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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Why You Should Homeschool


Where to begin? There are so many reasons. Let’s start with academics. Our nation is falling behind the global market in the academic arena. The National Center for Educational Statistics shows a consistent downward trend beginning after fourth grade. American children are simply not making the grade. They graduate knowing less than 50% of the material they should know. We are at the bottom internationally. Why? Well, one reason is the environment of a school setting is not conducive to academic growth. It’s more about making friends and being social—and for some, getting bullied or labeled as uncool. It’s certainly an environment that breeds fear of man and insecurity—and increases the desire to be like everyone else. Whether that’s positive or negative depends on the school and the environment. How can a child learn and retain knowledge when he’s dealing with social pressure day after day? The social aspect of school looms so large in the mind of an adolescent that the academics are secondary to fitting in. With this type of distraction, it’s no wonder American education is sinking into a pit.  

“But,” you say, “I don’t know anything about literature and algebra and science. I’m not qualified to teach these subjects. My child would be less intelligent if I homeschooled him.” Not so! I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Homeschool products are designed for homeschoolers to learn everything they need to know without the help of a teacher. You see, public and private school textbooks only contain half of the material; the rest is in the teacher’s manual. They are designed for the student to get most of the information from the lecturer, the teacher, who stands at the front of the class and tells the students all the information that is not in their book. Their text is not designed to teach, but rather to support the teacher’s lecture. Homeschool books, on the other hand, ARE the teacher. Sometimes they come in video or DVD formats; sometimes the lesson is in the book. The material is presented in a clear, concise way, describing everything the teacher would have said had she been standing at the front of the class. The most wonderful part of this is that the kids can reread (or review) information they don’t easily understand more slowly. Students don’t have that opportunity with a classroom teacher. She will not explain everything again and again more slowly for the student that wasn’t paying attention or needs time to think more deeply about the concept. She must move on. Homeschooling allows the student to master every subject because he isn’t forced to move at a predetermined pace; he has the freedom to remain in the moment until he fully understands. Institutional schools move on whether the students really understand or not.

Homeschooling is superior to institutional schools in the academic realm. As we’ve already discussed, the books are more comprehensive, enabling the students to move at their own pace and fully master whatever they are learning. In addition, students are not distracted by the social hierarchy and alluring classmates and insecurities. Because of this, students become self governed, self motivated, and independent learners. Here is a quote from Jay Wile, an author of homeschool curriculum:

"My motivation for becoming involved with the homeschooling movement was the fact that my best university students were the ones who had been homeschooled...If I could point to one thing that made my homeschooled students such good university students, it would be the fact that they were able to learn independently.”

But what about socialization? The good news is there are plenty of opportunities for your child to enjoy social contact and close relationships with others. First, there are many enrichment and academic classes that occur once a week to support the subjects the child is learning. A once a week class is much more reasonable than a five day a week schedule. Further, the students have more time to get together for fun when school is completed. They don’t have homework (it’s all finished before the public school bell rings). Also, the Internet has revolutionized the homeschooler’s social world. In her high school years, my teenage daughter had daily discussions and fun chats with her friends through Instant Messenger and email. In fact, one of her closest friends in all the world became her friend through email. They had only seen one another at social homeschool events a few times, but they began chatting through email and developed a life-long friendship. They only saw one another less than once a month (they were both involved in time consuming sports that didn’t allow them time outside of their practice schedules), but they emailed every day, many times a day. Let me also note that homeschooled students involved in sports have a clear advantage over the public and private schooled students. When practices go late into the evening, they don’t face hours of homework before falling into bed—only to rise sleep deprived before heading to a full day of school. My daughter did not get home from practice until 9:30 most nights, but she could go directly to bed and wake at a leisurely hour the next morning, completing all her school work and spending the day interacting with the family. She could relax in the afternoon before heading to practice, well rested and at her best. The frantic pace of the institutionally schooled athlete creates an environment where they are always hurrying, stressed out, lacking in sleep, and not at their best. Sadly, most rarely spend time with their family. Happily, there are many opportunities for homeschooled students to excel in sports. Homeschool sports teams abound!

Now let’s get to the good stuff. Homeschooling provides an opportunity for families to grow in strength, maturity, and closeness. Parents have much wisdom to pass on to their children, but when they are in school, there aren’t enough hours in the day to impart that wisdom. Parents have experiences that would benefit their children, but there are few opportunities to share these experiences when their children are out of the home all day. Because homeschooled children spend time with their parents, they learn to see them as important and wise. Their peers may be important, but their hearts are knit to their parents and siblings. They realize early on that life is more difficult if they do not learn to get along with their siblings and keep a good relationship with mom and dad. They mature in this way more quickly than a child who spends very little time with his family. Because of the time homeschool families have together, parents can peer into their children’s hearts and know what makes them tick. They know where their strengths and weaknesses lie and, in my experience and wisdom, can help them grow into the people they were meant to be. I had a lot of time with my children, time to impart to them a vision for their lives. We cultivated in our children the idea that they were preparing for their future. We highlighted and focused on their gifts and talents (and sought to overcome their weaknesses), in an effort to give them a hope for their future vocation.

In fact, people tend to value those with whom they spend the most time. Traditionally schooled children simply spend most of their waking hours around people their very same age—peers who are not as wise and mature as their parents. At no other time in their lives will children be surrounded by same age peers than the few years they are in school. Think about how long life lasts and how short our schooling years are. It’s frightening that those few short years should so influence their minds and thoughts that they disregard all the wisdom imparted by their parents in favor of what they see happening around them. Their parents’ reassuring words of their worth and value begin to fade as they realize they are only valuable if they dress in the latest fashion and have the coolest cell phone. Inevitably, children begin to reshape their values based on what their peers think is valuable. While their parents may have taught them that inner beauty is the most important thing, after spending hours and hours with their peers, they can’t help but begin to believe the latest fashion icon’s beauty must be more important. Because of this influence, children begin to change their minds about what they once thought was good and bad, right and wrong. They can’t help it. It’s just too difficult for any person, especially a teen, to stand firm in a belief system that is not supported by the culture in which they are immersed day and night. Later, yes probably after college, they’ll come to their senses. However, the scars of youth don’t easily fade. 

“But,” you protest, “I just don’t have the patience to homeschool.” Here’s another little secret: It doesn’t take long to learn patience. If you lived by a railroad track, every time the train came by in the first few months, it would drive you nuts. After a while, though, you would grow patient with the train and it wouldn’t even bother you anymore. It’s the same with homeschooling. You become accustomed to having your children around, hearing the constant noise, and watching the clean house become messy in no time flat. However, not only do you mature in the virtue of patience, your children become less annoying and grow in maturity as well. They begin to interact with you in interesting dialogue and become people you actually enjoy spending your days with. I’m now at the point that I don’t even like it when all my kids are gone. I really love the people my children have become. They share mature views on most things (though not always my view), and we talk constantly, discussing our philosophy of life, exploring ideas, imagining the future, and planning out how they’ll fulfill their hopes and dreams. 

These are just a few of the good reasons to homeschool your children. I know that as you begin the journey, you’ll have many wonderful reasons of your own!