What Does it Mean to "Home School"?
- 2005 23 May
Patty Purist, surrounded by her eleven children, begins school each morning promptly at 6:45 a.m. with a flag raising ceremony on the front lawn. After reciting the pledge of allegiance (in Latin), and following a quick skirt-length check of the girls' school uniforms, Bibles are opened for the first class of the day -- hermeneutics. And heaven forbid one of her students should slip and call her mom instead of Mrs. Purist during school hours.
Contrast Patty with Tammy -- Tammy Trendsetter. Tammy homeschools for the same reason she drives an SUV, or wears color-coordinated ear buds attached to her iPod -- it's the 'in' thing to do. Her 2.4 children are plugged into a virtual academy in the family room, and Tammy can't imagine why she shouldn't submit each child's blood type, shoe size, and armed services records to the school district.
Though radically different, both families are part of the homeschooling movement. 1.1 million students in America are currently home educated according to the most recent estimates made by the 2003 U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics. But what exactly is homeschooling? Ask five different people, and you're likely to get five different answers. Even in conversations amongst veteran home educators, agreement isn't always guaranteed.
Homeschooling is parent-controlled and parent-led education, where mom and dad choose and teach every subject they feel is needed for their student. Or, homeschooling is when parents decide on an educational course of action that involves a blend of teaching at home, co-op interaction, and outside extracurricular activities. On-line classes and/or enrollment in cyber academies that are accessed from your home's PC is yet another illustration of homeschooling.
So, which definition is correct? Who's got it right? And more importantly, who's got it wrong?
Before any fingers are pointed, the real question that should be explored is "why." Why people homeschool is the root of how they will homeschool, and therein lies the diversity.
There are three main reasons why families choose to home educate. First and foremost is values/religion. These families don't want their impressionable child brainwashed by a government institution with a secular agenda, or peer pressure applied by those coming from homes with radically different values.
Other parents have become disillusioned with the public school system, but can't afford private education. They believe that a library card and some focused attention will produce a more challenging academic environment than can be achieved in a chaotic classroom of thirty students. Still others fear to send their children to school. Violence, drugs, and sex are high on the list of what these parents are afraid their students will encounter.
Each one of these reasons, and a myriad of others, will produce a different style of homeschooling. Is one good and the other bad? Which way is best? Deciding this for ourselves, or even worse, for others, should be considered on our knees.
"So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another."
Romans 14:12,13 (NIV)
We all love our kids. We all want the best for them. And we're all ultimately accountable to God for the choices we make.
It's important to remember that it's God you'll answer to for the curriculum you bring into your home. It's God who will want to know what classes and activities you allow your children to attend. And it's God you will give account to for why and who you've let make educational decisions concerning your students, be it in the form of virtual academies or satellite schools.
We must keep our focus on what God intends for our own family. If we put Him first, not only might we change the way we 'do school,' but we'll also find that we have a lot less time to be critical of others.
The bottom line is that homeschooling is and will remain as varied as the blended hues of a rainbow. It's the Creator of that promise in the sky that you'll be answering to for your definition and execution of home education, as will Patty Purist and Tammy Trendsetter.
The "right way" to homeschool is the way God would have you educate the children He's put into your care. Set your focus on seeking that out, and not on what or how other families are accomplishing their educating journey.
Do that, and you won't even be tempted to ridicule Fanny Freestyler.
Michelle Griep has four children and wears her stay-at-home-mom badge with pride. She's homeschooled for the past thirteen years and in her spare time (as if) is a freelance author. She can be reached at email@example.com