Thursday, August 16, 2012

Homeschooling Thoughts: Another Year Begins

Homeschooling can be a very lonely place knowing that some of my siblings have said to my face that they disagree with our decision to homeschool. I have no doubt they criticize me behind my back as well. It is their opinion, not fact, that the public schools are better at educating my children than me. If they want to defend the failing educational standards in the USA, they are free to do so. I happen to believe that most people could homeschool if they wanted to do it. My circle of friends certainly have made the sacrifices – some of them homeschool through grade school while others homeschool through high school like me. Dave and I happen to believe it is the best way for children to develop mature social skills without the social pressure put on them by other children or teachers.

While some of you may believe homeschoolers are “behind” in social skills, the studies I have seen do not bear that out – nor has my personal observation. We live in a society with mixed age groups except in the traditional school setting. I don’t believe that separating children by age or grade is the real world, nor is it the best way for children to learn “social skills.” Eight and 12 year olds do not know how to model social skills to other eight and 12 year olds, and the social skills they do model are not ones I want my children to learn! Character education must begin at home, as does socialization. It is important that my boys are involved in their community and church and both have unique personalities when interacting with adults, peers, and children. My older son may be more outgoing than my younger son, but both have no trouble interacting with people of all ages!

As for my children’s test scores – all I can say is that when I test them, including the Iowa Standardized tests, they score very high. I don’t say this to brag, but rather to note that they are good at taking standardized tests. Even if they weren’t good at taking tests and scored low, it doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent or that they aren’t learning anything. My children are self-learners. While I guide them and tutor them, they have been self-taught since 7th grade in most things, using curriculum we both pick out. Of course, if they have questions or get stuck, we are here to help, but they are independent learners nevertheless.

Both of my children have thanked me and Dave for making homeschool a priority in our family. I believe they will be well-prepared for higher education should they choose to go that route. More importantly, they do not suffer bullying and the peer pressure that comes with Jr. High and High school. They speak with us about any issues they have and we have regular family meetings  around the dinner table to discuss anything we need to discuss. We have not neglected to teach them sex education, drug and alcohol education, the dangers of smoking, and hanging around with the wrong crowd. 

While we are very involved in church activities and have Christian friends, they  also spend time with individuals who do not believe what we believe. We have a diverse neighborhood and they have grown up with Asians, Africans, Hispanics, Muslims, Indians who are Hindus, and those in the Jewish faith, so they do not just hang out with white male Protestants! We even have at least one Redneck in the neighborhood! Trust me, they understand and know many things, but they need not experience them to understand them!

We attend a church with many other homeschoolers and we find each family of homeschoolers is unique. Metropolitan Indianapolis area has many homeschooling groups, but we belong to none, although we have belonged to some in the past. Our Boy Scout troop has no other homeschoolers, but we’ve found the boys' involvement in the Troop to be one of the best social activities for our children. The other boys and adult leaders accept them and challenge them all at the same time! They have unique opportunities for leadership roles as well as following roles.  

Both Dave and I value education, but it is not our “God” because we know that a degree is merely a tool, not necessarily a display of true character, excellence, or intelligence. Having had 7 years of higher education myself, I know that formal education is not the only way to gain experience or understanding in this world. Some of the most financially successful people today never finished their 4-year degree! We did not come to the decision to homeschool without research and prayer. We believe it is best for our family and that is all that really matters. What others do is their business, but I have taken great pains NOT to personally attack or criticize their decisions, even when I disagree with them.

I do believe the public schools have more problems than they can solve. We have many charter schools in Indianapolis which seem to be doing better, but even they have issues in which to contend and overcome. Some of the private schools in Indy are wonderful, while others are no different than the public schools. In the end, I will not worry about what others do or say. Dave and I are confident this is the best route for us and our family. We do not ask you to agree with us, but we do expect you to respect our decision. We do not expect to produce super-stars, but we are raising children who love to learn and that was our goal all along!

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