Every now and then I feel the need to write a post like this - shaking the homeschooling sense into people, if you will.
I've seen the joy and blessings in homeschool and I want that for as many precious children as possible. It's SO very worth it, if you are just willing to lay aside some things that have been ingrained in your for a LONG time.
It happened to me again yesterday - a parent telling me about their child who is "falling behind" in public school. Even more heartbreaking is when this child is YOUNG... six or seven years old, for example.
When we abandoned the ideal of traditional school it was because my oldest child wasn't fitting the one-size-fits-all mold of elementary school. You know the one - it assumes all children should be equalized by the third grade (for testing purposes). It wasn't until this time that I began examining the deep, lasting effects this equalization can have on our children.
I recall a well meaning adult (involved in education) at our church sitting with me and offering her two cents about my decision to homeschool (why do people feel like they can do that, anyways?) - her exact words were, "I guess you just couldn't give up control to the teachers at the school." Believe me, this wasn't said in a positive light, either.
But you know what? That was exactly it.
I did not appreciate the sad fact that "educators" who didn't know my child and who didn't have a vested interest in her emotional well being were calling the shots about her education all day long. I wanted to be the one calling those shots, because I knew my child best.
I would challenge you to consider this: Who controls your child's education?
As I spoke with a mom yesterday about her child needing tutoring to be ready for the first grade, and possibly having to repeat the first grade because he "wasn't up to speed", my heart sank.
I challenged the mom to consider whose definition of "behind" she was subscribing to, and to remember children at this age are little - needing a lot of love, play, and time to explore.
Deep down, however, I got it. I understood her. I, too, had been conditioned to put my faith in the public schools (heck, I was a public school teacher so I KNOW the system) and to accept the government knows what is best for my child.
Please hear me. Who is controlling your child's education? I would contend this needs to be YOU - the PARENT - because there is no "behind" or "ahead" for children - they are simply children, created uniquely by God with different gifts and abilities.
A Few Educational Truths You NEED to Face
Here are some truths I have discovered in the past 25 years of education experience - 15 of those in the traditional school arena and 10 of those in the homeschool arena.
Believe me when I tell you I see BOTH SIDES of this coin!
But I know which side of the coin I'm on and I cannot hold anything back in this list. For more inspiration I highly recommend reading Weapons of Mass Instruction.
- Schools are built for the adults who work in them, NOT the children who attend them (this wisdom came from an education professor I had while working on my Master's Degree in Educational Leadership!).
- Children stand out in school if they are behind or excessively ahead of their peers. They are measured against one another, not individually.
- Decisions in a school are made for the good of a group, not the individual.
- Classroom management, not true teaching, consume the majority of even the best teacher's day.
- Teaching to the lowest common denominator is easiest.
- Perhaps as much as 1/3 of a child's day in school is taken up with waiting, standing in line, and other "housekeeping" sorts of tasks. Very little time is spent on focused learning.
- Test scores drive everything. Just look at your local paper when the school system SAT averages come out - the test reigns supreme.
- These tests drive the curriculum - which is often devoid of truth, beauty, and goodness (especially in the elementary years). Children read textbooks instead of REAL literature.
- Schools are often times babysitters, allowing parents to pursue a career or have time alone.
- God is absent from the schools. If we send our children to a Godless institution all day and then have them come home and stare into a Godless box at night, what do we expect to happen?
To be successful in a traditional school environment, a child (and their parents) need to learn how to game the system, and they need a lot of luck.
What is a parent to do, however, when they face these hard truths? How do we go about making a change that will benefit our children?
Do we really want to make the change, or is it easier to remain ignorant.?
Finding the Courage to Buck the System
I wish I had some brilliant advice about how to jump out of the system that doesn't serve your child well. Truth is, you just need to pray and trust as you go along.
You probably are thinking about the income you will lose (if you need to quit your job to homeschool), what your friends and family will think, and how in the world you are going to accomplish this Herculean task?
I have a few bits of advice that might be helpful:
Just Do It.
When we decided to homeschool we prayed about and researched the decision for a long time, but there came a day when we just knew we couldn't go on in our public school. I went to the front office, told them I wanted to withdraw my child, and we packed up her desk that very day. I ordered a big box of third grade curriculum from Sonlight and hoped for the best.
I had read that it was good to let your child deschool for a period of time, so my daughter simply READ and READ for the first few months. She dearly loved the Harry Potter Series (which her librarian at school had told her weren't at her reading level so she couldn't check them out) and read the series twice that winter.
We went on nature walks, played games, read aloud - and I marveled at how I was getting to KNOW my child, really KNOW her. We weren't arguing at night over math homework, and I wasn't fretting over the dumb word searches that always came home as homework. My daughter wasn't exhausted waiting for the bus at 7:10 each morning and we weren't staying up late at night so I could read quality literature to her. We were making that quality literature our school and it felt marvelous.
Do Your Research
You don't want to be a good bad example of a homeschooler, do you? You owe your children an excellent education and that requires commitment and perseverance. You need to cultivate habits for success.
If you are contemplating homeschooling or just need to courage to keep on homeschooling, these books are immensely helpful:
Don't Go With The Masses
Honestly, stop listening to all the moms at the soccer field. Stop watching the evening news. Stop listening to what everyone else is telling you should be done.
Because guess what? Public education is a MESS, so why do we keep blindly following the masses that make this choice? Even in the "best" school district children are still being herded like cattle to and from schools each day, with the end goal being the production of cookie cutter students.
Sometimes the masses include your family. Yes, you love your family, but your responsibility is to your children.
My family wasn't in support of homeschooling, either -- and now they sing its praises. Prove them all wrong!
Focus on Relationship
You are doing this for your precious children. Focus on that relationship and things will fall into place.
The joy I gain from my children is indescribable, and now that they are teenagers we are reaping the rich harvest of homeschooling - children who are socially confident, children who appreciate and seek beauty, and children who hunger to know MORE.
Your Choice Will Change Your Life
Be prepared that once you step away from the system for education you will find yourself on the outskirts of other things, too. This is ok. In fact, you will crave it after a while.
We are called to be an UNCOMMON people - God created us to be unique and to use His gifts for His glory. Don't hide your light under a bushel.
Homeschooling has changed the way we look at everything. I believe we are all more confident in ourselves and more confident in our decision making.
I'm here to help, encourage, and equip you! I know you can do this!
What would you add to this? What are your thoughts?
Who controls your child's education?