Beginnings, middles, and ends. Every homeschool year, every homeschooling family's journey, has at least one of each.
When you are at the beginning, it's all very exciting, nerve-wrecking, humbling, exhilarating - who needs skydiving when you can experience the thrill of accepting the responsibility for your child's education?
In the middle, you've got your comfort zone. No longer scared completely out of your mind, you've managed to teach the kids to read, master basic math skills, and pick up their Legos. But when you look up, the end may seem nowhere in sight.
Towards the end, it's assessment time, and sheer panic returns for another round with doubts and second-guessing. Have you done enough? Are there learning gaps? Have I ruined my child's life forever?
So why do it? Why homeschool when you can send your children off to the Professionals and let them take care of this education business?
I'll give you three reasons:
Preparing for a purposeful future-
I believe that most parents who begin to homeschool, for whatever reason, eventually realize homeschooling is a natural extension of our roles as parents. Learning is a lifestyle, not a specific activity that only takes place between the hours of 8am-2pm. The nature of home education and the freedom to create an inspiring environment, give us the opportunity to be more effective in helping our kids find their strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and interests.
Let's face it - our kids are under an enormous amount of pressure from the expectations of parents, school, and peers. It can be discouraging when you'd like to spend the evening enjoying time with your family, but instead must dedicate hours to homework, and possibly even deprogramming the kids from harmful ideas and influences.
Education should be nurturing as well as informative. Young people need a caring teacher to encourage their growth and development as a whole person. The traditional school classroom seldom allows for the depth of relationship needed for a nurturing educational experience. Instead, they use textbooks and lesson plans like shotguns - expel the information, hoping something hits someone and makes a dent that can be reproduced on a standardized test.
Homeschooling skips the 'middle-man'. It enables us and our children to find purpose in the mountains of information available to us (especially in this digital age), as well as in our daily lives. We aren't studying disconnected facts for weekly regurgitation onto a test or quiz - we are looking for meaning and practical application. Creativity can be freely encouraged, and the imagination engaged. Life and learning are so much more hopeful when one sees the connectedness of math with history, science with home economics, literature with art.
The purpose of life is a life of purpose. ~Robert Byrne
Preparing for a productive future-
Purpose leads to productivity. There is nothing like the sense of satisfaction in setting goals and accomplishing them. What parent hasn't viewed a picture or a Playdough sculpture crafted by a beaming child who exclaims, "I made that!" It seems that human beings naturally desire to build and create and impact the world around them in a meaningful way. What better way to encourage them to focus on productivity than for them to have a part in the reality of daily life?
- Is there someone who doesn't need to know the basics of household management?
- Who wouldn't benefit from understanding proper nutrition - not from studying a chart or graph - but from planning and preparing healthy and delicious meals?
- How about learning car maintenance and the mechanics of the heating and cooling system in your home?
- Anyone here who doesn't believe that money management skills are a necessity in today's society?
Children who have time to rake the leaves and shovel the driveway for a disabled neighbor or make visits at a nursing home can become adults who volunteer their time and talents for worthwhile causes. Doing business at the local bank, the grocery store, the craft store, and the library can awaken one to issues that affect others in the community. Understanding how to live in the real world infuses a child with self-reliance and awakens them to a world outside themselves. Giving children a vision of a productive future is a gift we can give them that makes the whole world a richer place in which to live.
Preparing for a positive future-
Even if you remember school fondly, take off the nostalgia glasses for a minute.
- Was the relationship between students and teachers cooperative or adversarial?
- How were the honor students treated by the athletes, and the lower-middle class by the affluent kids?
- Were girls safe from objectification and sexual advances from boys?
- Which characteristics and personalities were rewarded with popularity and respect?
- What methods were used to ensure an orderly and uniform school environment?
The reality is that honor students, nerds, and kids from dysfuncational or poor families are often ostracized and targeted for playground violence. Teachers and others in authority are viewed as The Enemy. Physical beauty, charm, and athleticism are rewarded over moral backbone and academic excellence. The acceptance of peers becomes more important than the approval of parents. Discipline is inconsistent, and with the advent of zero tolerance policies, sometimes unreasonable. Do any of these things contribute to a peaceful, hopeful, and productive educational experience, and will they eventually lead to a peaceful, hopeful, and productive society?
I believe these factors result in the hypocrisy of conformity - outwardly agreeing with the majority while holding different beliefs inside oneself, afraid to express one's individuality or faith.
Home education can effectively reduce peer dependency and the sacrifice of individuality to conformity. A parent is able to nurture morality, virtue, imagination, and critical thinking. Rather than a bleak endurance of one's current situation, a parent can create a relaxed and soothing environment, and introduce a child to beauty in creation, in art and music, in literature. A teen can realize the pride of ownership, taking responsibility for their own future by focusing on their interests and abilities, even carving out their own course of study. If our self image is impacted by our relationships with other people, we can improve our children’s self esteem by enabling them to experience the satisfaction of contributing to someone else's well-being.
There are positive health factors as well. A growing child can get much needed sleep, proper exercise, eat healthy meals, bask in the sunshine and play in the rain. They can move and explore and relax. How many times have you or a family member been to the doctor and heard "You need to reduce the stress in your life"? What physical and mental impact might a calm but mentally engaging atmosphere have on a child?
Another very important advantage is that sensitive and controversial subjects can be approached when the child is mature enough to deal with them. The shotgun approach I mentioned earlier is often detrimental to children who are not ready to be exposed to subjects such as sex, substance abuse, and violence. They can become fearful and depressed, and harbor these feelings for a long time before an adult is aware of the problem. Parents are free to teach their children in the manner that best fits the individual child. Being able to perceive what a child is thinking about, and lovingly help them understand the world around them in a timely manner can produce more secure and confident children.
The entire family benefits from embracing of a learning lifestyle in which everything becomes a source of wonder, of information, of practical daily living, and of FUN. The parent-child bond is strengthened, and siblings can actually become friends. The family is free to take vacations, go on field trips, pursue hobbies, and respond to emergencies in a way that benefits the family and the community, unhampered by a school calendar.
Optimism is the foundation of courage. ~Nicholas Murray Butler
I believe the family as a unit is foundational to society, and good role models are needed. Studies have shown that children thrive in stable, two parent homes with involved parents, especially fathers. Boys need to learn from example how to be responsible husbands, fathers, and friends. Our daughters need to know how to be strong women, loving wives, and caring mothers.
Where better to
- create a nurturing environment
- learn how to resolve conflict
- develop a work ethic
- observe and fulfill the needs of others
- give unselfishly
than in the home?
I could go on and on, but I hope by now you realize that education can become a pleasurable and enriching experience for your children and the whole family. If our families are joyful, and our homes provide a variety of avenues for learning and the application of that knowledge, we can affect the world around us in a meaningful and beneficial way.