"No problem Mr. Adorable. I will follow you to the ends of the earth."
Well, fast forward seventeen years and six kids later and this home schooling thing is tough with a capital T. However, anything worth having is not easy.
So, why DO we home school?
(none of the links below are affiliate links, meaning I do not make money from them. They are just to help you see what I am talking about in case you are interested.)
* We want to give our children a learning environment where they can pursue their passions and learn at their own pace.
When we read about Medieval Knights and my son did not stop donning a cape and knight helmet. Well, I let him go with it. We grabbed every book we could find and dove into the world of chivalry, dragons, damsels in distress, and the Knights of the Round Table. We would read around candle light, had a jousting match and ended our days of discovery with a Medieval Feast. When you teach to your child's passions, I can assure you that your child will remember what he/she loves. My son still talks about his Medieval Feast. :)
It has benefited us greatly to know what our children's learning styles are and to make sure we are teaching to that style. We have visual learners, kinetic learners, and auditory learners. We have those who like to be more social and others who prefer to be by themselves. Knowing how my children learn helps me to teach to fit their needs.
Cathy Duffy has a wonderful book called 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum and it has an overview of learning styles and teaching styles that is invaluable. She goes on to outline some major curricula and what learning style they fall under. Your local library should have a copy for you to check out. I find it a valuable resource in our home and review it every few years to help focus my attention in case anyone's learning style has changed.
* We want to instill in our children the morals and values that are rapidly declining in our culture.
*We teach to the heart first.
We value those things in our children's lives that will transcend this world and enter the eternal. Their spirits will last for all eternity so I want to make sure their spirits are just as strong, if not stronger, than their intellect. Mind, body and spirit is all connected but we often forget that. We need to be training up our children in each of these areas so they will be ready to face the world and it's challenges when they leave our nests.
A child can be intellectual and be a jerk. It is our desire to raise children who respect their fellow man, who have compassion towards others, who lavish love on those around them whether they are deserving of it or not. We want them to exhibit the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) in their lives for it would not matter how smart you are, if you do not have love or compassion, people will not want to follow you or be with you. Good leaders lead by example whether you are leading a group of soldiers, rallying together fellow athletes, engaging co-workers to attempt something challenging, or leading the children entrusted to your care. We need to instill in their hearts good things so they will overflow into the lives of others and make a difference in their own world and beyond. What we are doing now does not just impact our own little family, it will impact generations to come! Which is why being a parent is a pretty big deal.
* We do not want our children to be placed into a box. No two children are alike and likewise children have different learning styles. You cannot fit them in a box and expect wonder and passion for learning to survive after 12 or 13 years of conformity.
Think of your children as seedlings in a garden. We plant them into tilled soil that we have worked hard to prepare. The ground is soft and warm and we plant our fragile seedlings into that soil hoping they will take root and grow strong. In a home environment we tend the garden regularly because it is right before us, easily accessible and we love our little plants. We weed around them and make sure they are receiving enough water. If they get crowded by other plants we can move them to where it is best for them to thrive. The goal is to establish well rooted plants that will grow and bear an abundance of fruit. Because I have an intimate relationship with the plants in my garden, I can tell if one needs some tender care, or if one needs pruning to bring about more fruit. I am the gardener and I know that which is entrusted to me.
If we take that same little seedling and transplant it into the cold, hard ground of a traditional institution, it may still survive, but it will not grow as strong as it would have in it's original environment. It will be planted with thirty or forty other plants all close together. Weeds may choke out the other plants robbing them of soil moisture, nutrients and affecting their maturity, other plants may sprout up faster and steal the much needed sunlight from your little plant, causing your plant to be stunted. Your young plant might need some extra water or fertilizer but it might not be his day to receive this much needed extra attention so he needs to wait, all the while he starts to wither. It is not the gardener's fault... he has been given an enormous task of tending to so many plants at one time. His job is to have them each produce fruit. It doesn't matter how much fruit, he just needs one berry from each plant to have done his job. He has to stick to a boxed curriculum and teach to the standard - everyone needs to fit into the box he has been given and if they don't then he must conform them to the mold so at the end of the year all of his little plants are in the box he was given at the beginning of the year, ready to be shipped off to the next level. It does not matter if some are taller than others and have produced an abundance of fruit, or if some are suffering from blight or aphids, as long as they have each produced one fruit, then they can be boxed up with the rest and moved on to the next level.
It is hard in a system that is designed as "one size fits all" to cultivate curiosity and wonder. You have to move on at the same pace as everyone else... there is no stopping and lingering over topics that interest you, there is no slowing down if one child is not grasping the information, and there is no speeding up for those who have already mastered these facts.
Please hear me out, I am not saying teachers are bad. Teachers are a blessing however the school system has come a long way of what it used to be. It used to be a place of knowledge and discovery. A place where wonder came alive but now we just try to get them through the hoops so they can score well on the test, forget the material and move on to the next subject. Children are not retaining information like they used to. We teach to test and then most of what is taught is forgotten. Why? Because children do not learn best in a lecture environment. They need a variety of learning approaches and small groups to discuss and sharpen one another. It is the same way we learn. Would you prefer to sit in a lecture for an hour and a half (or longer) staring at the back of someone's head while taking notes and then move on to the next lecture at the sound of a bell, or would you rather learn the same thing by a hands on activity, reading a relevant, engaging book on the topic and then discussing it with friends over a great cup of coffee? We will talk more about how we homeschool in a different post but for now... we will continue with the whys. :)
* We want our children to have the freedom to be children.
The school bus goes by here at 6:30 in the morning and does not come back until 3pm and later. The average school day in the US is about six and a half hours. That does not include travel time or extracurricular activities. Some parents don't see their children until bed time because their kids are involved in dance and other activities. So, that means, on average:
a) someone else is influencing your child for roughly 1200+ hours/school year or 33+ hours a week.
b) during those 33 hours a week how much time does your child get to be a child? Are they able to climb trees, play tag, draw, curl up and read a book uninterrupted, explore their passion of tinkering with broken electronics, play dolls, build with Legos, play in the dirt...?
We no longer protect our children's childhood, we prepare them for adulthood. With the rise of two income families in the 1970's and increase in the divorce rate, children's lives were altered. Increase in television/internet/video games has only led to a decrease in adult supervision. What used to be unheard of (children drinking, doing drugs, exposed to sexually explicit material or having sex) is now becoming the norm.
Annie Hermann puts it like this:
''Innocence, once considered the right of children, may be seen as simply the absence of weight and burden. Maturity, meanwhile, may be defined as the capacity to carry a burden successfully. But if you are given the heavy burden of knowledge before you have the capacity to deal with it -and knowledge is burdensome, because it requires mental and psychological work to deal with it - the results may be those distressing signs parents and teachers are observing among children today: confusion, fear, feelings of incompetence. Children grow up not really able to deal with difficulties, and they learn that the best way to deal with problems is to escape, through drugs or drink or whatever. "(New York Times "The Loss of Childhood" 1989)
Children should be able to enjoy play, imagination, pursuit of adventure. Children and adults are not equal and children do not prosper when they are treated as equal. Our children need to know that they are unique and special and that they are made up differently than adults. They do not need to know all that adults know... they should be protected under adult supervision. It is not to say we should shelter them from everything, but we should strive to preserve their innocence, their childhood, for as long as possible because once it is gone, there is no getting it back.
* Healthy Socialization
"It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"
In a world where we hear about bullying, peer pressure, gangs, violence, abuse, drugs, etc., we desire to give our children something better.
We did not think it would be healthy for our children to be around 30 people of the same age day in and day out. It does not teach diversity. You end up being like those around you and a bunch of 8 year olds are probably not the best influence on your 8 year old, every single day. It is fine for peer connection or a birthday party but they are not going to have the benefit of learning from various age groups when we segregate them by their birthday and grade level.
Whether we are running errands, attending co op, going to choir or drama class that is offered to a variety of grades, visiting the nursing home, being a part of 4H, serving in the community, being on the local sports team, etc... we are getting a lot of socialization in any given week. The primary way our children learn how to be social is from nurturing adults rather than their peers, who are still learning themselves. We as parents give our children the skills to interact with other people and we can also protect them from those who would cause them harm.
Homeschooling has actually given us more opportunities for regular interaction with a variety of ages in an array of settings whether we are attending a ball, throwing a game day, meeting up with friends at the museum, going on a hike as a family, or cheering for one of our kids on the soccer field... each day brings something that has us interact and grow closer with our family, friends, and/or community.
* We want to spend these precious years with our children. The days are long but the years are short and we don't want to miss out on them.
We only have our children in our home for a short while. We do not want to take that time for granted because as we all know, it goes by WAY too fast. The more time I have with my children the stronger our relationship will be. I don't want to give my children away during the best hours of the day when they are happy. It is so much fun to be able to be together and lift one another up, play games, enjoy the outdoors, learn side by side and further our relationships with one another. It's truly beautiful. Yes, there will be hard moments and hard days but at the end of this life I will not be pining away about how hard it was to be home with my children all the time. I will be thankful for these formative years and the memories we are able to build and share with one another.
So that is why we do what we do. In the near future I will share about how we homeschool.
Have a blessed Autumn!