Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Home Education: A Lifestyle of Learning (part 1)

"So are you going to home school or send your kids to school?" a question we are often asked as parents of pre-school children.

"Oh definitely home school," is the conditioned response that I say, wondering how there could be a different option. Then I remember that there are local private schools and even small town public schools both of which are ready options to our family.

Yet, homeschooling is the only option for us. The only choice we'd pick. Ever. It only seems natural that we would go that way, especially since both Toby and I are home school graduates. But, that's not the reason why we home school.

I love the idea of homeschooling. The opportunity to teach my kids to read, to count, to write, to... you get the idea. So when people ask me if we'll home school or not, I wonder what part about us doesn't have the "we're home schoolers" sign on it.

Then it dawned on me that according to our culture, home schoolers seem to have a "stereotype" personality and pre-schoolers don't typically exhibit that demeanor so therefore, they are exempt from the "geeky home schoolers" group and held up on a diving board that just may give them the luck of jumping into the public school education opportunity.

But nope, our kids are ready to launch into the vast orbit of home education. An education custom fit to each child based on personality, learning style and life goals. An education not limited to work books, text books or even a deluxe curriculum. An education uninfluenced by peer pressure, bullies and gym style sports.

People assume that the reason home schoolers home school is because they're afraid of blending their kids into a public social life. They want to shelter and isolate their kids. Protect their offspring from society. That is not our purpose at all. Our kids will have a social setting complete with friends their age, the option of organized sports and music lessons and the opportunity to make new friends all the time. Friends, games and "real" life are not found in a classroom: they're found in life that's not confined to an age group. Or a school grade. Or a social status.

And after a weekend attending a local home school conference, I feel renewed in a purpose, zeal and direction in homeschooling. In a handful of blog posts coming soon, I hope to capture a few of the highlights both Toby and I experienced at the conference.

Leading up to the conference, I felt overwhelmed. I knew there would be a huge number of booths to visit. Curriculum to peruse. Work books to pick out. Seminars to hear. So many things to take in. A big part of me was actually nervous to go. "How will I know what curriculum to pick?" was my biggest question. And the question that I wanted so desperately to answer because I KNEW that would be the final end to our pre-homeschooling journey.

Guess what? I left without having that question answered. And ironically enough, it's the last question on my mind now. Why? Because the purpose we have as a homeschooling family isn't going to be found in a work book. Or a curriculum. Or an answer key. Those things are some of the tools to bring the end result of education but they're not the only thing. I was inspired by this quote:

"Never let schooling interfere with your education." (Mark Twain)

Our goals in home educating our kids are summed up in a 3 step philosophy that was described by the director of Institute for Excellence in Writing, Andrew Pudewa, during one of the seminars:

:: Character
:: Knowledge
:: Skills

These three things are not taught in a work book. Or even in the best curriculum. They are taught in a balanced approach to education. Without character, knowledge and skills are futile. Without knowledge, character and skills are not retained. And without skills, character and knowledge are not communicated accurately. Here again, work books and curriculum can help to bring the results of a Character-Knowledge-Skills education but they are not the one and only option. Nor do they guarantee success in education.

The public school system has set up a status quo that all children from the ages of 6-17 must comply to. This concept is confined to a "conveyor belt education." And once a kid lags behind or even falls off the conveyor belt, he is pushed back until he can catch up.

Equally damaging, if a kid happens to go faster than the conveyor belt allows him to, he is thwarted and limited in his learning. He can't reach his full potential as an individual.

Public school offers a lot. They offer a one-size-fits-all learning experience that doesn't address who the kids are as an individual. The example was given that a 10 year old automatically has the number 4 on all his work books. If he can't keep up with the studies in his book, he gets behind. Behind what?! Work books are notorious to being too slow for a child. That results in a bored kid who is learning a fraction of what he could be learning. A work book can also be too fast for a child which of course produces a frustrated kid who hates school.

Many home school parents think that if they can create a learning environment at home comparable to their own schooling experience they had in a classroom, their kids will feel like school is important. That school is fun. That school is separate from mundane home life. Obviously, it is very hard to not do to our kids what was done to many of us who were raised in public or private school. We think an education is found in a work book and as long as our kids complete their work books, pass their tests and never lag behind other kids their age, they are successful home school kids.

A speaker (Andrew Pudewa) at the home school conference (whom I have quoted subtly several times in this blog already and who is MUST to listen to if he's ever in your area) has a degree in teaching. His concept and knowledge of the English language is above average. But, he admits himself that his "greatest handicap is his own education."

It was freeing to listen to his Two Step program for home school parents that get frustrated and wonder if they have the option of sending their kids to school. Parents can take this test before they make the decision to put their kids on the bus:

1:: Read all the text books your child would learn

2:: Sit through one day of class and observe the setting, teaching style and potential teacher and classmates

If you can approve of steps 1-2, you are ready to send your kids to public school.

Though private Christian schools are usually seen as a better option than public school, they still have adapted the one-size-fits-all methodology of teaching. The Conveyor Belt method is commonly used in these classroom settings as well. Competition is the driving force of our children's education. Many home schoolers have also taken this approach to educating their kids at home and hope to come up with different and more positive results than the public and private school settings. We can't do the same thing and expect different results.

So, answering the "will you home school or send your kids to school" question is an easy question to answer. It demands a yes-or-no type answer which is quite easy to give. But then there's the next question: "Why don't you send your kids to a good Christian school?" Up until this past weekend this was a little harder for me to articulate. Now I have the answer,

"Sometimes doing a good thing is the enemy of doing the best thing."

And that's why we'll home school.


Ranelle Del Belle said...

I enjoyed your post. I look forward to reading the rest of the upcoming posts! :)

There was one thing you said a couple of different times that I agree with - most of the time. :)

"They offer a one-size-fits-all learning experience that doesn't address who the kids are as an individual."

I am in college preparing to be an elementary teacher. I hope one day, that I too will get to home school if I ever have children... but until that day, I want to be able to teach in the public school (I know I could teach at a Christian school - but my heart goes out to all of those children with bad home lives...)

I agree that most of the time, elementary classrooms fall into a conveyor belt system - but I am challenged NOT to be that kind of teacher. At my college, I really feel like they stress that point to me. They want me to become a "reflective decision maker" who can watch and see what "clicks" with the children and adjust my teaching method (or teach the same thing in a couple of different ways) in hopes of addressing all of the students learning needs. I hope and pray I can keep my classroom from being a "conveyor belt"!

I don't want to limit those students who need extra opportunities to keep them from being bored with school. I don't want to just overlook a student who is struggling to understand a concept - I want to work with him/her until they GET IT!

But, the sad thing is... the public school system is NOT conducive to do any of the specialty learning! It's almost impossible to keep up with the government's demands of "all these children MUST read at their *reading level* by this certain age". I get really disgusted with those demands, because what exactly IS "their reading level" when they're in 3rd grade? It's different with every child!

Ok.... well, I'm going to stop because I could go on and on about this type of stuff! I'm very glad you have such a determination to give your children the best education possible. With God's help you can do it! :)

Anonymous said...

You should check out Storybox. They are great for kids aged 3-6 and have a great SamSam activity area for kids!

Linda said...

Your post inspired me! My three children are about the same ages as yours and we are embarking on this journey of homeschooling. I've been thinking a lot about why I'm wanting to do this and what my goals are for my children academically. Your post is thought provoking. I look forward to hearing more! I too was a teacher before I was married and I would say the single most frustrating thing about teaching was the "one-size-fits-all" style of education that happens in most schools. I saw young kids who could take an engine apart and put it back together again daily frustrated with life because they couldn't "do" school. That is really unfair. I find with teaching my kids at home it provides me with the opportunity to provide a "tailored" to suit the individual child and their gifts education. That is not to be selfish in my approach. The "I can give my child everything he needs to know" approach but rather that as a community of believers we can share our gifts and talents. The joy of relationship that comes with teaching a child is incredible. Even at 3 and 5 years old.
I've been pondering a comment. I wish I could give credit but i don't remember where I read it. "Shelter is a relationship not a place." God help me shelter my children with an open relationship.
Bless you as you teach!

Linda N. said...

Hey I love this post...it echoes my own feelings for when I have children someday. I recently heard someone say; "Home is home and school is school and ne're the twain shall meet"...and I tell you, that is SAD SAD SAD! Education starts with life itself...an to cease to learn at any time is, in my opinion, a death...

Ruth Ann said...

This was a great post! I thoroughly enjoyed it Courtney, and you echo a lot of my own sentiments. I'm thankful I was homeschooled, and that is the only option I see when I think of my own children, that Lord willing one day I shall have, to raise for the glory of the Lord! For that's why we raise them, right? But of course before I'll have children I'll have to have a husband first, so... =) God's working on that one, so I'm not worried, just in preparation.

Can't wait to hear your posts! I bookmarked this one in my list of "Inspiring Blog Posts" so I can come back to it. :) Probably should put it up in my "future child-raising encouragement folder" Blessings to you & your family today, Courtney!

The Ansons said...

Wonderful post... My mom also came home from the conference inspired and excited.