This is the time of year when parents begin to think about the next school year for their children. For those who are displeased with their child’s educational setting, it’s usually the time when options for the following year are analyzed and plans begin to take shape.
Home education continues to be an option available to parents in America, and for that, we should be deeply thankful. In some European countries, like Germany, you can go to jail for attempting to keep your children out of official, government sanctioned schools. It is a precious privilege and hard-won freedom that we parents enjoy today to be able to school our children according to the dictates of our own consciences and our own beliefs. We are deeply grateful.
At various times in my children’s lives, we have had them in private Christian school, a public school, and in home school. Each year presented a new set of circumstances and set of needs and we have tried, year by year, to meet each child’s unique needs as they have arisen. I have home schooled using various means and methods as well. What works well for one student does not work well for another. It is a case of analyzing each child’s academic and spiritual needs and doing the best you can to address those as a mother.
I am not an ideological home schooler. By that I mean that I am not one of those who believes that God commands parents to teach children academics in a home setting and that any other choice is unbiblical. There are groups that teach that. Tom and I believe that we are allowed to delegate academic teaching to others, just as Jewish parents delegated the teaching of Hebrew to the synagogue for their young sons in Jesus’ day. Parents bear the ultimate responsibility for their choices, however, and we need to bear that in mind.
Not all parents are experts in all subjects, not all parents are financially able to have one parent home full time, and some mothers are not physically, emotionally or educationally equipped to educate their children at home. I am for good home schooling and opposed to disorganized, careless and poor home schooling, just as I am for good schools and opposed to bad ones. It is a decision that parents need to make together with much prayer.
Let me tell you why I am home educating our youngest, Will. Last Spring, Tom and I talked about putting Will in a Christian school for junior high in preparation for high school. While Will attended school for 1st, 2nd and 4th grades, we thought that having him in a school setting for these junior high years would perhaps be a help to him as high school looms. I made an appointment to visit the Christian school nearest us. It has a solid academic reputation, is not large, and uses a good Christian curriculum. They have a uniform dress code, which I think is wise these days, and an award winning history program.
We sat in the 6th grade classroom that day with the 23 or so other students who would be in Will’s class for the next two years. The male teacher, who seemed like a very sincere young man, asked each student to stand up and give a name, an interest they had, and a reason they liked the school. This was for Will and my benefit as visitors.
The first boy stood up. At first I thought he was mentally disabled. Rather than obey the teacher, he began making bizarre noises with his mouth. As the class tittered around him, I realized that the boy was fooling around. The laughs of the class got louder and louder. Eventually he spit out his name and some incomprehensible gibberish and then sat down to the howls of approval from the class. The teacher remained silent at the podium with something of a vague smile on his face. That slight encouragement led to the rest of the class behaving in a disrespectful and foolish manner. Only a handful of the students obeyed the teacher. It was an embarrassing spectacle that was never stopped by the man in charge of the class. I was unimpressed.
I came away that day thinking, how can we send William into an environment like that? He loves to learn. He’s becoming a World War II expert from all of his reading. He loves history and math and science. Furthermore, he enjoys talking with older people, respects authority and knows how to obey. What becomes of a serious student when you place him in a setting where behaving like a fool and disobeying a teacher is the cool thing to do? Those children, as silly as it was, were showing disrespect not only for their teachers, but for us as visitors, and for themselves. The peer pack madness was in full evidence that day.
The child who is an individual thinker, who can concentrate for long periods of time on subjects of interest, who respects authority and likes communicating with adults because of what he can learn is a rare breed today. Home education is able to produce this kind of character largely because a child is socialized across generational lines, is removed from the tyranny of peer dynamics and is given the freedom to explore what he is interested in for more than chopped up little time increments.
Tom and I believe that character is primary. A child may possess a lot of knowledge, but if he has never been taught to honor the Lord, be respectful and to think of others first, of what use is all that knowledge?
A neighbor man of ours thinks a lot of Will. Will thinks a lot of “Mr. John.” I saw them outside last week talking at length. Our neighbor is a golf lover, and Will likes to learn things from him. Did you catch that? A 12-year-old has learned the value of listening and learning from his elders. What a concept. Sadly, this whole idea has been lost in the idolatry of youth culture that teaches children that their world is the only one that matters. Marketers have a vested interested in convincing the young of this point, and it is to the children’s detriment.
I could write much about the various options in a home education setting. Technology has created an exploding array of high quality choices for parents. Each family has to determine what works best for each child. When you are home educating multiple children at different grade levels, this can be an enormous challenge. William has an auditory learning style and has done best with a structured, distance learning program. He has master teachers who lecture on DVD through the Abeka program in Florida. He uses the Saxon math program. His teacher has a doctorate in math and through the use of a CD-rom, turns Will’s computer screen into a white board where the math lessons are taught each day. He is in Algebra 1/2 this year and is doing very well with it.
This home educational setup, while more costly than if I taught each subject, only costs us about $1100 a year. For this price, he is getting top flight teachers and academics at a fraction of the cost of a Christian school. (Schools in our area run $5,000-$6,000 a year.) I serve as coach and test grader. Will files his work away each day and records his grades. He’s learning to manage his own education, and it has helped instill discipline in him. He found out that if he gets up at 6:15 each day, he can be done with school largely by noon and still have a good portion for the day for his music practice and his own interests. The flexibility it affords him has been a real blessing.
Each child is different. Each of mine is different. One child does best in a highly structured formal school setting. One of our children needed English as a Second Language classes and special help to catch up. Each need requires thought and attention. Will’s home education program would not have worked at all for some of his siblings. With the Lord’s help, each parent can find out what works best for their children. But I continue to be grateful for the opportunity and privilege of home education. In a world that is increasingly spinning out of control, and with much of Christianity taking cues from the popular culture, sometimes home education can provide the best opportunity for spiritual and academic development.
If you would like more information on the subject, HSLDA.org has an info packet they can send you for free that will help you understand your own state’s legal requirements and introduce you to the multitudinous home education curriculum offerings available today. There are satellite services, CD-roms, DVD classes, correspondence courses, computer based schooling, and gorgeous educational materials of every description. Tomorrow (Thursday, April 23), I will be interviewing a lady on Crosstalk who will discuss the opportunities available in home education. If you have a chance, tune in live at 2pm Central or listen to the archived show any time, both at our website.)
Here’s a little WWII history on the Eastern Front with Will. :-)