"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:
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.