A Ready Answer
- Friday, April 26, 2002
If "What about socialization?" is the number one question asked when the subject of home schooling comes up, then "Is it legal?" runs a very close second. As a result, HSLDA attorneys frequently find themselves being interviewed by the media about home education.
I was first interviewed about home schooling in the early 80's when my family was living in Los Angeles, California. A very hostile reporter from the "LA Times" heatedly challenged every benefit of home schooling that I described. When the article came out, I felt it contained many inaccuracies, especially the impression left by the writer that it was illegal to home school in the state of California. I was concerned that folks interested in home schooling would be persuaded by the negative article not to even attempt it.
To my amazement after the article was published, we received many phone calls at our home inquiring about home schooling. Even though the article was negative, it exposed people to this new educational option. I concluded that any opportunity to get home schooling before the media would be beneficial to the home school community.
It has been our policy at HSLDA since our founding to actively provide media nationwide with research and information that promotes home schooling and counters negative reporting. HSLDA processes hundreds of media inquiries and requests for interviews every year. Today's reporters are far less hostile than that "LA Times" journalist nearly 20 years ago.
At the conclusion of a recent interview, after we had explained all the benefits of home schooling and how well home schoolers were doing academically, socially, and professionally, the reporter asked me what percentage of the overall student population home school.
"To the best of our knowledge, between two and four percent of compulsory age children are taught at home," I replied.
His next question was logical. "If home schooling is such a great benefit for children both academically and socially, why do so few parents choose this method of educating their children?" After discussing the reasons for several minutes, the reporter concluded that the primary reason must be lack of financial resources. Most homes have both parents working outside the home to support the family.
After the interview, I began to reflect on this issue. While I concur with the reporter that finances are certainly a consideration for many families, ultimately most decisions come down to motivation. "Am I motivated sufficiently to do something that will be difficult and unconventional?" Generally, fear and/or confidence are our greatest motivators. Certainly, we see some very confident home schooling parents. However, I believe that the majority of parents who decide not to home school do so from lack of confidence, a feeling of inadequacy or self-doubt.
Unfortunately, those same feelings of inadequacy and doubt can pop up time and time again through the home schooling years. It is part of our nature to want to control all of our circumstances and situations in life. The following are some reasons parents either leave home schooling or do not begin in the first place:
- Child refuses to do the school work;
- Child doesn't like home schooling;
- Spouse is not helpful enough;
- Family does not have enough financial resources;
- In-laws, out-laws, and friends at church oppose home schooling;
- Parents run out of energy or feel overwhelmed by an illness;
- Another pregnancy consumes mom's time and resources;
- Legal challenges arise;
- Subjects seem too complicated; or
- Children have special needs.
My guess is that many of you can identify with one or more of these issues and some of you are dealing with them right now. For those of us feeling this way, we can take comfort and confidence in knowing that the Bible has addressed this very issue in I Corinthians 12:10, with these words: " ... for when I am weak, then I am strong."
The Apostle Paul uttered these words after God had refused to take away his thorn in the flesh. God had informed Paul that He would not remove the "thorn" because He desired for Paul to depend upon His grace rather than Paul's strength. Paul then accepted this condition, recognizing the power of God would work through his weaknesses to God's glory.
Through this scripture, God assures us that He will intervene in our circumstances to solve the problems we cannot solve ourselves. When we admit our weaknesses and ask for God's help, then we have access to all of the resources of Heaven. It is only when we admit our weaknesses and seek God that we are strong. This is true no matter how much self-confidence we have. The Bible says in Philippians 3:3 that we are to place no confidence in our flesh. Our teaching certificate, our college degree, our great patience, our expert communication skills, etc., will not carry us through to the end in our home schooling experience.
I asked myself, "Why didn't I share this truth with the reporter?" It was because this biblical truth is so contrary to the way we think, I decided. This truth should encourage the thousands who are considering home schooling, yet need the confidence to begin. And this truth should refresh and hearten thousands of weary home schooling veterans.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." I trust that next time I will be better prepared to acknowledge God as the source of confidence and strength. If more folks would grasp this truth, more families would start and keep home schooling. Our two to four percent of the student population who are home schooled would grow exponentially.
As a home-schooling parent, do you ever think of quitting and putting your children back in school? Is it for any of the reasons Mike mentioned? Are there other reasons? What is your favorite Scripture verse or passage that gives you the strength to keep going? Send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will see that Mike receives them.
Mike Smith is the president of Home School Legal Defense Association. Mike and his wife Elizabeth home schooled their children for 15 years. (They are now all grown!) In addition to his duties at HSLDA, Mike and Elizabeth speak at home-schooling conventions across these United States.
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