I don't spend a lot of time here on my little cyber-home talking about our lives as a home schooling family. I suppose part of that is that it's just so much a part of our day each day that it doesn't occur to me as something to write about.
A friend of mine on a social networking site made a comment about the school of one of her children just not working out well for their family, and I mentioned that this was one of the big reasons we made the decision to begin home schooling our children four years ago.
Someone known or related to her made this comment in response to mine:
"As flawed as our education system is, it builds social skills that can not be built at home...I have seen this many times over...home schooled kids are less likely to be socially adjusted
"also I feel leaving the education system is not really... solving the issue, become involved, get other parents involved and you will be surprised of the changes that can happen.
"And i sure the comeback will be that "MY Kids" are very social and are doing great..Unfortunately you will not see the damage until they are older....which I have seen too many times....They can not make it because they have been sheltered.
"I personnally am glad my kids are in public school...and yes we are involved in the changes that need to be done...be voice of change a be active in your schools....I see too many times, people who complain, but do not get involved in their schools and still expect change to happen...
"get involved and see what happens...
"As E. knows, I am very passionate about my beliefs. And if you truely want change and/or advice, feel free to contact my wife or myself and hopefully we can get you some good info to get you started in your schools.
"My wife is the PTO President at our school and I volunteer my time at our school also...and we have spearheaded many changes at our own school..."
Now, without being nit-picky and taking this comment apart bit-by-bit, I responded in kind:
"Tell that to my kids, who have been home schooled for four years now and have markedly better "social skills" than their public school educated peers. If you think my kids or any home schooled kids for that matter) aren't socialized..., you don't understand modern homeschooling. It tells me that if you do personally know any families who home school, you likely either do not see most of what goes on, don't know them very well, or know a very small sampling of homeschooling families.
"Please don't assume that I was not involved with my children's education while they were in a building school. Our eldest was in the fifth grade when we made the decision to begin homeschooling, and it most certainly was not for lack of effort on my part, the parts of other parents, or our kids to make the most of the classroom model of education. Very simply put, it does not work for many students, and the ones for whom it does not work are marked as failures, as learning-disabled, as disruptive--when that's not usually the case at all.
"I spent many long days volunteering in their three different classrooms--three days each week, assisting teachers, and helping in ways that most parents would never take the time to do.
"Colleges and universities LOOK for home schooled students because they know that these kids know how to apply themselves academically, generally have good independent work ethics, and are not afraid to set a good example for their peers. I know dozens of home schooled college students and college graduates who have been very successful and are incredible testaments to the dedication that their parents had to their education.
"My children are not "sheltered" from much of anything. They are very involved in many aspects of their community, active in ways that they would not be able to be if they were tied down to the current model of education.
"Please don't assume that homeschooling families are hick know-nothings who could care less about education or are interested only in "sheltering" their kids from "real life." The fact is, very many of us are college-educated, and see the downfalls of the public education system, who work in effort to change it, but who realize that changes happen very slowly, and that had we not made the decision to home school our children, they would have fallen victim to a system which frequently fails kids. Had I *not* been actively involved in my children's' classrooms, I likely would not have seen this in action"
.......and just because I can't keep my big mouth shut (or in this instance, can't keep my busy-bodied fingers from typing), I continued:
" I really want to elaborate on something very specific--the social aspect of schooling. Kids who begin in pre-school and continue toward graduating high school in a classroom setting are not being educated in a way that shapes them to interact well with anyone outside of their specific age group--yet once they reach college (if that is their goal) or the work environment, they are at once thrown into a place where not only are they expected to be responsible for completing tasks under their own motivation, but they are also expected to deal immediately with people of different ages, educational backgrounds and work experiences. These are the types of situations my home schooled children encounter on a very regular basis, through volunteering, participating in activities during the day or evening which encourage them to interact with others who are not necessarily within their peer-group, and which would not be available to them if they were in a classroom from 8 to 3 every day.
"My kids are able to participate in activities structured toward learning actively about government, learning about their faith, learning the history of their community, caring for the poor and needy, tending to the aged and infirm, observing many different professional and vocational callings, and in general, helping them understand that life is not entirely about them and their friends.
"My kids do not have to worry about competing with kids their age over ownership of *stuff*, over "who's dating whom?" (and the accompanying societal peer pressures to get into things they have no desire to make priorities in their lives), over who is involved in more after school activities. They know how to sit down and talk with just about any person of any age, and it's conversation with substance. They can talk with their grandparents and great-grandmothers about family history and learn their stories. They can talk with me and their dad--and do, frequently--about their thoughts and dreams and fears and hopes. They can even talk with the parents of their friends about what's going on with them, what's happening in their lives, their schooling, and their families. They can talk with kids younger than they are and even *play* with them appropriately, without the fear of being laughed at by their friends. They are capable of performing just about any household task that is asked of them. They are able to go to work with their dad and see first-hand what makes the family business run. They are learning to be responsible for more than just getting their Math and English work done!
"All of these things have helped to enrich our children in ways that could never be accomplished in a classroom setting, and each element of their day-to-day living and learning here at home is helping to build great character in each of them.
"I don't mean to imply, so please don't infer, that children who attend building school don't have character or are not capable of building character...but there are many dozens of lost opportunities for learning when you put a child into a classroom for seven hours each day and expect them to fit into that district's idea of the mold of a model student.
"E. is right--there are some children who just do not fit into that mold. Public--even private-- classroom education is not for everyone, just as homeschooling is not for everyone...but for some families, homeschooling can make the difference between a very bright, successful adult and one who has been marginalized by teachers and peers alike throughout their schooling experience."
Now, I didn't get into all of the reasons that went into our decision to home school. There are, for starters, simply too many. But what I've found is that it really doesn't matter, fundamentally, to anyone but us--and the fact of the matter is that the biggest reason we made the lap from building to home education is that it is, plainly, what God was calling us to do. Most people don't understand this, and it would be frustrating and fruitless to try to explain it.
Because we are strongly anchored in our Catholic faith, and because we knew that God was calling us to more fully live that faith, we knew that allowing our children to daily remain in the hands of people who are disinterested in instilling the truths of our faith in every aspect of their education was not only not in the best interest of our children, but for all intents and purposes, quite frankly, to their detriment. Why would we daily immerse our children into a system which undermines the moral values which we have instilled in their hearts and souls since their births? Why would we choose to put them into situations which would make the question the decisions and foundations of their parents? Why is it seen as "healthy" or "good" or "normal" to put children into situations which cause them to have to question the authority in their lives which ought to matter most?
Well, we decided, along with many other parents, along with Holy Mother Church, that it is not healthy, good, or right at all. Parents have the right to educate their children, and the moral responsibility to do so to the best of their ability, and so we took that right and responsibility seriously and began on our home schooling journey.
What do we have to show for it?
I'll let my comments above speak for themselves on that, and perhaps I'll ask the kids to start writing the occasional entry for my little cyber home here at God Will Provide.
I would encourage those of you who have chosen to educate your children at home to chime in with your thoughts--why did you begin home schooling? What have you found to be the positive aspects--and what have you found to be the greatest challenges? Do you have the support of your family? Of your friends? Of your church? Of a home schooling support or cooperative group?