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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 – our children are 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 we begin to descend is that the environment of a school setting is not conducive to academic growth. It’s great for making friends and being social – and for some, labeling them as uncool, unacceptable rejects. It’s certainly an environment that breeds fear of man, insecurities, and increases the desire to be like everyone else – whether that’s a good thing or bad thing depends on the school and environment. How can anyone learn and retain knowledge when all this is going on in their head? The social aspect of school looms so large in the mind of an adolescent that the academics are more of a necessary evil, like cleaning the house. “Get it over with so we can get to the important things, friends and parties!” It’s no wonder America is sinking into a pit. Further, the way the girls dress and behave these days, it’s next to impossible for any boy to keep his mind on the books.

“But,” you say, “I don’t know anything about literature and algebra and science. I’m not qualified to teach these subjects. I would make my child less intelligent by homeschooling them.” 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 have half the information, 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 stand at the front of the class and tells the students all the information that is not in their book. Their books are 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 room. The most wonderful part of this is that the kids can reread (or review) information more slowly that they did not easily understand. You don’t get that with the classroom teacher. She will not explain everything again and again more slowly for the student that wasn’t paying attention. She must move on. Homeschooling allows the student to master every subject because they don’t move on until they fully understand. Institutional schools move on, whether the students really understood or not. Homeschooling is superior to institutional schools in the academic realm. The books are more comprehensive, the students are able to move at their own pace and fully master whatever they are learning, students are not distracted by the social hierarchy and alluring classmates and insecurities, students become self governed, self motivated, independent learners. Here is a quote from Jay Wile of Apologia, author of the high school science books written by homeschoolers:

"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.  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 homeschoolers social world. My teenage daughter has daily discussions and fun chats with her friends through Instant Messenger (we only allow messaging to friends we know in person) 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 still only see one another less than once a month (they are both involved in time-consuming sports that don’t allow them anytime outside of their practice schedules), but they email every day, many times a day. Let me also note that a homeschooled child that happens to develop a passion for a sport has a clear advantage over the other students. Though practices may go late into the evening, they don’t have to come home and do hours worth of homework before falling into bed and then rising early with not enough sleep. My daughter does not get home from practice until 9:30 most nights, but she can go directly to bed and wake at a leisurely pace, get all her school work done and spend the day interacting with her family. Then, she rests up in the afternoon before heading to practice. She is well rested and at her best. The frantic pace of the institutionally schooled athlete creates an environment where they are hurrying, stressed-out, lacking in sleep, not at their best and they never spend time with their family! Happily, there are many more 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. You have much wisdom to pass on to your child, but not enough hours in the day or opportunities to impart that wisdom. You have experiences that would benefit your child, if they would listen to you. Homeschooled children learn to see their parents as important and wise. Their peers may be important, but their heart is 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 that spends very little time with their family. With the time we have together, I can peer into their little hearts and know what makes them tick. I know where their strengths and weaknesses lie and, in my experience and wisdom, I can help them to grow into the people they were meant to be. I have a lot of time with my children, time to impart to them a vision for their lives. We have cultivated in our children the idea that they are now preparing for their future. We highlight and focus on their gifts and talents (and seek to overcome their many weaknesses), in an effort to give them a hope for their future vocation.

In fact, humans tend to value those with whom they spend the most time. Traditionally schooled children simply spend most of their waking hours around humans their very same age – who are not as wise and mature as their parents. At no other time in their lives will they 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 parent’s reassuring words of their worth and value begins to fade as they realize their only valuable if they dress in the latest fashion and have the coolest cell phone. Inevitably, they begin to reshape their values based on what their peers think is valuable. While their parents may have taught them that inner beauty was the most important thing, after spending hours and hours with their peers, they can’t help but to begin to believe that Paris Hilton beauty must be more important. They 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 human, especially teens, 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 begin to get used to having your children around, hearing the constant noise, watching the clean house become messy in no time flat. However, not only do you grow in the mature virtue of patience, after spending hours with adults, your children begin to be less annoying, and grow in maturity as well. They begin to interact with you in interesting dialogue. They begin to become less like immature savages, and more like people, 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 like the people that they are. They share mature views on most things (though not always my view), we talk constantly, discuss our philosophy of life, explore ideas, imagine the future and plan out how they’ll fulfill their hopes and dreams.

These are just a few of the good reasons to homeschool your children. If you have any questions about how to get started, you can go to my website entitled: www.jeanniefulbright.com and click on How To Homeschool.

 

Have a great summer planning for your homeschool year!