Homeschool: The Great Educational Institution
- Tuesday, October 28, 2003
A few days ago as I was working on a math lesson, (my daily dose of veritable torture), my eight-year-old sister came to my desk, requesting help with her own math. I explained the problem in question, and turned to my notebook. Just as I became once again absorbed, however, my other sister--who is four--informed me that she desired to tell me about something. After she had finished presenting a perfect jumble of partial sentences and unrelated facts, as unintelligible as only a four-year-old could make them, I was beginning to feel a bit stressed. I thanked her politely for I knew not what, and returned to my work, only to be interrupted once again by one of my brothers.
My brain now confusedly throbbing, I picked up my textbook, notebook, graph paper, and pencil, and sought refuge upstairs. Alas! In that part of the house the walls rang with a "song," obviously beautiful in the ears of an oblivious, vocal toddler, but simply unbearable to a desperate student. I regretfully put away math and set to work on a less trying subject--thoroughly convinced that even Alexander the Great, conquerer though he was, could not have successfully engaged algebra and siblings simultaneously.
Yet while I was something less than happy at the time, I recall this instance fondly, for it reflects an aspect of homeschooling that perhaps teaches me more than any book is able. I have always homeschooled, and I have learned that though many claim homeschooling is more effective than other systems educationally, its purpose goes far deeper than science or grammar. It is a school where one is instructed in daily life. The homeschooler graduates not only as a scholar, but as a man or woman as well. In this great institution, one acquires not merely erudition, but also morality and maturity. A great portion of this beneficial training is a result of simply doing what most of historical mankind has always done: living with one's family. What I speak of is not a meal together every day. Rather, it is the cooperation that necessarily arises from constant contact--not living with a family, but as a family.
A year or two ago, as my brother and I entered higher grades, with different interests and responsibilities, I found a small distance growing between my siblings and myself. I did not realize how serious this was until my mother recently began to make us participate in several family activities. I admit that it took a while for me to appreciate the value of these. I complained about the time we spent together at breakfast. I inwardly sighed at being made to sit down and help a six-year-old brother read. But the knowledge finally came to me of how relationships grow--not by avoiding people when difficulties arise, but in sharing and assisting. If my brother is behind in his grammar, doing my own work is not enough. I must patiently offer my help, and work with him until he can recite that list of prepositions. Instead of using my free time to curl up with my book, I should have him come outside and weed the garden with me while I drill him on his multiplication tables. Sometimes it is hard to be with the same people interminably, to rarely find an hour under a different roof than a family member, for people are not perfect; but a relationship needs some disagreements, some hasty quarrel and tearful penitence, some sight of what a person really is, even when he thinks no one is watching, to make it strong. Homeschooling allows all this, by the one fact that its disciples must live as a close-knit, single-team, caring, loving family.
Homeschooling also brings responsibilities. As the oldest sibling, I am perpetually embarrassed by the degree that my brothers and sisters look up to me. This fact alone has withheld me on many occasions from a near-wrongdoing. The same situation extends into my life as a student. I have often noticed that when I make an earnest effort to study harder, younger minds are observing, and ready to imitate my actions. Additionally, I am privileged with duties that many of my peers are not. I frequently find myself teaching the younger ones, and thus improving my own skills. I am always being taught patience, as my schedule is undesirably interrupted. How many students of public or private schools halt lessons in the morning to clean house, or visit relatives? Such circumstances, while not benefiting the mind, mold the character. In twenty years I might forget what treaty ended the Mexican War, but I shall never lose need of a flexible, cheerful, optimistic view of Providence's unaccountable but flawless turns.
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