Taking the Plunge
- 2005 2 Nov
Homeschooling has gained more acceptance since 1982, the year I took the plunge and began my career as a homeschooling mom. I had seen a man being interviewed on television, who had written a book about parents teaching their own children rather than sending them to day schools. My son was four at the time, and people just figured I was suffering from a separation anxiety that I'd soon get over. Even family members considered it a phase I was going through and kept checking up on me to see if I had progressed.
As my son got older, he was instructed not to make a big deal about our method of schooling, since it often produced long discussions and explanations that we didn't always have the time or inclination for. Many folks (sometimes even strangers) when they found out we homeschooled would cross-examine him. He became adept at politely answering the small-talk questions of cashiers or waitresses, such as "Are there many boys and girls in your class?" with a coy reply of "Not too many." Or, "Do you like your teacher better this year than last year?" with "Oh yes, she's much nicer."
My particular reasons for homeschooling evolved and matured over the years as I discovered Scriptural support for my decision. The same is true for homeschooling itself since more and more people either know families that educate this way or have seen the notable spelling or geography bee winners in the media who have been home taught. Now, instead of being viewed as some kooky, off-beat lifestyle, those who approach me are sure it's a wonderful way to educate, but point out that they don't have the "stuff" it takes to do it. Many are conscience torn as they feel God calling them to pursue this option, but feel grossly under-qualified or under-motivated for the endeavor.
The solution is to "take the plunge." Much like slowly making your way into a cold ocean or swimming pool prolongs the agony and makes you uncomfortable for an extended period of time, but totally submerging yourself quickly results in acclimation to the water's temperature, many parents discover that once they "dive right in," the mountain they had imagined was really a molehill.
But what about qualifications and curriculum and socialization? Before I tackle those, let's go back to the cold-water analogy. Do you have to be an Olympic class swimmer to get wet? Is perfect knowledge of the basic swimming strokes a prerequisite to going underwater? First things need to come first. Decide you are going to proceed, and learn as you go. Isn't that what parents do with their first child anyway? Who taught you how to talk to your child? Who instructed you how to figure out what different cries meant? What course did you take to make a boo-boo feel better? Truth be told, you just did it! Thankfully, there is a better road map than that after more than a quarter of a century of parents just like you educating their children themselves. An Internet search will provide much more information that you could possibly peruse in a month of doing nothing else. Moreover, there are many support groups, umbrella schools, and friendly people in every state and most countries willing to offer counsel and encouragement.
Once a family follows through with the decision to homeschool and gets started, questions and problems will arise. But that would be true with a day school setting as well. The remedy isn't to abandon the decision, but to commit to making yourself the best parent-educator you can be. I've yet to see a decision that is made prayerfully and based on Scripture where the Lord isn't right there, just as He promised, as a light for the path.
Andrea Schwartz is co-director of Friends of Chalcedon. She has been homeschooling her own children since 1983 and has had a number of articles on homeschooling published in various magazines. She continues to advise other homeschooling families in areas of philosophy and curriculum.
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