I figured it was time to put it all out there by sharing my opinion on homeschooling. It's more of a passion, really. I've been avoiding it because I didn't want the controversy among my peeps who disagree with me. Which is silly. I know you all love me. :) But let me start with what I believe homeschooling is NOT. I do not believe it is "the only godly way" to school your kids. I do not believe it is "scriptural" in that scripture never speaks one way or the other. I do not believe it to be "the best way to utilize the principles of Deut. 8 & 9" (you know, the whole "speak of them when you rise up and lie down" passage). I do not believe homeschooling to be the best choice for every family. I do not believe that my homeschooled kids are any better, smarter, or more spiritual than your public-schooled kids. I do not believe that every parent is capable of homeschooling (I know quite a few who definitely are not) or every child in need of it (I know way too many who shouldn't have been).
That being said, I also am not impressed with the public school system as a whole. I think it could be done right, but it isn't. This is not the teachers' faults. It's the fault of a flawed system run by big government and big business. There are some districts who are doing a better job than others but I know too many frustrated teachers who are spending their time bucking the system just so that America's kids can get the education and resourses they need. Honestly, if schools could be run without big government politics, I truly believe they would be in much better shape than they are now. But that's another rabbit trail.
I was homeschooled. I loved it. Minus all the legalistic crap, the actual schooling part was perfect for me. My mom is a natural teacher. She has devoted the last 25 years of her life to making sure that her children had the best education and experiences we possible could. And she got a lot of flack from the homeschooling community because of it. She wasn't the good little stay-at-home, dining-room-table homeschooling mom. She took us everywhere and exposed us to as many different things as she could. She gave us every opportunity she could. She made sure we not only met the requirements, but surpassed them. She catered to each of us and our different learning styles so that we could all meet our potential. She pushed us and wouldn't take our complaining or circumstances as a reason to let our education slide. While in college, I realized the excellence of my education and thanked my mom more times than I can count. Yes, she got caught up in trying to "do the conservative homeschool thing" but still refused to lower her acedemic standards. She is now finished homeschooling and is about to graduate from college with her certificate in special-education. She will start working on her BA in childhood education next year.
Because of her, I believe in homeschooling. I've seen the excellent education and experience that homeschooling can provide. So here's a few of the reasons why I've chosen that route for my own kids.
1. Individualistic education.
I would've been bored stiff in public school. I always got my allotment of schoolwork done in 3-4 hours (unless I was working on a project or paper). After doing the work Mom gave me, I was free to pursue my own studies. As a major book-worm and knowledge-lover, this was perfect for me. I often completed 2 grades in one year. Mom then had to find other things for me to do. :P Piano lessons, debate, field-trips, history studies, science projects, art, herbalism, volenteering in the local library, and research were activities I enjoyed. I had bug collections, leaf collections, rock collections, and always a tank full of the latest creatures from our back yard that I would study and release (if my brothers didn't get to them first). Because I wasn't stuck in a classroom, forced to read and study at the same pace as everyone else, or loaded down with homework when I went home, I was free to pursure the things that interested me. This fostered a love of learning that I still enjoy. If I can instill this love in my children, this unsatiated hunger for knowing more, I will consider myself a sucessful teacher. I think it's crazy to expect every kid to learn the same way, from the same books, in the same amount of time. We applaud and celebrate our individualities in every other area. Why not education? My kids are young but I can already tell the differences in learning styles. I want to embrace those differences and teach them about their world in ways that speak to them. Not force them into a mold that they don't fit.
My second daughter is mildly autistic. Homeschooling her doesn't mean she has to stay home all the time or that her primary education has to come from me. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to choose a course that is best for her. She is about to start special-ed preschool four days a week. I'm really excited for her. I can admit when she needs another teacher besides me. Her teachers are amazing and I'm glad that they are so passionate about helping special-needs kids. The special-ed sections of schools are awesome and have so much more freedom and resourses to cater to each child's needs. For the rest of the time, we'll be doing "school" at home to support what she's learning in preschool. I feel like I'm in school right along with her. :)
2. I don't believe in separating Life from Education
My mom likes to say that school is what happens when you're living life. How much better it is to learn how to live life by actually doing it. Learning happens, if you take every opportunity to make it happen. My favorite history lessons where when my mom piled us all in the car and off we went to some museum or old coal-mining town. I loved our biology classes--- going clamming, exploring tide pools, spending all day at the zoo or aquarium, visiting the local buffalo farm, or collecting specimens from the back yard. Not only did we learn "school stuff", we learned how to be a family and how to interact with other people. You've never seen a zookeeper more speechless than when he gets a lecture from a 3-year-old about polar bears or penguins (true story). There was no separation between "school" and "real life". We didn't learn things so we could pass tests. We learned stuff because we needed it for our everyday lives. Sure, we did our book-work and completed our tests. But if we could learn a lesson hands-on, we did. Mom turned everything into a school project. And we loved it! This, too, cultivated a love for learning. We knew exactly why we were learning something, why we needed it for our lives, and how we would use that knowledge. In my mind, this is The Point of all education.
3. Freedom to experience.
I already mentioned some of ways we were free to have experiences. But I think this is a really important concept and one of the main reasons I am so passionate about homeschooling my own children. I crave experiences. I think we all do, to a cetain extent. Homeschooling gave that to me and my siblings. We still sit around and talk about "that one time when mom thought we could learn _______ better by going and doing _______ than from a book" And we remember and laugh. Those "learning experiences" are fond memories that we will never forget. Even the ones we'd like to. :P I want that freedom for my kids. The ability to say "instead of reading about the different eco-systems, lets go visit them". Yes, we still need math books and readers, but in my opinion, it is far greater to learn about our world by actually seeing and experiencing it than by reading about it within the four walls of a classroom. The world is my classroom, it's people our teachers. And homeschooling give me the freedom to give my kids that bigger picture and wider education. Dare I use the words "a bigger vision"? I hate how the patriocentrics have stolen that word and taken the joy and liberty out of it. Vision was never meant to have boundaries.
4. Learning how to discern
I've heard the cries of "indoctrination!" and seen that used as an excuse why homeschooling is wrong. I agree that this is a problem among conservative homeschoolers. But it doesn't have to be. I don't believe it was in my family. But I also don't believe that teaching what I believe and why to my children is the same thing as "indoctrination". Not when you're also teaching other points of view. When we listened to a talk at the museum about evolution, we were able to actively discuss it later in the car....even the little ones wanted to know why the man thought that people came from monkeys. In that way, my parents were able to guide us into searching out the truth. We learned evolution and creationism. We learned different worldviews and religions. Yes, my parents taught us why they believed in Biblical Christianity as opposed to secular humanism. But we still had to learn what secular humanism was and why people believed it. And if we had chosen different than they, they would've been sad, but they would never have kicked us out or loved us any less. Balance is the key here. And a little grace from others. Do not assume that just because someone is homeschooling that they are trying to indoctrinate their kids. There is nothing wrong with saying "this is what I believe and why I believe it to be truth". That's not indoctrination. It's standing up for what you believe.
Homeschooling is my choice. Other parents make equally good choices for their kids, based on many different beliefs and factors. I'm not one of those who thinks my way is the only way. It is just one way and the best way at this point in time for my children, for our family. That may change down the road. I don't know but I'm certainly open to the possibiliy.
I know that there are many who didn't have the good experience that I had as a homeschooler. So I'm sorry if I've stepped on any toes. But this is who I am and what I believe and I'm not sorry for that. One of the reasons I write against the extremes in the homeschooling community is because I am passionate about my freedom to homeschool and I believe that they are damaging the credibility of homeschoolers everywhere. I don't want them being the face of homeschooling. They misrepresent my Lord and my lifestyle. They are taking a good thing and turning it into Law and abuse and control. So, while I love homeschooling, I want nothing to do with their brand of it.