We all have our reasons for choosing how to educate our children. When I first became a home educator, my primary focus was on excellence. I wanted my kids to have a first-rate education, and I had confidence that I could teach them more effectively in a one-on-one situation (or one-on-three, as the case sometimes is) than a well-meaning teacher in a 1:20 or 1:30 classroom ratio.
Struggling to Believe
Maybe you don’t have that same confidence. I know many fellow moms who feel led to home educate but struggle to believe they are the best teacher for their child – even moms with bachelor’s and master’s degrees struggling to believe they are qualified to teach 1st grade! Other reasons might have convinced you to go ahead and try this crazy homeschool journey – reasons that avoid problems. Problems homeschoolers commonly say they wish to avoid include:
- Negative socialization (bad influences)
- Age segregation (only socializing with kids of the same age)
- Materialism and self-comparison
- Non-customized curriculum
- Crazy schedules
- Modern education philosophy in general (oh, this is a rabbit trail)
- Limited family time
- Lack of religious education
I think these are very valid problems with which families must deal when their child goes to school, but many of them can be overcome by an involved parent because there is an established and nurtured relationship between the child and parent.
There is a Need
I don’t want to come across as anti-school or start any “mommy wars.” I went to public school. My mom and grandmother taught in public school. My oldest son went to private kindergarten while I sorted out his younger brother’s food allergies and gestated baby number three. Homeschooling as well as classroom teaching is a calling, and there is definitely a need for public (and private) education – for children whose parents can’t home educate or don’t feel led to teach them at home. For many children, school is the one place they can go where there is always food, shelter, and a friend (even if that friend is the teacher). Just like there is a need for public housing and food assistance, there is a need for public education, and thank goodness there are men and women who have signed on to teach in these classrooms and provide a mentor relationship with children who may not have that at home.
There are Opportunities
There are also some excellent programs out there that require a child to leave home in order to participate. A friend of mine attended what she lovely refers to as “Math Nerd School” during her last two years of public high school. The program was STEM-intensive, and all the students graduated high school with an associate’s degree. In my town there is a public school program (it’s a lottery) for 5th graders to attend classes five days a week at the local science center for a year of hands-on lab learning. (My third grader is already drooling over this opportunity.) Our state also offers therapeutic programs like speech therapy, occupational (play) therapy, and para-instructors all within the public school setting. As a homeschool family, we have the opportunity to participate in those programs on a part-time basis. And, many school districts have some sort of gifted education program. Ours has a pull-out program that allows gifted students to attend special classes one day a week. I know several homeschool families who have seen this as an opportunity and opted to send their child to the weekly gifted program in the public school.
I Have Confidence in Me – and You
I say all of that to state the obvious: There are valid reasons to send a child to school. That’s not really what this post is about, though. What I want to address is the confidence to choose homeschooling because I think there is a general lack of confidence in the homeschool community. And, to give you that confidence, I’m going to show you that homeschool parents and classroom teachers are really on the same team, doing the same good works.
I think my confidence stems from years of observing my own mother in her role as a public school teacher. She would be the first to tell you that there is nothing magical about a degree in early childhood education that qualifies a person to be a teacher. In fact, I think she views it more as a hindrance – a hoop through which to jump – in order to have the paperwork that says you are qualified to teach.
My mom has told me and shown me many times over that education is primarily about relationship. You can’t teach someone without first establishing a relationship with them, and once that is achieved (and maintained), the teacher simply shows her students the way, the path, the curriculum. Establishing and maintaining an individual relationship with each student is the struggle that all teachers (homeschool, private school, and public school) face every day. It is the primary role of teaching, and that’s what makes the teaching profession the most challenging of all.
Next week I plan to expound on this idea of relationship as the core of education. Stay tuned for “part 2” of Education is All about Relationships.
You can read part two of Education is All about Relationships here.
Until next Friday.
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (audio book)
- The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton – love these encapsulated chapters!
- Ithaca: A Novel of Homer’s Odyssey by Patrick Dillon (book club)
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (kids’ book club)
Moderately challenging books:
- Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
- Mind to Mind: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education by Karen Glass
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in conjunction with Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study (for my CM study group)