Thursday, September 29, 2011

Home Schooling Part 1: The Myths & FAQs

Since we began researching home schooling three years ago, I have been asked lots of questions by moms (and dads) and have been in many conversations about the issue of education.  The topic of home schooling brings up a lot of fears and puzzlement in the hearts of parents, which makes my heart sad.  In an effort to encourage those of you who have young children, I want to start a blog series to peel back the layers of time, prayer, and research that have gone into our decision.  

Let's start with the most frequently asked questions & concerns:

1.  What about socialization?
This question makes me laugh just writing it.  Take a minute and think about a classroom, with 25-30 kids, and one teacher.  Pupils sitting "neatly" in their seats, being told to hush and sit still, boys being told to not be boys.  Peer-to-peer interaction only takes place UNsupervised with kids who don't necessarily come from homes that value your values.  Your child will become like THEM, not vice versa.  Children need to be taught how to interact with adults by you and your spouse (think life-long lessons here).  Moms are the gatekeeper to what their child learns and she relinquishes most of this right when she puts them in public school. 

2.  Don't you just need a break from your kids?
Yes.  Absolutely.  And there is a very big part of me that dies because I don't get to imagine sending all my kids off on a school bus at 7:30 in the morning and not have them return until 4:00pm.  But really, when I set aside my selfish heart, I can't imagine how that would make me a better mom.  The cost of how their little minds process the break in relationship is simply not worth the reality of public schooling my children.

Surprising enough, the minimal structure has actually helped me find some peace of mind.  My kids are no longer bored, ZoĆ« thrives at the table while she works, and begs for more.  It's given me some breathing room, the TV is on waaaay less, and we have something to look forward to the next morning, rather than dreading the next day's long hours.  

3.  How will you find the time to keep your house clean, do laundry, and cook?
Let me tell you a little secret.  (This comes down to philosophy of home schooling.)  On our busiest day, we will spend 90 minutes home schooling.  Yep, that's it.  45 minutes encompasses math (20), reading(20), and handwriting(5).  And another 45 minutes reading literature on the couch in our pjs.  Afternoons are spent outside with nature journals on their own self-guided fun.

Using textbooks, a school's curriculum, and spending hours and hours at the table becomes school at home and ventures out of the home schooling category.  This was the moment that tipped the scales for me because I simply could not imagine giving up 4-6 hours of my day to sit instructing, marking errors, and writing on a chalkboard.

At Carole Joy Seid's seminar this past weekend, she said something that spoke further to this issue.  Paraphrased: Mommy's job is not to play with her kids, it is to work.  There is nothing more important than modeling a strong work ethic and instilling that into my children.  If my kids want to hang out with me, they can help load the dishes, fold the laundry, or stir the pancake mix.  Of course, I play with and read to them but that is not my primary responsibility in our home; it is not to entertain them and make sure they're happy.  Carole also said their future spouses will thank me for it one day...again, the life-long lessons developing in their hearts.     
4.  What's wrong with public school? 
Briefly, the PBS website refers to universal education for all citizens as "America's noble experiment."  It wasn't all that long ago that children were educated by tutors & governesses from within the home.  

This was particularly interesting to me, emphasis added, also taken from the PBS site listed above:
In the nineteenth century, the American classroom was sparsely decorated and furnished. School design was simple, expressing the frugality of a largely rural, agricultural economy. Rural communities had few resources to expend on education, and there was a lack of commercially available products for schools. Often the school would be open only for a few months of the year, usually when children were not needed to work at home or on the farm.

In the one-room schoolhouse sat students of all ages and abilities. The sole teacher was usually an unmarried woman; sometimes the students were older than the teacher. Using only the most basic resources — slate, chalk, and a few books — teaching and learning consisted mainly of literacy, penmanship, arithmetic, and “good manners.” Recitation, drilling, and oral quizzes at the end of the day were the norm in classrooms across America.
(Doesn't that list of subjects sound familiar?  Look at our schedule under #3 above.)  Today, schools are a very different place and it only takes watching the evening news for five minutes to see the problems: funding, classroom size, character of teachers, and bullying.  The public school system is a very broken place and, simply put, doesn't deserve my children.

5.  Aren't Christians supposed to reach their community?   
To sacrifice the well-being, training, and character of our children for the sake of a religious notion, based on nothing or loose theology at best, is blasphemous.  We do not ask our children to evangelize their friends in a setting apart from us until their theology is sound.  Families are asked to reach families, and this can be done best outside a public school, while running errands with mom and interacting with people at the grocery story or local park.  Some of our family's most beautiful gospel-moments have happened while we're out and about during the day.    


Beyond preference, I am convinced and convicted that all moms can home school their children.  We take things one day at a time around here, and look just a few months ahead, only lesson planning for the semester.  God gives us grace for the place where we're standing today, and He'll give us grace for the field tomorrow.  If you have questions or need some encouragement in your own process, please don't hesitate to ask away (comment below).    


Shannon said...

I have always imagined that it would require about 4-5 hours a day of active homeschooling, similar to what I recall it requiring for my mom. It just clicked in my head when you were sharing that you maxed out at 90 minutes, that maybe my mom's homeschooling load was based on the fact that she had seven children at the time. :) I guess you probably can do a ton of stuff in 90 minutes or less! Kudos to you!

Vanessa McKellar said...

Wow, those are some very convincing points there that I had never thought of. We are definitely considering home schooling when the time comes and I look forward to your next installment. AND if we decide to go that route I will be looking to you for guidance and ideas!

JARS said...

Amen, sista! We're still homeschooling with two days in a "school setting" It's a great balance of both worlds with a biblical worldview! Thanks for sharing.