Monthly Archives: January 2011

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children! – Part 6

A MOVEMENT WRONGLY NAMED; OR WHAT’S WRONG WITH HOMESCHOOLING, ANYWAY?

[This is Part 6 of the Article “Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children!”]

Do you call yourself a homeschooler? Is that what you say to explain why your children are home during the day?

Naming something identifies it. Gives it meaning. Defines it.

In almost 30 years interacting with homeschooling families, I have met very few secure homeschool moms. Very few. They were secure enough as moms. They were secure enough at home. They just weren’t secure enough as schoolers. They weren’t at rest in their homeschooling.

It is easy for a homeschooling mom to say (or think), “Who am I to believe myself capable of fully educating my child?”

What happens when homeschool parents are insecure in the “schooling” part of their “home-schooling”? If we can agree that insecurity is simply another word for fear, we could say that there are a lot of fearful homeschooling parents out there. What are they afraid of and why is this fear so detrimental to them and to their children?

Fear, and faith, are life’s two major drivers. We will do almost anything to make fear go away and bring ourselves to a place of rest.

Parents used to send their children to school with the secure feeling that their children were being taught by professionals trained to educate children. Most parents did not consider that they, themselves, could do a job which others had spent years being trained to do. We might have felt that we could raise our children in some areas, but we were not prepared to say we could educate them.

Then, one day, we became homeschoolers. Insecure homeschoolers, perhaps; but homeschoolers, nonetheless. However, since what we were doing was labeled “homeschooling,” we, in our insecurity, actually became home-SCHOOLERS rather than HOME-schoolers. The importance of our children becoming educated (isn’t that what children do during the day?) took on greater prominence than the importance of them being home during the day. [It hasn’t helped that there is no cultural memory of what having our children home really means to the family or to society.]

You may recall that, at the very beginning of this Article, I was having a conversation with my oldest son at which time I said to him, “And, your kids won’t be homeschooled, either”? During Seth’s years at home, his academic education was never the priority. In our home, we did have clearly defined priorities, but those priorities were first relationships; second, practical skills; and, lastly, academics. Seth grew up with a strong academic upbringing, but, again, academics were never priority. Seth is a skilled, very competent individual. He is also one of the happiest young men I know. And, he loves the Lord.

As I look back on Seth’s time at home, I have come to realize that he was never “homeschooled.” He simply spent his days in a most remarkable and unusual place: his own home.

When our children were young we would take them with us to the store during the day—while other kids were in school. The check-out lady would invariably ask, “You boys aren’t in school today?”

Since the boys knew we were homeschoolers, they would respond, “No, ma’am, we’re homeschooled.”

If I had known what I know now—back in the early 1980’s, when we began to homeschool—I would not have called ourselves “homeschoolers”.

Naming something identifies it. Gives it meaning. Defines it. I never wanted to be a home-SCHOOLER, because I didn’t want the SCHOOLER part of that word to take on the fear-producing meaning it has taken on for most homeschooling parents.

If you are homeschooling and your emphasis is on the school part of that word, I would guess that you carry an ongoing feeling of insecurity.

I suggest you change your emphasis. In the next installment, I will give some examples of how to discover your true emphasis. I will also make some suggestions as to what your emphasis should be.

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children! – Part 5

The Road to Homeschooling – Part 2: Here Come the Homeschoolers

[This is Part 5 of the article “Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children”]

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, a movement arose that many consider nothing less than God’s intervention to undo what had detoured the family for a century and a half. All over the country, parents began keeping their children home instead of sending them to one of the schooling options I have previously mentioned. Some parents made this decision out of concern for their children’s spiritual, emotional or physical safety; others resolved to reject the “education” their children were receiving.

At first, the majority of parents decided to keep their children home simply because they wanted a relationship with their children and parents didn’t think this was possible if their children were gone all day long. Because the decision not to send one’s children to school was such a novel and controversial idea, we needed strong convictions that this was the right choice in order for us to be able to withstand the criticism and ostracism that was inevitably directed toward us.

Look at the many choices parents have today when considering where their children might be schooled. Children can now be:

Public Schooled
Private Schooled
Christian Schooled
Home Schooled

Note that the above choices relate mainly to the location where the schooling takes place. In the past 150 years, what has changed is the first word in these choices, not the second. Each choice still emphasizes the fact that children are to be schooled: the scope of information (subject matter) and the sequence in which that information is presented remain, essentially, the same, regardless of where the child is schooled.

A MISNAMED MOVEMENT?

How did keeping our children home during the day come to be called Home Schooling?

Ask parents, “What should children, age six to eighteen, be doing during the day, Monday through Friday?” and most will say, “These are the years when a child is being schooled, of course.” (We now speak of the school-age child).

It follows, then, if a child is to be “schooled” during these years, the only real question is, “Where will he or she be schooled?” Today, the answer is, “He or she will be public schooled, private schooled, Christian schooled, or home schooled.”

Assuming that every child is supposed to be schooled during the day, if he is home during the day, he will be home schooled during the day. Hence the origin of the label “Home Schooling.”

All this presupposes that being schooled really is a child’s primary daily activity between the ages of six and eighteen?”

I would like to suggest that, until the advent of the modern Public School Movement, being schooled was not a child’s primary daily activity between the ages of six and eighteen. Schooling a child was never meant to be the constant with the variable being only where the child is schooled.

What is so problematic with the term “Home Schooling” is what it causes parents to do with their children who are spending their days at home.

If this movement that has come to be called Home Schooling was originally intended to be God’s intervention to undo what had detoured the family for a century and a half, what happened that caused it to lose its original purpose?

[Next: A Movement That Lost Its Point]

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children! – Part 4

The Road to Homeschooling – Part 1

[This is Part 4 of the article “Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children!”]

In the 1950’s—100 years after the Public School Movement began—the dreams of its founders began to be realized in a most unexpected way: Private, “Experimental Schools”, began to appear. Some, like the one my public school teacher-mother sent me to during my 4th & 5th grades, were held in a teacher’s private home (my “school” was surrounded by woods, so we spent a lot of time outdoors). Others had more of the look and feel of Public Schools. Private Schools were “experimental” in the sense that their founders were trying to provide a less structured and, at the same time, more individualized, learning environment for their students. You will recognize the name Dr. Marie Montessori, whose ideas helped pioneer this Movement.

Many educated families longed to send their children to exclusive Prep Schools (where children of the rich and famous attended); but the cost of Prep Schools was simply beyond the budgets of middle-class families, so Private Schools were a tailor-made alternative.

Most people don’t realize that Public Schools were never intended to prepare leaders and entrepreneurs; they were intended to prepare employees of leaders and entrepreneurs. That is why America’s wealthiest families have never entertained the thought of sending their children to a Public School. Their children attend the kind of Private Schools that are expected to prepare young people to become leaders and entrepreneurs. [It is a fascinating study to discover how differently Prep Schools define education and how differently they go about preparing their students for a very different kind of future—one that definitely does not include employment].

In the 1960’s, many Christian parents began to wake up to the fact that both Public and Private Schools were moving more and more away from the family’s long-held personal values toward a more secular view of the world while, at the same time, purposefully withholding Christian worldviews from their students. As these schools were moving away from family values, they were taking the children with them. This was not a “drift” toward secularism, but the natural outcome of the original intention of the founders of the Public School Movement.

To counter this trend, the Christian School Movement began with its own particular brand of curricula that was mainly Public School curricula that had been carefully Christianized. Christian parents now felt that they had the best of both worlds: a public-school-style education that was also Christian, taught by professional, Christian educators.

With all these movements countering one another, and raising up their own brand of School, little changed regarding the majority of  what the typical American child would be taught; the main differences were how and where. All education sprang from a universally held premise: children were to be taken from their homes, driven to a place called “school”, and educated by professionals whose training had prepared them to do a better job of educating children than could be accomplished by a child’s own parents.

How different all this is than what children experienced for generations before the Industrial Revolution and the passage of the first Public School Compulsory Attendance Laws! Since then, we have been—are still are—trying to figure out how to school our kids.

[Next: The Road to Homeschooling – Part 2: Here come the homeschoolers (is that really what we were?)]

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children! – Part 3

The Collapse of the Family – Part 2

[This is Part 3 of the article “Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children!”]

To understand where I am going with all this, I need to give a short history lesson. If you can follow along, I believe it will help establish why I ask parents to not homeschool their children.

The Industrial Revolution of the mid-1800’s is properly called a Revolution in that it changed the culture of America forever. Especially did it change the family.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the average American family had seven children and, because of this high number of children, the average age of all Americans was 13 years old.

Why so many kids? Because, next to the land, children were the family’s most important asset. Families needed children, and lots of them. Very few adults earned wages since most families farmed their own land and lived only at a subsistence level. In other words, they produced, and made, virtually everything they needed. Who needs money in an economy like that?

One interesting fact is that, in spite of living at a barely subsistence level, American children had the highest level of literacy in the world.

What changed?

There has always been a desire to improve one’s family’s standard of living and to give one’s family more than it already has. But, when even the simplest things are expensive and have to be made by hand—and when parents and children spend their days working the fields to produce everything the family needs—“getting ahead” is little more than a parent’s dream.

However, in the mid-1800’s, everything changed. The Industrial Revolution began. Machinery was married to steam power and what once was too expensive for a family to afford (or had to be hand-made) suddenly came within reach financially. More importantly, the newly built factories needed workers, with the promise of earning money. The siren call went forth for men to leave their homes and be paid a salary (something new for most men). The possibility of being able to increase one’s family’s standard of living was the draw that caused men to cease being patriarchs of a family enterprise and become employees.

Around this same time, another movement was taking shape: The Common (Public) School Movement. The leaders of this movement were, for the most part, humanists who were concerned about two things they believed endangered America’s future: That parents were teaching their children what these men called “religious superstitious beliefs” and the influx of illiterate immigrants seeking jobs and a better life in America. These leaders believed that realizing their two-fold goal of ridding our society of religion and providing an education for immigrant children mandated compulsory education for every child. Soon, various states were passing Compulsory Attendance Laws and children were being required, by law, to leave home to be public schooled.

So, as dads were leaving home with a promise of employment, children were also leaving home with a promise of being made employable. Within a very short period of time, the family unit—which had been tightly held together as its members worked together for the common good of the whole—became a group of individuals going their separate ways with separate agendas. To the factories went the dads. To the schools went the kids. And, Mom? Her identity within the (quickly dispersing) family will have to be the subject of another (and very important) article.

It wasn’t long before people forgot what it was like to be a family with Dad as the head of a family enterprise with each family member being co-producers. In one generation, the cultural memory of children growing up at home was forgotten. Children belonged “in school” during the most productive hours of their day, learning whatever would make them employable, becoming independent, establishing strong relationships with peers that replaced the bonds of family. What had once been a lifestyle of learning became “book learning” as education became separated from a real life that was no longer being lived.

[Next: pulling the family back home]

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children! – Part 2

THE COLLAPSE OF THE FAMILY – Part 1

[This is part 2 of the article, “Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children!”]

For thousands of years young people spent most of their time with their own families in their own homes.

Consider how unnatural that would be today!

Before public education, parents would never have thought of themselves as “home schoolers.” There simply was no alternative to children spending their day at home, having knowledge, experiences and character passed to them by their parents and extended family. What children needed to know, they learned as part of their daily lives: sowing and reaping, weather, working with their hands, why they must understand math, how a business works, how to treat customers (and everyone else, for that matter).

Life was education. To say this another way, children did not learn what they needed to know only from books; rather they learned what they needed to know because what they were doing required that they learn it.

Even when a community provided a “one-room schoolhouse” for its youth, children could attend only when the family released them from more important family-related duties.

It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that states began passing what became known as Compulsory Attendance laws requiring parents to send their children away from home to be “schooled”.

When this happened, the family unit radically changed and parents would never raise their children the same way again. That is, until just recently; but, even then, only for a few years.

In the segments to come I will explain what created the radical change I just mentioned, what recently happened to begin restoring family integrity, and how the very thing parents are doing now may cause it to fail.

Don’t think this information is stuffy and unimportant. If you bear with me, I think you will consider it worthwhile in the end. It might even change the way you raise your children…

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children!

My sons never went to school.

One day, as my oldest son and I were discussing his upbringing, I had a revelation about this thing called homeschooling.

I said to my son, “When you have kids, they won’t go to public school. They won’t go to private school. They won’t go to a Christian school.”

“And,” I concluded, “Your kids won’t be homeschooled, either.”

The realization I had while talking with my son is that, years ago, God began stirring something in the hearts of parents about restoring long-forgotten aspects of raising their children. That stirring eventually came to be called “homeschooling”; however God never intended parents to homeschool their children. Then, why do we homeschool?

[To be continued]…