Disturbing Trends in Home Schooling
I am old. I have seen home schooling evolve. When I was young there were very few options. And even the options that were available have changed. Home schooling was a challenge. It was not socially acceptable, but the children that came out of those few home schools did exceptionally well, so many followed.
Churches began advocating for home schooling. It became the ‘good Christian’ thing to do, and some girls grew up aspiring to become home school moms. (I’m glad we made it look so appealing.)
But home schooling is hard work, and somehow we failed to get this across. Maybe because we were having so much fun doing it, and didn’t mind the work. Maybe because we saw it as so important, and didn’t think to complain. Maybe because we enjoyed the time and company of our children. Maybe because we were too afraid to fail. Maybe because we were already those odd home schoolers we stopped judging each other, and relaxed in each other’s homes so we actually formed close friendships and allowed each other to be unique. (And I loved my friends who lived on farms during this time. After my children saw what farm chores looked like, what I asked them to do looked easy!)
Today when I talk to a new home schooling mom the first few questions seem to be, “How can I home school without doing much work?” and “How can I home school and still have the perfect house, body, and lots of free-time etc?” The truth is, to do it well, you can’t. The key to home schooling success is for the children to realize that mom (and dad) takes this serious, and considers their education important. (This is also the key to school success, by the way.) Sure, you can put your child in front of a computer, or send him to classes for home schoolers, but it is not the same. Parental investment is what made home schooling work.
“But I don’t know how to teach Algebra?” So, neither did many of the moms who home schooled years before, so they learned. Some learned along with the child, some studied on their own, and some took classes. Why? Because teaching their children was important. And the truth is, a home school mother needs to know a lot of stuff. If you are young and your goal is to be a home schooling parent, then you should be paying more attention in high school, not less, and plan on going to college, and studying, rather than trying to land a husband. (The husband will come in its own time, and being a hard-worker who is serious about raising good kids usually lands you a better one!) The better educated the parent who will be in charge of the home school; the better educated the children. But that does not mean you have to have a college degree. Many awesome moms did not. BUT, they were willing to work. They learned so their children would learn. They may not have done it when they were younger, which would have made it easier on them, but they did do it. And they are now grammar nazis with red pens, math mavens who can do times tables in their sleep etc. (They also know how to turn learning into fun, don’t get the wrong impression here.)
Home schooling is a wonderful thing. The children who have been home schooled are typically kind, unique individuals who are generally happy in life. This will not continue to be so if home school becomes a ‘chore’ for mom, something she obviously does not want to do because it interferes with other things. It will also not be done well if mom keeps saying she ‘can’t’ teach, because what will be taught is that it is okay to give up and not do the hard stuff. I hate writing this, because I love home school and home schooling families. Everyone is unique, and generally wonderful, but I fear for the future as more and more young Christian girls demonstrate that they did not pay attention in high school and are not going to college because they are going to be home school moms. And then, when their children arrive, they look for ways to get out of teaching them because they need to keep the house clean and do not feel competent to teach. Let me put it this way- if you are going to home school, you are going to sacrifice. There is only so much time in the day. When the children are little there will be clutter, as they get older they will learn to help and it will get better, IF you invest the time in teaching them to do so. (I have actually met home schoolers who do not know how to cook and do laundry. Since they stay at home with mom, how did they miss this? They should be at your knee helping, as they are able, with everything you do.) There will be less time for mom to go to the gym by herself, but more time for mom to join in on whatever game is going on in the backyard, which is not as calorie burning since you must not run over the little ones. BUT, your example, of hard work, of turning work into fun, and just plain enjoying the investment you are making in the lives of your children is what results in adult children who enjoy what they are called to do and know how to cherish people, even when it is not convenient.
I recently read a Ron Paul article on his new curriculum. (I wish I could find the exact one for you.) In it he says, in typical Ron Paul style, that if you do not like how he is doing this, teach your children yourself, as many other home school families have in the past. It seems that even Ron Paul acknowledges that his curriculum is second best to the parent actually teaching the child themselves. I am not saying that you can never use outside resources. What I am saying is that you must be involved. Listen to what is being taught, and comment on everything, good and bad. This is how you pass down your values and how your children get to know you. If you want to educate your children in the way they should go, then they need to know what that way is. (And you need to model it.) If you are not teaching them, then who is? And do you fully agree with them? And if you do, are you teaching them to listen and repeat what someone on a video says, or are you discussing it so they learn to think critically and understand why you, and the person on the video, came to these conclusions. This is your job. Teach your children well, and you will be proud to call them yours when they are adults.