Monday, August 24, 2009

Question to self: Why do I home school?

As another school year approaches and my mind starts dwelling mostly on school material, schedules, and new ideas, I find myself asking again...why do I do this? Not because I don't want to, but because I feel that it's imperative to hold on to concrete reasons for why we devote our lives to something. I hesitate to write about matters that are potentially controversial, especially when there's not "one perfect way" to educate our children, and I'm certainly not looking back on years of personal success (I've only home schooled 4 years and our children have yet to be grown completely)...but then I remember, "Oh, yeah. This is my blog!" and so it should reflect the author's own personal feelings, opinions, and beliefs...and that would be ME! :)

I do home school my children but I don't do it because:

1. It's less expensive than public school

2. I can't imagine EVER having quiet mornings to my self

3. All home schooled children turn out to be Godly, well-educated, and socially balanced.

4. There are no temptations for our children to live apart from God's will.

5. I am never stressed out about having to balance all these schedules and ages

6. We never, ever get tired of being around each other

7. I absolutely love dabbling in all academic subjects while my house sits messy

8. I find myself somehow so much better at teaching than any other teacher

9. My children think it's always so awesome to be home schooled

But I will say I do home school my children because I do believe it is the best choice for them overall. Here's why...

1. We are their parents. Do I say this because I somehow think teachers are not capable, talented people, dedicated to being the best teachers they can be? Absolutely not! I personally know quite a few teachers in the public schools who are incredible people. They are trustworthy, Godly, and have the highest regard for the children they teach. But they are still not the parents! By nature, we will go above and beyond our own strength to invest in the lives of our children. We are given the responsibility to see that they are trained, loved, and taught to walk in truth. I don't want to hand the majority of that over to someone else.

We also know our children better than any other adult can know them...especially when a teacher has multiple children in her room. There's no humanly way possible for a teacher to address all the issues that a parent can deal with in their own home. I know my child's areas of weakness, the bad attitudes that need to be weeded out, the "games" they play, and I know no teacher can take the time to address these things. I personally can admit to overlooking a behavior in someone else's child, but I wouldn't put up with it one minute in my own child. I will put everything else aside, lose sleep, and sacrifice many personal desires for the sake of my children (and I know every other parent feels the same way). Home schooling is so much more than just being educated academically. The child's heart is at stake...and I believe a parent is the most qualified to spend the majority of those hours of education with their own children.

2. Spiritually better. Why? Home schooling provides a parent the ideal opportunity to instruct in God's Word daily with Scripture memory, Bible stories, and curriculum that honors God as our Creator. Little children, especially, are sponges, and I don't merely want to avoid a classroom empty of God, but I want to fill my children's lives and minds with God's presence in each thing we study and read as well as in times of conflict. Some have argued that a child needs to hear the "other side" so that they can stand against it. I totally agree. But I believe this is best taught in the home. Young children are very vulnerable and at times unable to discern truth from falsehood, especially when it comes from a teacher whom they love and respect (even though that teacher may only be teaching the curriculum and not what he/she believes.)

3. Socially better. I've heard so many arguments against home schooling based upon this issue. It was a popular one even when I was growing up. I have to say that I have seen children from home schooled families who were socially awkward, but it happens with public educated children as well. We've all seen social problems arise out of public and home school education. I believe much of this is up to the parents providing opportunities for their children to be with other children and families and modeling healthy relationships with others. The best part about this though, is that the parent has more control over WHO their children's primary friends are. How can we really do this when our child is at public school for a majority of their day with many children we will never get to know? Even if the teacher is someone I could totally love having my child spend time around, what about the other children? Yes, eventually, our children will have to grow up and face those whose lives are not in any way a reflection of Christ, but should we place our young children in those relationships of influence before they've had a chance to build a strong foundation and gradually dealt with peer pressure, and negative and ungodly influences? There are plenty of opportunities to face opposition to our lifestyle without going to public school.

Also, I believe the majority of time spent with a peer group is not preparing children for real life. As adults we know that real life is about many different kinds of people at all different ages and stages. A socially healthy child should not feel totally weird to have to spend time with an older adult or a younger child. But too often, it seems to me anyway, that the public school environment only encourages children to feel like it's only normal and comfortable to be with peers. At home, we interact with each other, the older helping the younger, the younger learning from the older (even though that certainly doesn't happen perfectly in our house!) God's family should not be about dividing into peer groups and I don't think public education (or our present culture) nurtures relationships across the age gaps. Good social behavior is learned best from adults...not other children. Does that mean we avoid other children? Absolutely NOT! But...I believe that the majority of their time should be spent learning social behavior from adults...parents who love them more than anyone else in the world.

4. Academically better. We are blessed to have a myriad of home schooling aids today. For any kind of learning style, any kind of budget, any kind of parent/child can find curriculum that fits the needs of your child and your family. What's can customize it to not only your family, but to each individual child. The one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't work, and it only promotes unhealthy comparisons among children when their attention should be on the joy of learning rather than on either being smarter than everyone or being dumber than everyone. I mean, we don't do that to our children when they're learning to crawl, walk, and talk. "You're 10 months and you have to be doing what all the other 10 month olds are doing." No...we all learn at different rates and in different ways. Just because you're a 2nd grader doesn't mean you're ready for everything another 2nd grader is. But unfortunately, that is the dilemma of public education.

Less time is wasted sitting on buses, standing in line, and waiting for a teacher's explanation. More time to get down to the nitty gritty...which means more time later for family fun, downtime, vacations, and field trips, jobs, learning new skills, etc.

I've seen and read of it time and time again. Home schooled children generally excel academically. Not because they're inherently smarter than their public school friends, but because they are in an environment that enhances and promotes learning and excelling.

5. Morally better. This is an area that disturbs me greatly in regard to our culture. Again, I recognize that many, many teachers are morally upright people (and anyone who teaches school or wants to teach public school has my highest respect and support...I think a Christian teacher would be an absolute blessing!) However, I do not want to risk putting my children (especially young children) in an environment where their peers (some of them, not all of them) know things and say things and do things that are so far above what any elementary aged child can adequately process or handle. We're talking about things that can affect a child's entire life. And how do I know that I'm going to hear about it? Do I want to shelter and protect my children forever? No. That would be failure. But to think that an elementary aged child can handle the things that are out there right now would be as silly as to think they could drive a car safely at 6. Some examples...a "vote" in a public school 3rd grade classroom concerning the right of a gay couple to marry (this happened in a state nearby ours), drugs in 5th grade, a group of 6th graders at a park near our house talking very loudly about bisexuals, gays, and other stuff I wouldn't want to mention, and the list could go on and on. Do I feel like I know how to teach my children Godly morality and yet prepare them to stand against evil without being completely shocked? No, I don't claim this. I'm still searching, struggling, wanting to be taught, feeling rather uncertain at times. But I don't think I'd be doing my children a service by immersing them in that environment for the majority of their daytime hours.

6. It's rewarding! If all the above reasons were irrelevant, I think I'd still want to home school. There's nothing like hearing your child really read a book aloud for the first time...and know that you did it together. Yes, it was grueling (and they can be unbearably stubborn sometimes...but I feel like he learned a little more about obedience from the heart), and it was painstaking, but you did it together! It's fun having the girls each take a morning to make breakfast. I think they enjoy pleasing everyone else with their yummy recipes. And when the older ones can come running upstairs to see the littlest take his first steps...that's pretty special. When you see dad take a break from work to get someone through their infuriatingly difficult math, you see something you like. They're getting through it together! And when you're doing history and you decide you want to pick the project that involves making a lunch of Indian food, you can do it...together...and everyone gets to try it. When an older child comes up against a friendship crisis or question of the heart, it's nice to be available when the moment strikes them. And when you as a parent are in tears and they are in tears, and you really wish it wasn't this way, you're thankful later on that you got through it together...and your relationship is growing because of it. I am not personally the most creative person (even though I wish I was more so) but the options are endless. I've admired many families who've chosen some very unique ways that worked for their them to educate, learn, and live life together with home schooling as their chosen way.

So, to conclude a very long post, :) I am keeping in mind the very reasons I've chosen to do this...and I pray. Because I feel very inadequate. But HE is not! I face the future with hope...but also one with some trepidation. My first and foremost goal is that my children will walk in truth...apart from us as their parents. I realize that there is no magic formula (such as home schooling) and so I try to humbly ask God to help them overlook my many failings and faults and see Christ and His love! And hopefully, any who read this will realize the spirit in which it was written. I know that many parents have chosen differently, many parents whom I admire and from whom I've learned in regard to raising their children, (and I have many wonderful friends who weren't home schooled too) but I hope this post will encourage them to be very involved with their children's education/lives, and if they've ever considered home schooling, that this would provide some thoughts to ponder. If you're already home schooling this year, then maybe you'll have some more to add. And to me...get off the computer and get busy! :)


Bonnie Schell said...

Thanks Christy, for the well thought out post. These are some of the same reasons we plan to home school our children for. Nathan is starting Kindergarten this fall, so the adventure is about to begin!

tani said...

I appreciated this post for several reasons. I really liked the part about how much you enjoy it and the little things you get to experience as a result of home-schooling. Thanks for sharing.

Chris said...

You do a great job communicating!Carrie is homeschooling Matthew this year so I'll have to make sure she reads this! Eric started 7th grade Tuesday and stays for two hours of football practice after! I feel like I hardly see him! It's such a long day for him.
Aunt Chris