A Homeschooler By Any Other Name
- Mary Biever
- 2004 30 Jun
"But if you choose Curriculum X, you won't be a classical homeschooler!" worried Laurinda Latin upon seeing what another mom purchased for the year.
"I guess I'm not. I'm just teaching my kids," answered Harriett Homeschooler.
"Yes, you could choose a full service curriculum which lays everything out for you. But some of us don't like to be lashed to a ball and chain," encouraged Ursula Unschooler as she spoke to a room of new families, half of whom had just purchased a complete curriculum package.
"She's not a real homeschool mom because she uses DVD School. She doesn't know what the stress of a homeschool mom is," whispered Judgmental Joan as she discussed another family.
"I thought they were a homeschool family. Then I found out she let her kids see THAT movie. And they even go to church!" gossiped Watchful Wanda.
Which label is most important to you? Homeschool mom? Classical? Unschooler? Traditional?
All of the conversations above are worst-case examples of homeschool unity.
The most important labels we should worry about being identified as are:
The order of those three is not accidental.
If we place ourselves and other labels on too high of a pedestal, the base will crack. Our goal is to teach our children - not to teach them only by Brand Y because that is the ultimate of all homeschool success.
Different methods often do the same thing - just in different ways. A unit-study full-service curriculum may still teach ancient history - just by a more flexible and less in-depth approach - while the traditional spelling book may include memory poems that are on the same lists as classical catechisms of essential poems for literacy. Classically educated kids still do math facts.
If we spend more of our time working with our kids and looking for things to work with an individual kid (as opposed to the one-curriculum-fits-all approach), our kids will be happier, our homes will be calmer, and we will help our kids learn what they need.
Yes, we do need to research different methods and techniques to use what is best for our children. But if my son has a problem with reading comprehension, what will help him more? Spending a month searching the Internet, chat groups, and friends finding out the best of the best methods or opening a book and spending a little time every day having him read to me?
We need to be willing to adapt the best of Thomas Edison's Menlo Park in teaching our kids. First, we try one method. If it doesn't work, we try something else. Edison tried 1,500 different combinations before developing a light bulb that would burn 40 hours.
In my second year as a homeschool mom, we used a full service provider. I was too intimidated to try to figure out what might work best for my daughter. The math selection was a total misfit. That math text is known in our home as, "Math With Tears." Its name was well earned. Every day of the second semester that year, all I had to do was pull out the math book, and the waterworks flowed.
Guess how much math we accomplished out of that series. But I was not going to consider anything else because that workbook cost $10. How could I not use it until the end of the year? In the quest to make good use of that $5 investment in the second semester math workbook, we endured 30 minutes of tears for 90 days. How much easier would it have been to spend say $10 or splurge on $20 - for a different book if it meant avoiding 45 hours of tears in a school year?
The point of making a mistake like that is to learn from it. If the book truly doesn't work, and you've given it your best effort, drop it.
Our goal is to help our kids make it down the river of life. If we have to change a canoe, rearrange the load, or buy a new paddle, it's better to try it than to stay in the leaky canoe that is rapidly sinking. The goal is to get down the river more than it is to get down the river in the Brand Z canoe, which is more prestigious, costs more, or looks better. Of course, if we swap canoes every 10 minutes, we'll never make it down the river.
We face terrible risks if we place too much emphasis on other labels in addition to those three - Christian, wife, and mother. How can we minister to other family members, friends, and neighbors if we are too closely identified with labels like Homeschooler, Classicist, or Unschooler? If we portray ourselves as believing homeschooling is the only acceptable method of education for everyone, will our friend at church whose kid is struggling in a traditional classroom feel comfortable sharing her concerns? Or what if we're deeply identified as a Classical Homeschooler to the exclusion of everything else? What if your best friend's child despises Latin? Will she talk to you about it, or will she assume your first response will be a rush to judgment?
Moreover, if we too deeply identify with other labels, we may alienate more people than we can encourage and help.
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." - Galatians 3:26-29
Mary and her husband, Richard, homeschool their two children in Evansville, Indiana. They work together in their family's home-based computer graphics business, The Copper Lion, Inc. Their family interests include playing with computers, making music, reading great books aloud, traveling, and experiencing life together with their children. Mary offers encouragement workshops and seminars and can be reached at www.marybiever.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.