School | Thoughts | Work


January 30, 2008

I’ve an opportunity to do some free-lance writing on the subject of homeschooling. I suppose, on one level, it works. I mean, I do write (sometimes I write well, sometimes I “free-think”) and I home educate my children.

Yet, every time I sit down to punch out a few lines I am flummoxed. Flummoxed: Confused, perplexed or flustered.

Why, you ask? It has occurred to me there aren’t many home educators willing to admit any level of anxiety, frantic preparation and routine failure that goes into teaching their children. We’ll talk curriculum, yearly goals, schedules and extra-curricular activities like they will somehow prove to everyone else we are doing a passable job. As though a 10 minute conversation with our kids won’t expose 90% of what we are doing and are not doing at home. Including the last time I did laundry, argued with their Dad in a not even remotely submissive manner or cleaned my office…

I could talk big, use fancy words and sound impressive but in the end, it really all boils down to this:

What are the greatest things I want to pass on to my children? Ask ten parents, you get ten answers.

I was personally stunned at the success of our one-room schoolhouse when it became brilliantly apparent my oldest son can read well, actually enjoys reading and has a fabulous vocabulary. Not such a great speller, but he can speak well and actually comprehends both what he’s talking about and the conversation of most adults. Most of the time.

This may sound silly to some. Especially if I believe the challenge is so much greater than my success. Why do I persist in this endeavor? What’s in it for me? For us?

Perhaps I persist because even though I spend less than $200 in a year on curriculum and have very few answers to anyone asking me about what we do, I find time with my children to be priceless. Maybe because I see myself as the primary educator but not the only educator. My boys learn at church, play dates, at the grocery store, through entertainment, Bible study, interaction with our adult friends and walking through an art gallery.

Life is education. Do we tell the truth? Do we give exact change? Do we stick up for the little guy? Do we follow traffic laws? Do we behave properly in a restaurant? Do we check out books and get them back in a reasonable time thereby showing we are individuals who can hold to a commitment.

See, those reasons I’ve got down to a science. Signed, sealed and delivered. Not always a spectacular success, but I do understand. And I really do have great kids. Really. I’m not just saying that because I am their mom and I would hurt anyone who said anything bad about them.

But, here’s the rub. The second boy is on his 4th reading curriculum and still isn’t where he ought to be according to everyone else’s little prodigy and I don’t have records, test scores and, and, and… I could go on. There are so many days I just want to throw my hands up in the air and give up.

What does it boil down to? Why do I continue doing something which seems to merely showcase my inadequacy?

Many times it is simply because I believe it to be my responsibility to do what I can to insure my children are a) raised in a G-dly environment enforcing character and integrity until they are mature enough to deal with a world working to actively destroy both and b) seek to insure they are educated in such a way they will be able to continue their own education regardless of environment or outward stimuli.

What’s my dream for them? I hope and pray they will become strong men with G-dly character and thoughtful men who refuse to take life at face value but have the motivation and skills to dig deeper than face value. I don’t much care if they are leaders, pastors, successful businessmen or superstars. I hope they find careers or ministries which are a reflection of the men G-d wants them to be and I hope and pray they find wives who are able to support, encourage and love them wholeheartedly. Not big dreams, but dreams which open the world to them and give them the freedom to simply live.

Yes, homeschooling my kids is also about the 3 R’s. They will need to know the periodic table (eventually) and they will learn to make mosiacs (this week). Sidenote: Mosiacs are fractions, geometry, basic addition and art class all rolled up into one. How cool is that? I digress. It is important to stress that Education is far beyond the scope of scholastic achievement. Anyone can teach my kids phonics and multiplication, literature and music theory. But who teaches character? Who teaches integrity? And who encourages their faith in one G-d?

I do. Their father does. Their spiritual community does. For how long? The rest of their life. I was sent to public school K-12 and while my parents sought to teach me many things, I don’t remember the devotions and prayer times, sermons or revivals. I remember Tanya teaching me what a faggot was in the 1st grade and Travis beating me up in the 4th. I remember Wendy sleeping with Angelo in the 7th and being humiliated by Melanie in the 9th. I can’t quote a theorem or solve a complicated equation any more than I could dissect a grasshopper or diagram a sentence. The education I received that has served me the most in my life has been what I have taught myself and what has been instilled in my through life experience.

At 9 I started teaching myself to play the piano, at 12 I insisted on voice lessons. At 23 I began teaching myself to study the Word and at 31 I started learning Hebrew. Have I arrived? No. My education is ongoing and doesn’t fit into a quantifiable timetable of pass/fail according to some external standard of achievement. Either I know it or I don’t. I am solely responsible for my education and this affords me a magnificent challenge to continue learning no matter where I am.

In conclusion of this rambling little tale, I venture to surmise home-education is the constant and public education the exception. Home-education is exemplified by a lifetime measured in an average of seven plus decades. We don’t stop learning until we die. Any “certificate of completion” or “diploma” shows only a modicum of success as recorded through completed credits, correct answers, research, and adherence to the predisposed scholastic theory of the time in which it was given. All within a fraction of the time needed to truly learn, apply and revise any concept.

I think I will offer something to this publication and who knows, they may or may not like me. I do know this. Whatever happens…

It’ll be a learning experience.

  • It seems you make the point that homeschooling prepares children to be learners the rest of their lives.
    Excellent post.

  • Thanks Pablo. I think this is why I can’t see a difference between a Publik Skool Parent and a Home-Edujumikator Parent.

    Everyone invests in and teaches their children. In fact, I think a PSP will have a harder time than their HEP counterpart. It’s the process of un-teaching what Johnny & Susie learned today and then re-instilling the good stuff.

    When one stops learning intentionally they run the risk of lackadaisically absorbing the “lowest common denominator” and then becoming it.

    We live, we breathe, we learn. Or our brains atrophy and we shrivel up into narrow minded little angry people demanding our paradigm is right no matter what it costs us or those around us.


  • ajw308

    I have a book on how to be a consulting engineer. The author is a consulting engineer. He makes the statement that to be an expert, you only need to know more than your customer.

    For a while my mom worked as a certified court recorder. Whenever an expert witness was deposed, she always expected them to be walking encyclopedias on the subject. Instead the vast majority of questions they were asked were all answered with the phrase “I don’t know, I’ll have to research that.”

    There was once a third grader who argued with his teacher that he needed no school past the third grade. She told him that he needed a high school diploma and maybe college for any job. Again he argued with her.

    Finally she asked him what job he could perform with a 3rd grade education. His answer was “I’m going to teach the second grade.”

    Kind of tough to argue with logic like that.

  • when it became brilliantly apparent my oldest son can read well, actually enjoys reading and has a fabulous vocabulary. Not such a great speller, but he can speak well and actually comprehends both what he’s talking about and the conversation of most adults. Most of the time.

    That sounds like my daughter. Until I see her around other kids her age, it’s easy for me to forget that she’s a bit more advanced than they are. I sort of expect other kids to be that way.

    By the way, I like the new site. I haven’t been tromping around the blog world that much lately. I’ve been by here but haven’t had much time to comment.

  • Serena

    Hey, timing is everything on learning to read and boys can be later and it is okay. My oldest son didn’t learn to read until he was almost 9 but within a year he had read “The Chronicles of Narnia” and was moving onto more difficult reading material. At 14, he is an avid reader. I have found through teaching several children to read that while they are turning their letters and numbers backwards, etc, their brains are not ready yet. When their brains are ready, it is so much easier to teach and for them to learn to read. I think because that isn’t taken into account, that a lot of children are now diagnosed as “learning disabled.” I think they didn’t fit in the box and then they get lost in the cracks (mixing metaphors badly there!). That is the beauty of home education. We don’t have to give our children labels and when we find they aren’t ready yet, we can wait and try later and eventually we find they are and then they take off.

    And, BTW, I never feel like I have arrived. I’m always flying by the seat of my pants and feel lost in a crowd talking about schedules, curriculums, ad infinitum. I really appreciate when I meet a really honest home educator. I come away encouraged and able to keep on going with this bigger than life calling that G-d has given me. May you find the same.

    Love and shalom,