Are you thinking about teaching your own children, commonly called homeschooling? Or are you teaching them at home already and need some reinforcement for your own perspective or to feel more confident when asked questions? Either way, this discussion is for you.
Let’s evaluate some cultural assumptions and common concerns. It’s not about feeling guilty or who is the best parent. It is about gathering information and having a healthy skepticism about institutional school models.
transcript of podcast:
Today I want to talk to you about deciding whether or not to homeschool. I have talked to a lot of people about this. I’ve had so many people ask me questions about it and I think I have heard every reaction under the heavens to this topic from people being super excited about it to those who get very defensive about it.
I would ask that you listen to this discussion without feeling defensive, realizing that I am not trying to put guilt on anyone for their decision. But I am offering what I think are really honest evaluations of our culture and our decisions that we make for our family and how they will affect us long term.
When I started teaching my children, or our children, at home, I had no idea of the full potential. I just knew that I wanted to spend more time with my kids. This brings me to my first point about deciding whether or not to teach your kids at home. And that is, who gets to decide how long children should be at home with their parents? How has what we now consider to be normal come to be normal? Or, to put it another way, how did it become normal to send young children away to spend the day with strangers?
Now, putting aside the occasional time when somebody happens to know their child’s teacher, or the child has run into this adult in the world, another adult is very rarely close to a child.
That is to say, from the child’s perspective, even a parent’s good friends are often strangers. So again, I would ask, why is it normal to say that it’s better for a young child to go out and try to figure out how to get along with and communicate with someone that they really don’t know and will really have that relationship broken on a yearly basis at least?
Not to mention that the amount of time that any teacher in a classroom can spend with the other children is minimal compared to the amount of time that a parent can and will spend with children, especially if they are taught at home.
Along the same lines, you might also ask, “Who do you want to know and influence your children?” Why should it not be the parents? When I hear stories of teachers that specially influenced someone’s life, I know that there are good teachers out there who have a good impact on some people’s lives. However, I can’t help but also think that a parent could have done that at least as well if not better in most circumstances. And when I say most circumstances, I mean a huge percentage.
In fact, the reason a teacher has such a chance to be an influence on a child is because the child is looking for a parental figure and they are put in an institution where teachers are their only option a good deal of the day.
Another major obstacle for many people when they think about teaching their own children is the idea that they are not qualified, that they don’t know enough to provide an education.
The first question along those lines is to really think hard about what education is, who is defining it, and how they are going to decide what is best for your child.
There is no education so personal as someone who loves you more than any other adult in the world deciding what you need, trying to problem solve how to teach this to you and to find you the resources that you are interested in.
Along the same lines, with homeschooling you may have heard that we’re talking about the concept of ‘mastery’. So testing is, at most, used to try and teach children how to be tested when they get to, say, college level and want to do things that way. But it is not something that a child has to learn to dread at the end of every class.
The learning, in a homeschool environment should be, and mostly is, about just learning. As far as the exact subjects for what to teach or how to teach it, institutional education or any place where you go send your child to be with another group of children is typically canned and limited. That is a group of people, in power usually, bureaucrats, sometimes a local school board, but less and less of that these days, have decided what they think looks good on paper or makes them sound good to those who are going to vote for them, about what education is.
But the truth is, beyond the basic skills that allow a person to learn, there is no one path or group of subjects that is going to benefit everyone for what they are going to want to do in their life. For what they are talented for, what they are motivated for, and what opportunities they will have.
To add insult to injury you might say, the institutional school environment is a fake one. It’s not interacting with the whole of the outside world or with more normal social structures, like a child who is taught at home gets to do.
Now, I’m going to also address the idea that we all like to think our kids are precocious and they all have different talents. This is true. And they quite often have different proclivities that we are not up to speed with. But I know both from years of teaching my own kids at home and also from watching many others that you do not have to be an expert in various fields to be able to teach your children to learn in those fields. And on top of that you learn many things with your child and in going through the discovery process with them on a very personal level you help them to learn in a way that they cannot easily do in an institutional setting.
Another stumbling block for people is money, or at least their idea of how much they think they need to spend to teach their children at home. This problem in their mind is often magnified by the fact that institutional schools of all sorts, whether private or public are often having fundraisers or raising taxes and talking about “Oh, they could just do a better job if they had more money.”
I think I can safely say at this point in our history that this has been proven absolutely false. That is not to say that money doesn’t give some opportunities that might not otherwise be had. But any family or child can learn many, many things, many basics, with just self-motivation and a few books and getting some audio recordings of things like foreign languages or just interacting with people who speak different languages.
Kind of an odd reversal to the idea of money is that some people think, well, I have enough money to send my kids to a private school and that’ll give them an education that I can’t give them. Well, obviously I don’t think that’s true from other things I’ve said, but I would also like to suggest that if you have the leeway in your budget to consider something like a private school, it makes a lot more sense to instead consider paying for help around the house such that the parents’ time and energy is freed up to spend time with the children.
One other major thing that parents sometimes ask is, “But, what if the children don’t want to be taught at home?” First of all, for most children, I don’t think that’s a big question that’s going to come up. I know it does sometimes, I’ve talked to some people where it does. But a lot of times, these questions of “What does the child want to do?” in that kind of tone come from the parents in a way that is not helpful and it’s pushing off the parental responsibility and asking the children for input that they’re really not mature enough to evaluate or decide. Where children spend their time, who they get to interact with, who their potential friends are, who they look up to as guides in making decisions and evaluating information, all of those things have long term effects and have a stake in their lives that children cannot possibly understand and should not be held responsible for.
Now to make the point of some of the things I’ve been saying, let me use the analogy of feeding your children. I think we could easily say that a child’s life is much more dependent on whether or not they are getting food and whether or not they are getting nutritious food. Yet parents world over are in charge of feeding their children and doing their best to give them what they think are good choices of food. And that is as it should be.
But very few parents are college degree nutritionists or have deeply studied nutrition. Yet along the way, they manage to introduce their children to many nutritious foods, to help refine their habits, to make good things available and to teach them how to make good choices.
Now I know, unfortunately, many, especially governmental schools have taken the step towards providing many of the children’s meals. But I think that it is also easy to point out that meals made from scratch more at home are more nutritious and more to the needs of the children. Plus, having a family based meal schedule on a regular basis is more useful in helping to develop good eating habits for the children as well as doing basic things like teaching them how to cook so they can feed themselves.
But what about the time and energy, some people ask? Well, I’ve kind of already addressed some of that with the idea that if you have extra funds that you might even be considering using for institutional school payments that you could hire for some help at home. But I am also going to suggest to you that the matter of time and energy is both a matter of perspective and priority.
That is, like with many things that we do that are important to us, we have to decide how important it is and then you also have to decide how to get it done with the right priorities. If you have the attitude that spending longer hours with your children during the day is a burden you will be weighed down by that and your children will pick up on it and the whole experience will be thoroughly miserable. If you have the attitude that all of this is a huge opportunity to build relationships and to guide your children and to have a lot of fun together then that will be something that is nurtured and grown and your children will see that you delight in being with them and serving them and growing together.
So, do I think homeschooling is both best for everyone and possible? Yes, I do. Everyone ends up with different challenges and choices in life that make it harder or easier on some level. For instance, I’ve mentioned that we taught our kids both through a major international move and through the two year illness of a child who had cancer.
Does that mean I judge everyone that didn’t make the choice to teach their children at home? No, I don’t. I think most parents do try to make good, the best decisions for their children, but they haven’t necessarily thought about all of these things or they are hung up on many of the roadblocks that I was just discussing.
Still, I am very passionate about sharing this idea of homeschool, about helping other people to know just what can be gained from and what can be accomplished from pursuing this way of teaching their children and building these relationships with their children, because I have living proof in my life of what that has resulted in and I just really wish that you could all have that.
That’s all I have on this topic today. If you have any particular questions about what I’ve talked about here, feel free to send me an email, I’d love to hear from you. See you next time!