Sunday, May 6, 2007

Homeschool Yourself, First

Dear young parent who is prayerfully considering and diligently researching the best possible options for your child's education,

This post is for you. I hope it serves to show you a balance and an honest look into educating your children using the various options available to you. There's a lot of opinion out there, some shaped by hearsay, or facts, myth, experience, and some by a various combination of all or some of the above. Even among others subjective experiences in the educational field, it's hard to let that be a determining factor because no two situations are identical.

I'm going to offer my own opinion, in a round about way, and hope its of some use to someone. I don't claim to be an expert in any field, and with all advice I would strongly encourage giving it much thought and prayer and seeing it if does apply in your own set of circumstances. After being a parent for 24+ years, a public school mom for 13 years (with three children) and a homeschooling mom for 7+ years to five children (three of our kids both homeschooled and public schooled), I can only hope that this has served to benefit me in a way that my 'advise' is coming from a "been there/done that" point of view that will be of use to someone else.

BROADBRUSHING

Do you use any kind of photo/graphics editing software? Well, if you do, you know that in graphics editing you simply cannot pick one tool to do all the work. If you're airbrushing or detailing something that requires precision you certainly cannot use the biggest brush in the collection. You have to purposly select the smaller brushes to work with. Its tedious and time consuming but it's the only way to go to maintain a high level of accuracy that will yield a finished product with sharp and clean, detailed lines.

For those of you that do not use such software, imagine painting a wall in your house. Imagine taking the roller and just rolling over every surface - walls, trim & windowsills. You'd be done in no time flat! You'd also have a very ugly wall & paint all over your windows. If you don't bother to set the roller down and get detailed with a small brush, you're not going to achieve the desired affect with your painting.

I recall a conversation I had once with some non-Calvinistic folks. The general consensus was that all Calvinists were arrogant, boastful, obnoxious and rude. This of course was based on a limited exposure to someone who held to the 5 points that was most likely in what we call cage-stage Calvinism - but that didn't matter to these folks. Based on an extreme example, it was determined that all Calvinists are like this, or at least the vast majority. That got me to thinking about the people I knew, or knew of, that were arrogant, boastful, obnoxious and rude, and oddly enough I knew FAR more people in my own theological camp (at the time) of free will, that fit this description quite well. This situation was one of my first examples among Christians, of broadbrushing an entire group of people based on selected extreme examples. To be fair and honest these non-Calvinistic folks would have had to admit that there were just as many examples of arrogance and rudeness among themselves as there were in "the other camp", but there was no way they were going to do that, as that would detract from the point they're trying to make.

The very same thing can be and should be applied to the discussion of homeschooling, public schooling and private Christian schooling. There is no such thing as a magic-educational-potion for all kids, at all times, in all places. To broadbrush one option with "this is what these people are like" is as inaccurate as it would be to take a paint roller and go over your windows. Its as inaccurate as saying all Calvinists are arrogant, or all free willers are this way, or all Canadians sit around and drink beer and say "eh" all day long. It's unbalanced, inaccurate, and unfair. I would strongly caution anyone from giving an ear to a critique or observation of any one of these educational choices that places a heavy emphasis against one of them, in favor for another.

THE BEST OF BALANCE

"If high-quality Christian education is available and affordable, that’s usually preferable."

This was posted at Pulpit Live a few days ago, and really gave me pause for thought. In fact, this very subject has been the dominating topic of lengthy conversations in my house for the last 3 days running. It is near and dear to my heart because this is what I do. Homeschooling my kids is just as much a part of my life as cooking dinner every night, doing the laundry or running errands. It's a choice we made after several years of research, study, prayer, discussion and consideration - so I do not take it lightly.

What that statement above from Pulpit Live is saying is this: if you as a parent have access to gifted and Godly teachers in every subject from Math to English, History to Science, then obviously that would be a most preferred route for educating our children. What parent among us wouldn't want the best and brightest Godly teachers for their children to learn from? For that matter, what parent out there wouldn't like to sit under teachers like that, themselves? Obviously, however, we know that this isn't a realistic scenario for the vast majority of people.

In anyone's set of circumstances, in making this descion, you have a lot to consider. Your abilities, your child's needs, your local school district, your budget, research, time, making yourself available, quitting that second job, support in your area, and more. You have to carefully weigh what's best, what's right, what works and what wont work and then you have to take all of that information to the Lord in prayer, and seek His wisdom and guidance to lead you as the parent, to do the right thing. It has been said countless times that this is not a decision to enter into lightly, and it bears repeating at least a million more times. It is a difficult decision to make, partly because it requires much time and effort into honestly and accurately assessing your own unique situation and circumstances. This decision isn't helped when you're giving an ear to slanted or biased opinions directed at one choice or the other.

I have experience with public schools. I went through them, my brother and sister went through them, and my oldest daughter went from k-12 in the public system. Our second oldest went from k-9 and our third went from k-3. As I said earlier, "been there/done that". Having been there and done that, in the situation that we are in, based on the choices we have, we know that homeschooling is the best option for us. Having said that, I know many Christian parents with kids in the public school systems, and while that is not the best choice for us, I would never (never!) broadbrush those parents by the standards of the exteme anti-homeschool, pro-public education folks. Yes there are some like that out there, and yes they are very arrogant, in-your-face type of folks, but I know they are the extreme, or the exception to the rule and not the rule. These are generally the folks that insist they've met homeschooled kids who are social misfits that can't carry on a conversation, or adapt in any reasonable way in a 'real world' setting. The myth of socialization and homeschooling has been blown out of the water so many times with so many independant studies, but it's a myth perpetuated by the extremist, anti-homeschooling crowd with an agenda. They are a small minority among public school parents. Please read that again, they are a small minority.

In a very similar way, there are militant homeschoolers out there that peer down their noses at you for not homeschooling your kids, and make you feel like a second class citizen among the fellowship of Christian parents. They also have an air of snobbery about them that makes you feel like your kids are suffering spiritually and academically because homeschooled kids are much brighter and more spiritual than PS kids. (which is yet another inaccuracy - many kids are homeschooled because they have special needs that are best addressed in a homeschool setting, and being homeschooled is not the secret to Godly character, although it does have it's benefits toward that end). They also are the exception to the rule, and not an accurate representation of the average Christian, homeschooling parent.

I cannot caution strongly enough that young parents facing this decision NOT give an ear to what these extremist types have to say, in either camp. Even if what some of what they do say is good information, they are on an anti-this and anti-that mission and that's going to color everything else they say and give you a biased picture of what it's really like either homeschooling, or public schooling.

IN CONCLUSION

The answer is simply this: do your own homework on this. Check out your local schools, talk about it with your spouse, assess your homelife, financial situation, your kid(s) academic & spiritual needs, pray about it, and then pray about it some more. Ask questions, but whatever you do, avoid the ANTI people, they wont help in making this very important decision, they'll only make it more difficult to weed through the hype and myth, to get to the facts. The decision is hard enough (it's going to change the lives of your children, it's a HUGE decision), what you do not need is a person or organization with an agenda, to sway you into one choice over another.