Thursday, June 27, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Home School #3

Reason #3  To give your child a custom education.

At a recent home school convention I was excited to find a lot of the books on my list at a used  book booth. As I was ringing up my stacks and stacks of books, the woman eyed me skeptically and asked, ‘And how many students do you have?’

  ‘One right now, - and a second in a few years” I answered brightly.

  “I knew it.’ She smiled condescendingly.  ‘One kid. I can always tell the type. I was so worried about covering everything with my first few too- “ I have 9 kids” she interrupted herself to announce this with pride as if announcing her PHD. Then she waved her hand at an awkward 12 year old boy, and 14 year old girl helping run the register.  “With the last few, - I don’t even have to do anything!”  She chuckled and shook her head at me.  ‘You’ll see.”

  I glanced at her friendly, but backward children, - who obviously spent more time working for the family business than pursuing any real education, and had to bite my tongue hard. Oh I saw all right. Little did she know.

       One of the most touted benefits of homeschooling is the fact that you can give your child a custom tailored education.
   It sounds wonderful.  When you build a home, work on a car, or decorate your house, custom means unique. Custom means exactly what you want and need. But mostly, -custom means expensive. Why? Because custom means ‘not pre-packaged’ – not ‘builder grade’ not ready to go pre-assembled, it means someone has to start from scratch. Hours of intensive labor go into custom.

Hours of intensive labor go into custom.

    When homeschoolers talk about a ‘custom’ education, they start by pointing out the obvious, - that each child is unique. Each child has different strengths and weaknesses; different learning speeds and styles. With these concepts I agree.

  Unfortunately, the application of ‘custom education’  often means that that the basic standard of education is completely thrown out, and replaced with whatever the heck the parents feel like putting in its place. Some parents do this unconsciously, one baby step at a time, maybe because they are tired, or worn out, - or maybe weren’t that well educated themselves. 

    Others are proud of the fact that they are NOT going to go along with ANY preconceived notion of what makes a person educated. After all, - who says knowing how to diagram a sentence makes you more or less educated?

 ‘Who says knowing how to diagram a sentence makes you more or less educated?”

These parents love bucking the ‘they’ of the world out there that accepts certain ideas, proudly live in ways that defy all traditional conventions and raising their children to be different is their crowning achievement.

    Under these conditions, - ‘custom education’ actually means ‘little or no education’.

In the 1980’s when I was one of the very first wave of homeschoolers, - the very concept of parents being responsible to teach their children was barely legal in some states. Even in states where it wasn’t prohibited, it could be a battle especially in some school districts or counties.

   The parents fighting for this right were soberly determined. They were also extremely conscious that if they did not produce results, they could lose the option. As a result, early home school Mom’s were very driven, focused, and determined to excel. A generation of parents, often armed with no more than a high school diploma themselves, produced some of the best readers, highest test takers, and most sought after college applicants in the country.

    As it became more socially understood that home schooling could and did produce strong students, and successful college graduates; as court battles fought long and hard strengthened parent's rights in all fifty states;  as homeschooling became more mainstream; and as families with a few years under their belt started to feel confidence, the nation as a whole began to relax and breathe easy.

   Homeschooling was no big deal. Of course parents were capable. Look at all the home school test scores! Look who wins the national spelling bee! The urgency and drive that had pushed the first families was no longer there.  You just aren’t as motivated if you aren’t afraid the SRS will take your kids away.

      Parents now not only had the right to educate their own children, - but they proudly flaunted the right to change the very concept of education.  Principle and character based programs emerged which stressed that they could help you teach your child the most important things they needed to know. And it wasn’t anything in your standard textbooks.

   ‘Un- schooling’, ‘child directed education’ and other movements, - speakers, articles and conferences boosted a parents confidence in challenging what our society generally accepts as education, and encouraged them to decide for themselves what things were important for their child to learn.

 Gradually, homeschooling went from simply being an alternative means to an end; to being the path to a different end altogether.  

Instead of changing HOW a child learned, it changed WHAT a child should learn.

   No longer driven by a desire for academic excellence, and even deriding those who put too much focus and pressure on their children to ‘perform’ academically, these families none the less were riding the wave of freedom that past achievers earned for them.

      Sister philosophies of large families, and home businesses played into the shift in homeschooling. One woman simply could not give the same attention to 5 or more children doing things the same way that she had with 1-3, and a child’s usefulness as they grew older means ‘life skills’ became an attractive alternative to rigorous high school studies.

     The truth is, - that ‘natural learning’ and life skills are hardly a new concept. They are as old as primitive peoples who have dwelled in mud huts. Life skills are important. But they are not education. And I am horrified that this seems to be the highest standard that many current homeschoolers seem to be trying to attain.

   It is not hard to have an ignorant, uneducated, undisciplined, or untrained child.

   That is their natural state.  It is not easy for them to apply themselves to the disciplines of sitting still, listening, and following instructions. Some subjects that are difficult for one student are easier  for another.

     You cannot change the definition of education just because you feel like it. Just because you don’t think it is necessary for your child to know the definition of a pronoun or how to do algebra doesn’t mean you can still call them well educated, just because they know how to bake bread, like reading history books and built a to-scale catapult.

    Your child is not well educated. The public school system’s sad success rate at producing well educated students is irrelevant to the fact that there is a generally accepted standard by which we know if someone is educated.

     Giving your child a home based custom education does not mean you get to skip the subjects or stuff you’d rather not struggle through, and focus only on what you think is fun. It doesn’t mean catering to your child’s lack of attention span by reducing what he is required to do, and it doesn’t mean determining, based on their gender, what subjects your child should have to study.

  Giving your child a home based education does not mean that you do not need to test, or grade your child, because you are more concerned about character or family interests and activities.  It is shocking to me how much I have read and heard Mom’s reassuring each other, - that while their child is not capable of performing grade level, - this does not matter because they are good at (insert skill of choice).

       Anything less than the basic standard means you are choosing to not educate your child.  I think we should be honest. If your kid is behind and you are ok with it (in that you are not doing all you can to change it), you are not doing a good job as an educator. You are flunking and your child will pay.

   Being a committed homeschooler means you are unwilling to look to others to help educate your child and insist on going alone, regardless of the academic outcome.

Being a committed parent means that you put the needs of your child first, and give them the best education possible...

  If it’s not working for you and your child, - it’s just not working.  Home school parents are the first to say that an education is not just about the books. It isn’t just about pencil and paper and numbers, - it is knowing how to use knowledge in your everyday life. Are you? Are you able to honestly evaluate your child’s abilities and performance and act accordingly?

   You may have lofty religious or moral goals for your child, - and by all means strive to meet them. (This is for the parents who say, ‘all I want is for my child to love Jesus. If I do that, - I’ve done enough’)  

   However, - religion, morality, and education are not mutually exclusive. In fact, - a morally rigid, thoroughly religious person with no education is a potentially the most misguided and dangerous person on earth. Look at history. Of course, - if you have not felt it necessary to study history, and impose facts, dates, and a keen understanding of the last few thousand years on your student, - they will not be aware when they are repeating it.

   I cannot understand parents who bemoan the thought of making their child study, (a WHOLE hour!) at a subject that is difficult. I feel astonished. Our children are brilliant. They are capable. They are superbly intelligent.
How dare we expect so little of them!?

   Homeschooling is supposed to be a chance to give your child more, - not less. It is a chance for more one on one, - more hands on activities, more in depth study, more time devoted to actual study, it is a chance to get ahead, and not be held  back by the rest of a class that needs more review.

   Greatness does not just happen. It does not occur because a person wins the genetic lottery. Greatness comes from learning the discipline of doing hard things, of pushing yourself, of setting a high standard and trying to surpass it. 

   Our world needs children raised to greatness. We desperately need people of great moral character, of great physical strength, and of great intelligence and knowledge, that has been cultivated early and constantly challenged.

   Are you short changing your kids with low expectations? Do you believe they can achieve greatness? What are you doing each day to give them an edge and help them grow beyond your own limitations??

This is number three in a series of 10 Reasons not to Home School.
To read the others, please go here.


Friday, June 21, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Home School #2

Because you are protecting your kids from secular/worldly/dangerous influences….

      Ironically, though not said in just these words,  this is one of the tops reasons I have heard many parents give for wanting to home school, second only to wanting to give their children an education that incorporates their religious beliefs.

    I assumed that it was perhaps a desire strongest in my parent’s generation, the early pioneers of homeschooling in the early ‘80s who had seen a lot of changes in the school system happen in their own experience in the 60’s, a time when prayer was removed and the shift in education was decidedly secular.

   Recently though I spoke to a newly married couple with a baby who echoed the protectionist arguments so strongly I felt caught off guard. They both listed examples in their childhoods of school bus companions, school events, and babysitters that impacted them deeply in damaging ways.

   They’re passion to protect their children from the evil around them was fervent. To my comment that I believed public school could be a good option they strongly reacted. They said my view point was naive, - that I had no idea what things were like, or what really went on in public schools.

      I know I was sheltered. I know I did not experience what they did. But I certainly do not credit that with my Christian walk today. And there I believe lies the key.

     Interesting to me, (admittedly speaking from the ‘over-sheltered’ point of view) is that so many of those who seem the most zealously protectionist  are those who felt their own parents did not protect them enough. Looking at the scars that other’s sinful acts left on their own young souls, - they are determined  that nothing like that should happen to their own. It is admirable, and right for a parent to wish this.

     However I do find it interesting that these parents do not seem to realize what a walking contradiction they present.

       On one hand, they point to the influence of others as negatively affecting their life, and yet they stand as strong believers, moving forward in their faith. They may have had to face exposure to sin and hurt early, and in difficult ways, - but they learned the reality of sin, and learned there is a God who is bigger.

  I understand the desire to spare your child needless pain and hurt. It is natural for us to want to give our children everything we wanted and could not have, (if in our power as parents to give it) whether it is material things, - time and affection, - protection and guidance, etc.

   Where the danger lies I believe, - is in Christian parents thinking there is any way to ‘give’ Christianity to our children, - either through works of ‘right living and good deeds’, or by default- ‘careful avoidance of certain sins’.

    You cannot protect your child from sin and depravity. Home schooling shelters a child from outside exposure for a bit longer (or in some cases much longer)  than other children may experience, - but ignorance is not purity.
   Ignorance is not purity.

  Sin and depravity exist in your home, because your home is full of sinners. They may be cleaned up, plaid shirt- khaki wearing, soft spoken sinners, but they are still sinners who need God.

   Your child is not blank slate, or a perfect and priceless piece of art that you should hide under a sheet in the back room of your house lest some other sinner lean up against them and smudge them, forever staining them. Your child is a living, growing thing, - rooted in the filthy dirt of his own humanity, - stretching up and out, - seeking the Son.

  Hidden away from outside influences, from the winds and pelting rain, - from hail and frost, and the blistering rays of the sun, - your child will not be scarred, bruised, or blown. But neither will they grow. Stunted, spindly, the seedlings kept from the harsh world outside for too long become far too weak to ever leave the protection that shelters their weaknesses. 

   Right here many parents would say, - “I agree, - but I don’t plan on keeping them protected forever, - just until they are strong enough to stand on their own” and then it becomes an argument of what age a child is morally strong enough to ‘stand’.

   I believe a child that is old enough to know they are being kept from other’s sinfulness is old enough to recognize the hypocrisy in that view, because they are old enough to recognize their own.
 I believe this occurs much younger than many parents realize.   

   Part of a child’s basic growth and development is to learn to recognize sin for what it is in themselves, and others. Their ability to know what do with their own human sinfulness is largely determined by how they have seen you relate to the sinfulness in others.

    If they perceive that you have arranged your world in a way that avoids certain kinds of sinfulness, and shields yourself and your children from them, it is easy to conclude that it is not sin that is a problem, - it is the KIND of sin, and children are quick learners. They will do their best to make their sinful instincts acceptable to your social standards.

     If they perceive that you view them in any way as an innocent perfection to be protected from other’s they will gather their value is based on their lack of certain glaring faults or failures.
It is a heavy burden to place on a child. Believing your worth is determined by what you have NOT done in life is the surest way to create the proudest, most arrogant, and yet completely insecure individual you can meet.

   A child who is not confident in who they are, - who cannot trust their heart,  who has not been allowed, - even ENCOURAGED  to make the choices, weigh the costs, and made the mistakes for themselves, will be overcome. 
External pressures matter little compared to the internal strength they posses.

   So what then is the answer? Am I saying we should not even try to shield our children from exposure to less desirable influences even in their highly impressionable youngest ages?

No. I am saying it should not be the reason you choose to home school.  You cannot protect you child from all things that will discourage and damage them.  And if you tell me, - ‘Yes it is, - the only people around my child are family and a few carefully picked friends, - there is no one in our lives who can cause them damage!”  Then you yourself, dear parent, are their biggest source of difficulty. Your child cannot wait to leave the suffocating cocoon where you have placed them.

  Our job as parents is not to set up a false safe world that coddles and caters to our child. Our job is to teach them how to handle a world and people that are not safe or kind.  What your child needs is a strong parent to teach them how to handle the hard things they will face in life. They need a parent to teach them how to handle their own emotions, positive and negative in a healthy way.

    Please do not view homeschooling as a safe place that shields you the parent from doing the hard but most desperately needed necessary parts of parenting.-  Please do not try to raise your child in a way that prevents them from experiencing hurt or fear. Please realize that if you do choose to home school you are actually going to have to work much harder than the average parent to ensure that they have a broad social life, and life experiences. It will be something you have to fight for- it will be much easier for you to choose a quiet, small, protectionist lifestyle because it isn’t as much work for you, - at least for a while.

     Homeschooling is not the answer to a problem.  It is not protection from your fears.  It is just another set of problems that must be faced. Pick your battles. Be honest with yourself, - examine your own heart. Are you wanting to home school so you don’t have to deal with something? What are the things that hurt and damaged you the most as a child? Was it bullying, peer pressure, inappropriate exposure to sex, a terrifying movie you saw way to young, or even a relative that hurt you? Do you know how to handle those things now? Do you know what you would say to your child if they experienced the same thing?

 Please don’t home school out of fear.
 Please don’t do it to protect you and your child from the realities of life.

    I would love to hear your thoughts. What role did ‘protectionism’ play in YOUR decision to send your children to public, private or home school?  Do you feel that your parents did a good job teaching you to handle the hard parts of life? What do you want to do differently for your children?

If you enjoyed this , please check out the ten in the series called 10 Reasons not to Home School found here...

Linking up with-

Monday, June 17, 2013

If you didn't know any better.....

If you had come to our house recently, - you would have been stopped by a battle unfolding...
Troops all trying to get the best positions....
They were  everywhere....
Explorers unaware of huge bugs ready to drop on them.

Brave soldiers, climbing to great heights for hand to hand combat.

 Meanwhile, - not far away, - a lovely princess, her hunky pirate husband, children, and princess pony were peacefully unaware of the danger that lurked in the woods...

The little princess went for a pony ride....
Unaware of what was happening over her head.
 Daddy pirate told her it was time for bed.
While Mommy princess decorated herself with leaf wings....
 And baby was wrapped in leaves and left alone on a rock...
Meanwhile, - the secret spy snipers spied endlessly on each other....
Finally the royal family decided to get in their bright yellow taxi and go home....
We had an afternoon of drama and intrigue....
And if you didn't know any better, - you might have thought that we were just playing....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June Wonder

Spring is the time to climb trees, and find nests.

To watch baby birds hatch from sky blue eggs.

To learn to hear the Momma bird chirp in concern, and just peek quickly.

To see new life begin. This is wonderful June.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Home School #1

This last weekend I attended the Wichita Teaching Parent Association 2013 Conference. It had been a long time since I’d been to a home school function like that, and I found myself  flooded  with thoughts and feelings.

     I am super grateful to those who worked so hard to make it possible, - and while I really enjoyed some of the sessions, and loved the opportunity for my son to attend the Children’s Program, I found myself re-evaluating some of my past and present thoughts  about the home school movement in general.

 In typical Rebecca fashion, - I came home and started scribbling….
 I am working on a series of posts that could be called ‘Please don’t Home School Because…’, or ‘ 10 reasons NOT to Home School’.   This is part one.
Please don't Home School....

     #1  .....Because you think it is ‘the right thing to do’.

   Sometimes in life there are things that seem to be the ‘right’ thing to do; -the ‘best’ way to do something; -the ‘only’ way to reach a goal. This is especially hard because some things just seem true. Speakers and books can point out scientific facts and figures, and convince us of what is logical. 
Life has taught me, that while something may be the ‘best’ way to do something,if it isn’t working for you or your family,it simply isn’t the best.

    I have a friend who hires a girl to clean her house. This friend is young, healthy, and has two kids. She is a stay at home mom. At this point, some of you are wondering what she does all day. – Well, - she is a great mom and wife, who is also a highly gifted, and is involved in a ministry that reaches hundreds of children in her community. God has given her talents that allow her to personally affect the lives of young people that may otherwise not be reached.

      My friend puts her husband and children first in life, - but housework? Not so much. In her life, - hiring out jobs around her home is an option, and one I think she wisely chooses. She is still managing her home. She is still seeing her family’s needs are met, but she is choosing to allocate her time to things she see’s are most important, and delegating the rest.

  I love this example because delegation is NOT my strong point. I do feel the crazy inner impulse that says I am supposed to take care of everyone and everything in my family- that I should be able to do it all.   I have a hard time asking for help of my husband, - let alone un-emotionally evaluating where things are not going well. I love that she looked at her life, and was able to see an area that wasn’t working and find a great solution. –

    I don’t believe there is only one way to properly educate a child. Homeschooling offers some fantastic advantages, - but it also requires tremendous effort. I don’t think it is the best fit for every family. I have seen families use their local public schools and raise strong Christian children to adulthood.

    Likewise, - I have seen families who were so committed to the idea of homeschooling and living life within certain rigid parameters that they were unable to see or admit when those ideals no longer worked for their family.

   I have seen both children and parents in conservative families who were driven by  the best of intentions crash and burn; - I believe in part because the family was unable to let go of their ideas of the way things ‘should be’.

   There is something to be said for sticking with something that has the results we need, - even when it is hard. There is value in being willing to sacrifice to achieve a goal. But so often it is so easy to overlook the real goal, and get distracted by side benefits.

If my goal is to loose weight so I can be fit and healthy, - I cannot forget that my ultimate goal is to be healthy. Weight lose is a fantastic benefit to eating right and working out, - but if I forget my ultimate goal, and focus instead on the way I feel when I loose weight, or most dangerously of all, - identify myself only by the number on the scale, - I can become obsessed with counting calories, squeezing in just one more workout, -facing self loathing when I fail to ‘do things right’;  and or, developing dangerous food habits.

 By focusing on the benefit, instead of the goal, I actually undermine the very thing I am trying to accomplish....

     In the same way, as Christian parents, - we need to be very, very careful to maintain sight of our ultimate goals. What do you REALLY want for your children? Really. If you had to sum it up in a sentence, or just a few.

   For me, - while I am still sorting out my sentence, - I know for sure that a word I would choose as highly important to me,  is that I want to see my children THRIVE. To see them fully embrace life, - confident in who they are, - who God is, and secure in my love.
I do want my children to be highly educated, and posses a of love learning. 
I do want my children to be proficient in life skills.
I do want to encourage their gifts and talents and help them achieve their goals.
 I do want to help them learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships.

    Already, with these goals in mind, - my husband and I have examined the way we order our life, - the social circles we frequent, how we spend our time, and more. I think there will always and forever be adjustments we need to make in order to achieve these goals, as the needs of our children change.

   Right now, - homeschooling helps us reach these goals.  When people ask us where Justice goes to school, - I tell them that we are homeschooling this year.  We are not ‘homeschoolers’, we are home schooling this year. –This may sound silly to some of you. I say it this way, not as much for the questioner’s sake as my own. – A reminder of what I am doing, and why.

  I refuse to identify myself by one aspect of parenting I practice        I don’t ever want the side benefit of homeschooling to over shadow my primary goal(s)… And I do not ever want to be so comfortable, or set in what I do,  that I can no longer see what doesn’t work for us.

   What are your goals for your children?  Have you been surprised by the choices you’ve made to achieve those goals that don’t match your pre-conceived ideas of parenting?  Is it easy for you to recognize when things need to change?

You can find the rest of this series called, 10 Reasons not to Home School here.