acceptable to us. He is to obey God, then us. We overrule what the teacher says. End of story.

The Big "S" Word. Ah, socialization. The catch all argument for why you shouldn't homeschool. How will they learn to interact with the people around them? How will they learn to work as a team? How will they learn to stand in line? How can you lock them in your basement and not ever let them outside to see the sun and other people? Okay, that last one was one I made up. Socialization is far better when you homeschool. As a quick note, why is your family not considered a decent social unit exactly? We have three kids. That's as many kids as Andrew played with on the playground during recess last year. Boys split off to play with boys, girls with girls. (There were only three boys in Andrew's class last year, and he was one of them.) Another quick note, isn't school for learning to read and write anyway? People seem more concerned that the kids have lots of friends to talk to around them than looking at the board and seeing how to learn how to subtract. Socialization is not always a positive thing. Ever hear of mob mentality or peer pressure? Think that doesn't happen with kids in school? Do you even remember school? Kids tend to get a kick out of sneaking some kind of bad behavior. Remember, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child"? Whether its a swear word, a moment of thievery, a disrespectful attitude, or drugs, these are all passed on to the group around them and held up as a victory in "see what I got away with?" A gauntlet has been thrown down. Who else will be able to keep up with the group around them. I want to show my children godly examples, protect them from ungodly examples, and give them social skills for many situations. Since the kids aren't locked up in a school all day, we can interact with a wide variety of people. We can visit neighbors, we can help a the clothes closet at church, we can pack up our books and take off to Michigan to visit family. Our kids learn how to intereact with everyone, not just a group that's just like them. Where else in your life have you been completely surrounded by people within a year of your own age. Only in school.

Our kids need time with other children. Having brothers gets old after a while. We have been very blessed in this regard. On the next block is a homeschooling family with two boys just a few months older than Andrew and Josh. At church is a multitude of families with children our boys ages, all homeschool. We are able to get together for an extended lunch and play. On a beautiful day, we can head off to the park for a picnic and play. We take field trips together. Then there's our actual homeschool group. We've been very impressed with the groups organization. There's a field trip leader, and a sheparding group leader, both of whom plan activities to get the kids involved with the other kids in the group. There are just the informal gatherings, someone posts something like, "we're going to be at ______ if anyone wants to join us for the morning" on the group email account. Then there's the sports activities thru the YMCA or one of the nearby churches. Our boys are determined to be on every sports team for every season. Before we officially decided to homeschool, I asked several friends what they do for "social activities". Basically, I was greeted by chuckling. I was told by every homeschooler that the trick isn't trying to find if there's something to be involved in, but trying to keep the social activities in an acceptable range so they have time to do their actual studies. We have found that to be completely true.

. Then there are just the nice things we appreciate about homeschooling. We don't have to worry about getting up long before the sun, gulping breakfast, then trying to fight traffic on the way to school. We don't have to plan vacations around a school schedule someone else came up with. We don't have to worry about all of those stories in the news about school shootings, or other modern day school dangers. We don't need a police officer to patrol our halls, or lock down our building once everyones inside. My kids don't need special permission to use the bathroom. If there's a bully in our school, he's getting a whoopin' and then some serious repentance is in order. We don't have to worry about taking the "proper snack" to school to share with the class (this was an issue last year due to allergies of a fellow student). If we want a Ding Dong, doggone it we're having a Ding Dong! My kids can play tag and dodgeball all they want without the school fearing a lawsuit. We can call our Christmas and Easter Breaks just that, not Winter and Spring Breaks. We aren't forced to move to the next lesson whether the students learned the last lesson or not. We take a break from the regular schedule and really learn the lesson. If there's a subject our kids are fascinated with, like sharks mentioned above, we can explore the subject until our eyes fall out. If there's a subject our kids don't like, I can find another way to approach the subject so they enjoy it more. With our kids it's doing lots of hands on activities. We're able to give lots of personal feedback in the classroom, which they're not able to get in the public schools. Homeschooling is not compartmentalized as it is in school. Yes, we do have a set "school time", however it melts into other aspects of our day. Since I'm extremely involved in what they are taught, I can easily see when an opportunity arises to point it out in a real-life situation. We're able to be there when they learn how to read, or when they learn a new lesson in math that they're excited about. We're able to really be involved in the learning process of our children, and delight in seeing them accomplish things they didn't think they could do. We're able to instill in them a love of learning that, hopefully, will last a lifetime. We're able to see Andrew take Josh under his wing and, even at this age, try to pass along some of his brotherly wisdom both in school and in life. Andrew is Josh's cheerleader, and the first one to give high-fives when a difficult task has been accomplished. That's a beautiful thing to witness, and it wouldn't happen with nearly as much frequency as it does since we homeschool. How long will we do this? I don't know. I'd love to do it thru high school, but that's sixteen years away. That's too much for my wee little brain to think about right now. I'm taking it in about two year chunks. I never, ever thought it would be easy to homeschool. It's even more work than I had envisioned. But there isn't anything I'd trade it for now


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing down "all my thoughts"! :)
I'll send my friends/family here the next time I hear these comments.

6:47 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Amen! This was a great summary and I am printing it so I can give it to a friend. You definitly summed up all my thoughts! May God bless you in your homeschooling endeavors!

11:53 PM  

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