9/28/2012

On Homeschooling

We've all but decided for sure to home school. In fact, we've essentially started Kindergarten with the elder boy this year (despite the fact that he wouldn't be eligible for public school until next year. Academically he's ready. If he had to sit in a classroom for 8 hours? No chance.) In keeping with the decision, I've joined a few listservs and that sort of thing to plug in to various groups for social and learning activities. While I don't necessarily worry about him being "socialized" - he's an incredibly social and outgoing kid and finds friends wherever he goes - I do think having a broader sphere than just me is a good plan. Sadly, what I'm mostly getting out of the listservs right now is an understanding of why so many people look down on home schoolers.

I consider myself a Christian, an intellectual, and a homeschooling mom. Probably in that order. (Christian definitely comes first, but the other two might swap places here and there periodically. The point, really, is that I was raised to think and am, to this day, a thinker. And I want my boys to be thinkers too. They're smart, which is a huge blessing, but it also, I believe, comes with a responsibility for them to use their brains to the best of the ability to serve and glorify God. It also comes with a responsibility for me, as their parent, to help them understand and reach that intellectual potential.) Why I mention this ties into my irritation (to the point of leaving one group) with some of the home school groups: they ooze ignorance.

This is not to say the women (because homeschooling parents are, 99% of the time, the moms) are stupid. They're not. But they don't take the time to do simple things like verify the correct choice of their/they're/there that they need, or use a quick spell check -- the little things that portray you to the world as someone who is actually educated at the median level. Would it bother me quite so much if it wasn't part of a group of people who are teaching their kids? Probably not. But if we, the teachers, can't be bothered to be correct, then how can we expect it of our students? If a paid educator wrote some of the things I see homeschooling moms write, there would be a public outcry for said educator to lose their job. And I believe we owe our kids more than that. I believe we owe the homeschooling community at large more than that.

I made the mistake of mentioning something to that effect on a friend's Facebook comment where she had shared a nice little article by a homeschooling mom that went to my point. The point of the article was lovely and was, essentially, that as Christian homeschoolers, we ought to be making sure that people see Jesus in us and how we rear our kids. My comment that we also owe it to our kids and the world to show that we are intellectually on point was, rather rudely in my opinion, pooh-poohed by other friends of said friend. The commenters said that, in effect, our only goal as Christian homeschoolers is to focus on character, not academics. That it's more important to instill a good spiritual upbringing than a quality academic education.

And there's where I couldn't disagree more. Is it my job as a parent to make sure my child has a good spiritual upbringing and develops proper character, morals, and ethics based on the Bible? Absolutely. And all parents will stand before God and be held accountable for how they managed that task regardless of how they chose to educate their child academically. The parent who chooses public school is just as responsible for ensuring good character in their kids as the one who chooses secular private school or a religious private school. Instilling character and a Biblical upbringing is not, in my mind, a reason to homeschool. You can (and must) do this, regardless of where and how your child is educated.

Why are we choosing to homeschool? That is entirely about the quality of education I want to provide my kids. I firmly believe that we can provide a more robust academic education for the boys in an environment that will be more conducive to their ability to learn than what the public schools provide. Will we also be instilling Biblical beliefs, morals, ethics, and focusing on character? Absolutely. But as I said above, we'd do that regardless of what schooling choice we made, because that's our responsibility as parents.

To choose to homeschool and then fail to provide a rigorous academic experience is, in my mind, to do your children a huge disservice. Does that mean you should have to have a degree to homeschool? No. Not at all. You just have to care enough about academics that you make them a priority, for yourself and your children. And if you're making academics a priority, that's going to be demonstrated in your public writing efforts. This, in turn, is going to help those who are not Christians or who are Christians but also intellectuals look at people who homeschool not as religious idiots raising the next generation of people who have no clue but as concerned parents who are taking the harder road to ensure that their children receive not only a solid moral education, but a competitive academic education as well.

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