Dare to Home School
Education is the continuation of God’s creation of a human life.
This idea comes from author and scholar Dr. Neil Flinders. Think about it: the instant the baby leaves the womb –and even before leaving the womb– he/she is beginning to learn. He gains knowledge from us as parents, from the beginning– language skills, the ability to eat, to feel love, to hear music and to absorb all our “norms”.
Why do so many parents feel pain when they send their five-year-olds to kindergarten– and cry?
They are giving away the child. For most of the day, for the rest of their lives, that child belongs to the school system, not to the parent. It often feels like the wrong thing to be doing. And maybe it is.
When I mention that I’m home schooling my fourth grader, I often get this response: “Oh, I wish I could do that. I don’t dare. I am not ____ enough.” (adjectives vary– organized, smart, brave, educated, confident, etc.)
It is sad that there are parents out there who long to spend more time with their own children, who would be experiencing the academic miracles and family joys that home school parents see, but something holds them back.
So I’m writing today to the parents who are almost ready to home school their children. I encourage you to jump in. Those who want to home school, but don’t do it, usually state either: 1) I don’t know what I would teach, or 2) My child needs peers for social development:
1. I don’t know what I would teach/ I am not educated enough to teach.
There is a misperception that “real” teachers have fairy dust or all-powerful diplomas that make them fundamentally different from you. But every parent, like every child, has got a combination of gifts and weaknesses.
The teaching diploma is Dumbo’s feather. (Remember the story? Dumbo did not really need the feather to fly; it made him think he could fly but he already had that ability without it.)
I know this because I learned next to nothing of actual value in my CSUSB teaching program. The valuable stuff came from mentors and from personal experience.
And, guess what? Even though I am a credentialed teacher and have taught third grade, high school and college for years and years and years, still, when it came time to make the choice whether to home school or not, I froze.
I felt a heavy responsibility to make sure my son received the very best education I could possibly acquire for him. Could I do it without authority figures and lists of rules and tests and bureaucratic ideals to follow? Seriously! I was nervous.
That heavy responsibility is on us whether we choose to home school or not.
The responsibility for what a child learns and becomes is not the government’s or the school system’s. It’s ours as parents, and always has been.
There are so many curricula, programs, textbook series, online ideas and sets of standards that your problem won’t be: “what will I teach?” It will be “what must I leave out” because there is so much you can do.
Just start researching what other successful home school parents do. Then make up your own mind which method sounds the very, very best– to you. You are in charge and you know your child better than anyone on the earth.
So trust your judgment as you would have trusted a favorite principal or mentor in the past.
Studies show that even home schooling parents with low levels of education wind up with children that are better educated than children who attend public schools. See: http://www.mireja.org/articles.lasso
I can see why. Home school works more like the brain works. A child studies a topic, thinks about it, gets questions, and goes to find answers for those questions almost immediately. You don’t have to wait for the whole class to get to the topic. Curiosity stays fresh. Students learn more quickly and more specifically to how the mind works. And if a child especially loves art, math, physics or sewing, he/she may advance in that area much more than he or she could in most one-size-fits-all public systems.
If there’s a subject you fear teaching, GET OVER IT. Those oft-hated subjects, of math, history or science are only hard when you have had boring teachers in your past. There’s a spoonful of sugar element most math-haters or history-haters or other subject-haters, have never seen.
When people say “I’m not a math person,” or some similar comment, to me, it’s like saying, “I don’t speak French.” That’s nothing but exposure, baby. You can enjoy any subject with love, patience and determination.
I am teaching traditional Saxon math to my son right now, who went from 4th to 6th grade math ability in five months’ time by homeschooling. I also teach him the same things I taught my remedial college writing classes– parts of speech, diagramming sentences, using commas properly, writing complex sentences, using more interesting and rich vocabulary, and HAVING FUN by writing about interesting things. His writing skills did the same thing that his math skills have done– soared.
He was not a strong writer last autumn. But last week, he volunteered to write and submit a 500 word essay to a local political essay contest on a very hard topic. No kidding. He did it on his own. And it was good.
No matter what else we do on any given day– and it varies widely; some days we’re swimming and diving at the pool; some days we’re picnicking at the park; some days we are a museum or a grandparent’s house or a quilting bee or touring the local university– but we never skip the Saxon math lesson or the essay writing.
Now, essay writing might mean writing a poem, or creating a powerpoint on the computer with sentences under each photo, or writing a letter to Santa or to a grandparent; it might mean writing a fictional story. It might mean writing about the first five presidents of the United States after we’ve studied them in our history lesson. It varies, but we never skip the writing, nor the math. That’s my way. But you’ll have your own.
I make sure to add in the things that Common Core is deleting from public education:
Cursive– every day, my son writes a verse from the scriptures in cursive, and on many days, I have him write his whole essay in cursive. Because it’s beautiful.
Traditional math– as I’ve said before, I do not like the common core “constructivist” math programs and most textbooks are aligning now to common core. I purchase old, pre-common core text books from Saxon (there are other traditional programs, too).
Classic literature – the only place “informational text” is read in my home school is when we are studying subjects other than English, such as history, science, math, geography, and now, journalism. When we choose reading materials, we choose actual literature: Tom Sawyer, The Hobbit, Swedish Fairy Tales, Great Expectations, etc. The vocabulary’s so rich; the imagery and metaphors and good versus evil concepts and life-lessons are no where else in such abundance as they are to be found in classic literature. Kids need it.
2. My child needs to be surrounded by his or her peers for social development.
The second concern parents usually raise is that their child needs socialization and that’s only available in public school. Really?
With sports teams, scouting, church activities, neighborhood friends, cousins, siblings, parents, field trips, and other, outside-our-home, homeschooling events, I never feel that my homeschooler is socially deprived.
In fact, the opposite is true. He now receives more one-on-one teaching time and talking time with me than he did when he attended public school. Even when I’m not teaching, I’m teaching. He’s conversing with an adult much of the day, and that is educational. He’s not just told to be quiet and listen and occasionally to raise his hand. He talks with me all day long. And we go out of our way to make sure he gets peer play time, as well.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, he mentioned that one of his favorite traditions in public school was decorating a box to receive valentines in. So we made creative boxes for each member of our family and displayed them on the piano. We are putting cards and candies in them all month long. And mailing valentines to cousins, missionaries and others, just for fun. There are very few positive public school activities that cannot be recreated in home school. And many useless ones that can be skipped.
Additionally, there are other home school families either in your neighborhood or online that you can connect with.
Last week, four homeschool families in my neighborhood got together for a “snow day.” The children went sledding while the parents had a teachers’ conference. One mother who had only been home schooling for a few weeks was so excited that she brought all her history curriculum and her children’s binders and was showing us what they’re doing. The children love it so much that when they have free reading time, they are still reading their history books.
Home schooling is hard work; yes, but it absolutely works –and it is so much fun.
One of the most wonderful things about home school is that I get to teach my child faith in God, something government schools are forbidden to do. And I do. The teaching of all subjects under the umbrella of “God is real and God is love” makes a huge difference in the approach we take to any subject.
I will close with one fine example. It’s a video I showed my son as part of our science curriculum this week, that features a renowned scientist, Dr. Lewis, a NASA advisor, explaining his beautiful faith in God and how he combines science with faith.