Friday, August 16, 2013

What is Successful Home School?

 picture credit

What Is Successful Home School?
   To know whether or not something is successful, - you must know the goal intended.

   If you are taking a business trip; success is defined by lack of disruptions, quick easy travel and safe arrival. However if your goal for taking a trip is to have an adventure, - the unexpected, - the uncertain, even possible danger are what you hope to experience.  

     If someone asks you after a trip if it was ‘good’, you are going to base that answer on what you had hoped to accomplish.

   In the debate of education, - I feel that this idea of goals, and success have been greatly confused, especially when it comes to home schooling.

  Public Schools began with the sole purpose of providing academic education for children. The primary purpose was not to completely prepare a child emotionally, spiritually, and relationally to live life. This was always understood to be the parent’s responsibility. The primary purpose was to give academic education.  Over time, many parents came to feel that the public school system was not doing a good job.  Combine that with factors that parents felt were a negative influence to a child’s development emotionally, spiritually, and with relationships, and parents began looking to alternatives.

    Interestingly enough however, - academics have never been parent’s primary motive for home school. For the last 30 years, - one reason has overwhelmingly been given as the primary reason that parents give for choosing such a massive commitment.

   Imparting religious and moral values has always been and still is the number one reason parent’s give as their motivation to educate their children at home.

      In the early days of home school there was very rigid legislation for home school families. The government was interested to see if it was possible to academically educate a child enough to satisfy state and federal requirements and standards.  Years of testing, and finally the first batch of home school high school graduates proved it is not only possible, but that parent directed education was producing test scores that blew their competition out of the water.

   Home school was successful. At least by government standards. Yes. We had proven that most average, but dedicated parents COULD teach their child to read, write and take tests well, - and in most cases those students would do  better than public school peers.

  But wait. What was the stated goal of homeschooling anyway?

   From the governments perspective, - parents were taking on themselves an academic task.

   But from the families themselves, - the goal was quite different.  Remember, - the number one stated reason parents had for home schooling? It wasn’t academic achievement. It was passing on their religious and moral convictions to their children.  How did they do?

   That question tends to make people uncomfortable. Suddenly, we seem to be judgmental.  If we ask the question ‘has home school been successful in passing on a parent’s religious and moral convictions’, that question requires that we look at home school graduates as a whole person, and, to some extent how closely their life resembles their parents.  

    We are left with two options. Either we are forced to judge the children’s life based on how much they ‘look’ like a Christian (based on a very surface view of how closely they are outwardly following  their parent’s beliefs) or we are forced to accept that there really is a range.

    Some families may have children who have rejected God altogether, some who would say they agree with their parents on basic beliefs but whose lives look nothing like their parents would hope, and those who from all visible and outward signs have followed their parent’s faith and lifestyles but may or may not actually have personal faith.

  This is interesting to me because many home school families have tried to arrange their entire world, including social interactions, books, movies and more in a way that exposes their children primarily to faith that looks just like theirs. Some Christian parents are far more concerned about ‘worldly’ or liberal Christians more than they are ‘blatant sinners’.  They are far more comfortable talking with their children about the contrast of two wildly opposing world views than two  that claim to have the same foundation but look drastically different.

  In many cases this was a huge part of parents taking their children out of school. They wanted to pass on a faith to their children that was more than a Sunday service, but instead an all encompassing way of life. To them, - seeing others who profess faith but live in many ways ‘just like everyone else’ was an indication that faith was either insincere or immature. I wonder then with that in mind if homeschooling has produced faithful followers of the 'sincerely committed' kind.

     What I have found seems to be a double standard. When I ask the question, ‘Has home school been successful  in passing on a parents religious and moral convictions, I tend to get answers that start as an acknowledgement, - ‘Well, - some home school families have ended in disaster. We ALLLLL know those families.  Their kids were not well educated or / they rejected God / went crazy/are REALLY weird etc., - but that isn’t really the fault of home schooling. There were bigger problems. It is really a parenting issue. It is really about relationships.”


   And yet when another Christian family or their children appear (once again, - outward indicators)  to be ship wrecked in the faith, these folks are usually the first to mention public school, - peer influence, and low standards as the cause. You can’t have it both ways. Either the method of education IS key to a successful Christian family or it is not. And this is a pretty important thing to decide, especially if it is THE basis for such a huge part of life, AND the primary reason given to others.

     Let me make this clear. I do NOT like going around judging other peoples parenting. I am NOT a perfect parent and am learning every single day. But what I don’t understand is the disconnect we seem to have between advertising a goal, and then feeling offended when people ask for the results.

    Across the board parent’s said they chose to home school because they wanted to impart their views to their children. Ok. Based on YOUR goal, - how’d that work for you??
DID home school really help you achieve your goals for your children?
Are you pleased with the results?
Do you now think your goals were on target, or misguided?

     How has it worked for home school families across the board? DO most home school grads agree with their parents on their religious beliefs? DO they agree with their parents on how to live? Are home school grads choosing to home school their own children?

    In asking myself these questions I started with a legal pad and began writing a loooong list of names. I personally know either casually or am close friends with a couple hundred home school families.  I know what I have observed as the ‘real’ results of home school.  I think I know what many of my peers think and feel generally speaking. I know the ‘shining star’ families who seem to represent the very best of healthy family relationships, education, and raised successful Christian adults. I also know that for every one family like that I can tell you of four or more families who are or have struggled with serious moral, relationship, and educational issues, and some who are poster cases of why some people think home schooling should be illegal.

  But I am one person. I know my vision is only as large as my social circle. I was sure someone else must have already asked these questions so I began looking.  However I did not find where anyone had addressed this issue in depth before, or asked the questions that I was curious about.

    So I wrote a survey, because I wanted to know. By its own commonly touted purpose; HAS home schooling been successful? Has it helped meet the goals that parents intended for it to accomplish? Is my personal social circle a fair representation of the home school movement at large, or have my ideas been inordinately affected by out of the ordinary cases?

   Meanwhile, I have been writing a list of 10 Reasons not to Home School. They are the reasons I have most often heard cited as the ‘why’. 
They represent stated goals.
 I have been challenging these one by one. I believe these reasons cannot and do not work as the motivating factor for educating your child at home.  I believe that home schooling based on the wrong reasons produces exhausted, defeated parents, kids ill prepared for life, and family relationships full of decay.

    A few decades ago, parents began to question how the current school system was either helping or failing to help parents educate their children, and support healthy child development and families. After 30 years of a home school movement and hundreds of families who have adopted home education as a way of life to specifically address these issues, - I am asking the same questions.  

  Perhaps with one significant difference; I actually am not trying to advocate home school, private school, or public school. I truly deeply believe that the method of education is rarely the problem. I personally believe that all three can be THE best. However, I DO believe there are some foundational ideas about education and parenting in general that are underlying factors in the health of a family, and healthy child development and those are what I am eager to explore.  Since my life history and experiences have all been related to home school and the home school culture that is the area I feel comfortable addressing.

    Are you brave enough to ask the right questions, and find out the answers even if they aren’t pretty? Do you want to know what the last generation of home school grads thinks about their experience? Do you want to know what worked and what didn’t for families who have done this for decades? Do you want to know where older home school families are now, and if their relationships are strong?

  Do you want to know what home school parents from 20 years ago believe were the key to certain successes or failures? Do you want to know if they regret their choices?

 Do you want to know if marriages are surviving home education?

So do I.

   For every one family who writes books, and speaks at conferences talking about what worked for them are ten families who have had less stellar experiences. My blog is dedicated to giving those families a voice. To bring the unvarnished truth, the good the bad and the ugly about this thing called home school.

   This is the purpose of my posts on 10 Reasons not to Home School, and my Survey for Home School Grads. (Results to be released soon)
     I am excited about future projects I am working on that will allow us to learn from the best and the worst of the past, and hopefully make balanced, healthy choices for our own children.

 I have a lot of questions. I hope you join me in looking for answers.
This Present Mom,

1 comment:

  1. As I reflect on these questions...I wonder if part of the problem is that as our children grow and really are more responsible more thoughtful more studious and all the good things we desired to see in our "christian training" it was so pleasant and felt so much of a bit of heaven on earth..that perhaps we left the initial goals of ultimately sending off strong/godly sons and daughters for God and we hung on because it was so sweet. The process worked so well we forgot to launch. To release the children to their own lives .Also in the homestead/large family mindset those older workers are necessary to keep a family "machine" going. I think if the greenhouse isn't opened and the plants hardened off from 14-18 you wind up with spindly weak adult plants ..that could have been healthy if allowed to differentiate(become their own person(not an outgrowth of Mom and Dad)). Let us keep in mind that the reason to raise believers is to make disciples who can go and make disciples. This requires a great variety in education and lifestyle because the Lord needs His servants in every part of society.