Our church has a wonderful program where they pair newbie/prospective home educating families with veteran families. It's really been wonderful getting to know the family we work with, and the advice that we have been given has really given me some great ideas for the future. Dh and I were assigned "homework" this week, to discuss and write down why we want to home school. I wanted to share with you ladies and see what you think.
When deciding where our children would go to school, my husband and I agonized over the decision between private and public education. Having experienced both, I was able to really come up with a good list of positive and negatives of the two sides. But still the decision was impossible, until I met a young mother at my doctor's office. While sitting in a waiting room, we began to talk about everything. From the weather, to breastfeeding, and on to school. She told me that she was a home educator, and it was like the lightbulb turned on. Here now was the answer to the problem my husband and I had been trying and failing to solve. THe answer was so simple, we just missed it. We did not need to even think about it, we knew this was the right decision.
Still, that does not fully answer why we are now so opposed to traditional education.
My husband and I looked at public schools here, and knew immediately that we could not, and would not send our son and daughter to one. Every day we hear of another random act of violence in what was once a good school system. Everyone knew the bad schools and the good schools. Today, there is no such line. It frightens me that drug use is nearly epidemic, that gang activity is being seen in our middle schools, and elementary school children have been caught performing sex acts on each other.
If that was not enough of a reason, academic performance is failing, at best. When over half the high schools in on school system are on the failing list of institutions, you know something is not right. Children are not taught the material, they are not taught to think critically, and most certainly are not taught how to question things. No...today education is limited to A, B, C, and D on a test sheet. When these kids go to college, they find themselves lost because the phrase "evaulate ______ situation and discuss" is a foreign language.
Public schools force studetns to focus on math and science these days, the "important subjects," while they boil history and literature down to nothing more than dates and names. Fine arts are considered nothing more than luxury items, and if a budget must be trimmed, they are often the first to go. Students are not receiving a well rounded education, they are receiving the education that the government feels will look good on paper in comparison to other nations.
And so we turned our eyes to private schools, and immediately I had a red flag go up. Having experienced horrific bullying in private school, I found myself scared to place my children in such an environment. Still, I had to look past it, and know that it is not always like that. We were excited at the idea that our children could have their faith as part of education. And having a Christian environment would be beneficial, of course.
But all that glitters is not gold, and private schools have flaws all their own. While not as extensive as in public schools, drugs and sex are still a part of the private school environment these days. Even at the incredibly stifled and conservative academy I spent two years at, they caught two kids having sex in a closed building. Academics were, of course, superior to those of the public schools here. Since the majority of our privae schools are focused on college prep, students were receiving an education that focused on things like critical thinking and liberal arts.
We also were concerned about HOW the school would teach our faith. I can recall coming home one day, scared that I was going to hell because our family celebrated halloween. It was a "witch craft" holiday, and God forbids us from it. It took my parents two weeks, and a meeting with an associate pastor to calm me down. Older and wiser now, I know that taking my kids to trunk our treat at church is not evil...and I am rather excited to see them in their pebbles and bam bam costumes! But that memory served to caution me to ask them each day, what they learned in bible class so I could make sure that incident would not be repeated.
Reality soon it, and we realize our fears were baseless. When it came to private education, one rather large thing stood in our way...money. Without help from our families, there was no way to send our children to private school anyway. And all we could get from my parents and my husbands parents was a "we will see," even with pre school right around the corner.
So you can imagine the heart ache we felt, until the idea of home education came along. Looking at it now traditional school, be it public or private, has no place in our family. Education is not limited to four walls and a text book. Socialization is more than shoving 30 kids of the same age in one room, and telling them to get along. And learning does not start and stop with the ringing of a bell.
Schools today focus on conformity. Each child must fit a government prescribed mold, and must walk, talk, and learn within the prescribed boundaries. If they question such boundaries, or learn differently, or if they "act out" we medicate them, and label them with behavioral disorders. THey are described as trouble makers, or learning disabled, and are passed on simply because no one has the time to work with them. THey are far too focused on achieving high scores on standardized tests.
My children are not lumps of clay that are to be molded and shaped into what society says is right. They are children! They are two unique individuals who will learn and behave differently than each other, and their peers. Bullying and violence, sex and drugs have no place in their education. No, instead they will experience true learning and critical thinking, and will be able to question everything (respectfully) without fear of reproach. They will learn in many environments, not just inside four walls. They will go out into the world, and gain knowledge through life experience, for children are natural learners. Simply going out and DOING can teach them something new.
Perhaps home school is the wrong term, for we will not always be at home. And for certain, our education will not be like school. No, I simply call it learning. It is like my dad use to say to me every day as he dropped me off before school. He would pick a random topic and just talk to me about it, teach me, and then question me to see what I learned. Much of my knowledge today comes NOT from my years of sitting in a classroom, but from close to 10 years of riding to school with my dad. And every morning, as I got out of the car he would say "Kristina, learn something new today." WHen I tell my children to learn something new, I actually will get to be there and see it happen. What an amazing blessing that will be!
And that, I think, is the main reason why we are going to home school. We all want to see the first steps, first words, first everything. Why, then, does the desire go away as our children age? I want to see the first time they read, or understand algebra. The first time they realize how our past has created their present. The first time they learn anything! I will cherish those moments. And I realize how blessed we are that we get to be there for them. In the end I guess it all just boils down to one thing...being there.