Thursday, August 27, 2009

HomeSchooling: To Answer the Questions #1 - Am I qualified?

Inevitably, when I first tell someone that I home school, they usually start asking all sorts of questions. I really don't mind them, though, because how do any of us learn about something if we don't ask? As I stated in my first article on homeschooling, I asked myself some of these same questions before making the final decision.

There are almost as many questions about home schooling, as there are home schoolers. But, I'm going to focus on what I feel are the most frequently asked questions. You also have to remember that these are my answers and my opinions. Although many of my answers are based on a lot of studying I have done to prepare my heart and mind for this mission, (my basis for answers are not just random and made up), and there are many who share my thoughts and views, ultimately, I'm only speaking for myself.

I also want to share something with you up front. Although I choose not to use the public school system, I do not believe that everyone, especially Christians, should pull their children out the public school system and start home schooling. I sincerely believe that as a Christian, home schooling is a calling from God. I applause the Christian teachers that are out there in the class rooms every day, teaching and guiding the leaders of tomorrow. I also support the children that are in these classes as well. I shudder to think about a public school system void of all Christians. Schools are a wide open mission field, ripe for the picking. If all the Christian teachers and students would consistently stand firm in their faith and live out their faith for others to see, we would see a change unlike no other. So, the answers I give are not necessarily against those going and working in public schools. It's just perhaps, a view to the other side of the spectrum. An understanding of the other side of the story.

The questions I'm going to try to bring understanding to are: 1) If I don't have an education degree, am I qualified to do this? 2) Aren't my children missing out on opportunities? 3) What about socialization? I am going to break these subjects down into different blogs so the articles won't be too long. Comments and even tasteful and thoughtful disagreements are welcomed. (Agreements are welcome too, of course.)

1) "If I don't have an education degree, am I qualified to home school?" We could even take this further and ask, "If I don't have a formal college education, am I qualified to home school?" I'm sure these questions alone have brought doubt and confusion to many home schooling parents, and perhaps, have caused a few to not do it at all. Therefore, I think this question is worth addressing.

Education degrees are vital and important and not to be taken lightly. The overall purpose of an education degree (but not the only one) is to prepare the teacher to instruct several students at a time on a specific subject, in a designated amount of time. A degree does not mean they have to be an expert in all areas of education. Let's say the average teacher has 20 students per class. At the beginning of the year, she (and I'm going to use She to make it easy, but the He's are not forgotten) probably doesn't know much more about the students than the names on her list. And each of these students are beautifully different than the rest. They have different interests and learning styles, not to mention how different each family and home situation is. The government and school system tell the teacher what must be taught throughout the year, (not to mention they decide when/what grade levels certain things are to be taught and what curriculum to use), and each lesson is given a specific amount of time to go over. This teacher also has to keep in her head that the test results of her students at the end of the year are seen, not only as a reflection of the student, but of the teacher, as well. This my friends, is not an easy undertaking, and that's just the "tip of the iceburg" of teacher responsibilities. This is why I support teachers and feel they are among the most underpaid professions in our world today. This is why they need an education degree.

So, what about the home school parent? Let me ask a you a couple of questions. Why do parents concern themselves with the student/teacher ratio of the school their child is to attend? It is because the less students there are, the more time the teacher has to give attention to each student, personally. When asked of teachers what they wish they had more of, one of the most popular answers is more time with each student. We all know that the more one on one attention and assistance a child receives, the better chance they have of truly understanding and grasping the concept or subject. I have never met a parent that seeks to put their children in the largest classroom with the most children in it. We all know that if that child needs help, they will get very little time devoted. Often, children come home struggling with what was taught and it is the parent who helps the child come to a full understanding of the subject or problem. And if the subject becomes to hard for the parent, they can arrange for another student or an after school tutor to help their child. It's all about one on one, which is what home schooling is. You don't need an education degree to tutor your own children. You know your children. You know how they learn, what their strengths and weaknesses are. Therefore, the parent can tutor their children in a way that their children will fully grasp the subject, not just to know enough to pass a test and forget about it afterwards. In a class room, if your child does not fully understand the subject being taught, the teacher cannot wait for them to understand when the system says it's time to move to the next lesson. At home, if my child isn't ready to move on to the next lesson, I don't have to. I can wait until I know my child fully understands before adding something new on to that. And what about the child that catches on quickly? They are often bored in class because they have to stay on a subject longer than necessary. It is said that the level of teaching in a class will be geared to the least of the students. (That's putting it nicely.) So, my bright child, who already understands something, has to sit and wait until the system says they can move on to the next lesson. This often makes learning a chore, especially for those that might also have ADD or ADHD. Their minds are ready to go go go, and they have to wait wait wait. At home, when I know my child fully understands and grasps a concept, we can just keep on moving at his speed, not someone else's, or someone else's system. It doesn't take a college educated person to do this. Just a parent, that knows their own child.

I know many college educated people that don't have any sense to them. I also happen to know several people, who never earned a 4 year college degree, who could better teach than some others. My parents and in-laws, for example. None of them have 4 year degrees. But, I believe they can teach my children how to learn many necessary concepts, such as math, spelling, reading, writing, history, etc. They are among some of the smartest people I know. My parents helped me with my homework and come to understandings that I didn't grasp in the hour of class at school designated for that subject. I can say for certainty that my in-laws are no exception to that. I have even witnessed them helping grandchildren learn. Teaching your own children doesn't take a degree. It takes understanding your child, a willingness to help them be the best they can be, and a love for your child that no teacher will ever have. The learn along with them! There is always something new to learn. Education and learning should be a lifestyle, not just a means to an end.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HomeSchooling From My Heart-The Journey

Home schooling is not really a new thing. It has been around for a very very long time, in fact. But, there has been such a recent surge to home school in the past couple of decades that it causes quite the stir, from the government to down to family, friends, and even strangers you meet in the school supply isle at your local super store. So, I'm going to share my journey in this decision and my heart on the matter. I hope you will read it with understanding, whether you decide to agree or not.

Before my husband and I ever had children, we had the blessing to know others that did home school their children. On of my dearest friends in fact, has home schooled her children from the very beginning and I have observed how well they do. We also had the honor of having a young harpest play at our wedding, who was just early in high school at the time. Her much younger sister assisted her and even played a couple of songs herself. They and their brother were also home schooled. My best friend home schooled her daughter the last 2 years of her high school years. She was able to graduate a little early and has just started college. All of them can think for themselves, are very confident and stable, and have a level head on their shoulders. They are blessings to know.

Honestly, I didn't really think when I first got married that I would actually home school myself one day. At the time, I didn't have the confidence in myself to think I could possibly teach my own children, much less anyone else. But, there was a seed planted in my heart. When we were finally able to have our first child, we lived in a small town in which I had worked with many of the children in the school system. I saw first hand how the system worked, or rather, didn't. However, I was honered to go to church with some of the best teachers in the county. I knew their hearts and thought I would be okay with my child under their watchful eye.

But, something deep down inside wouldn't let me go of the thought of home schooling. So, I began praying. Yes, even as my first child was just an infant, I started praying about this decision that would have to be made one day. And as we all know, those precious years fly by before our very eyes. On and off this went for several years. My husband was not a big proponant at first, and I would never make a major decision like this if we weren't in the same boat together. He knew I didn't have confidence in myself and worried about that. And of course, there is the whole issue of sports. So, back and forth I went, battling with myself, mostly. I would ask myself the same questions that others ask. "What about socialization?" "Aren't you afraid they are going to miss out on something?" "You don't have a teacher's degree, so are you sure you can really do this?"

I brought these questions to the Lord. He knew my concerns, already. But, I believe that the Lord gives you the desires of your heart. I tried to deny this growing desire I had to teach my children at home, but the more I prayed, the stronger the desire actually grew. I started praying that if this is truly what the Lord wanted me to do, then to make it very clear to me and to work on my husband's heart on this matter.

God works in mysterious and even humorous ways, sometimes. A couple of years ago, a young gentleman named Tim Tebow won the Heitzman's Trophey award, probably the most prestigous college football award around. He was home schooled all the way through high school. Not only did this open up a lot of eyes and opportunities, it helped bring my husband around. I also grew in confidence that I could do this home school thing, one year at a time, one step, one day. I also talked to friends at church who's children were in the public school system. All of them encouraged me to home school as long as I can.

The more I prayed, and studied God's word, the clearer His answer to me became. So, this is how my husband and I, together, came to the decision to home school our children. I don't regret for one minute making this decision, even though I know it will prove to be challenging at times. We are greatful for the family and friends we have that have given their full support and are understanding of those that give loving skepticism. It will remind me that others are watching and that I need to be 'diligent to show myself approved.'

So this is my journey on how we came to be a home school family. I don't ask for you to agree or disagree, I just ask for your continuing prayers as we start on this new and strange adventure in our lives.