Why Aren’t You in School??

I don’t think this question is as common now as it used to be.  When I was small, Mom would have 3G, Sister, and me with her while grocery shopping in the middle of the morning, and inevitably the cashier would ask, “Why aren’t you in school?”

Someone brought this up in conversation recently, and Mom noted that she doesn’t hear this question as often anymore.  Cashiers are more likely to ask “Are you homeschoolers?”  Homeschooling may yet be the way of the few, but it is more recognized now than it used to be just ten short years ago.  It’s not just the weird religious people who homeschool anymore, either.  Homeschoolers often look just like the rest of the world, and I think that somehow makes homeschooling a little more palatable to many people.

Wait.  Stop right there a moment.  Did I just say that some homeschoolers look just like the rest of the world?  Okay, I’m sorry, but I’ve got a big problem with that.  And it goes back to the original question, only with a slightly different emphasis.  If homeschooled kids look, act, and think no differently than anyone else, that what is the good of homeschooling them?

Is homeschooling really doing the good we wanted it to?  What do we want to come from homeschooling anyway?  I think homeschooling parents need to ask themselves, and their children, some questions and figure out what their real purpose is in homeschooling so that we know the real answers.  Come on now, WHY aren’t we in school?

While the cashiers were expecting something like a dentist’s appointment or a cold as the reason for our absence from school, we need to ask their question on a more serious level.  Is our decision to homeschool so superficial that we ape the school system at every turn?  Do we add Bible work as our way of making our homeschool spiritual and think that is enough?  Was the idea to take the competition out of the learning atmosphere so that the students could work at their own pace?  Why are we homeschooling and what difference does it make to our lives?

I know homeschoolers come from a variety of backgrounds and have a variety of reasons for homeschooling, but the choice to homeschool should not be a light one in any case.  Deciding to homeschool is good, but without a vision for your homeschool, the day-to-day working out of that decision can be too much to handle.

Rather than try to imagine all the various scenarios, why don’t I try to give you the sense of why I am committed to homeschooling.  Some of you might assume that I’m just brainwashed into homeschooling because that’s the way I was raised.  Actually, I don’t think that homeschooled kids in general are as definite as I am on this point.  They may be undecided, or they may treat homeschooling as just another option.

For my part, I’m so determined because I know that I can give my kids a better education than any public school teacher can give them.  Arrogance, you think?  Well, maybe, but look at what I’m saying.  I can give my kids – not everyone else’s just mine – a better education.  You see, public school, and yes, even private school, teachers have too many kids on their hands.  They have to keep the grade together, progressing according to one schedule.  I, in teaching my own future children, can go at their pace, slowing down over tough concepts and skipping over stuff that they already know cold.  The frustration and the boredom can be minimized this way.

Teachers don’t have this flexibility.  Neither do they have time to spend on each individual child.  At least, not the time that the child may need.  Some kids need a lot of interaction with their teacher.  Others would rather be left alone, but they do want their questions answered when they run into trouble.  A homeschooling mom can be so much more free to accommodate these personal differences in their children than a teacher can.  The school system is set up to be ideal for teachers, a few teachers can disseminate knowledge to a lot of kids in a relatively short time.  But this same system is not set up well for children to learn.  There just is not enough teacher to go around to every child.

In addition to this, the homeschooling mom gets to choose curriculum that is tailored to their child’s learning style.  A teacher in a classroom uses something that is easiest for them to teach.  A mother can pick something that helps her child learn.  Yes, homeschool moms do also try to pick material that also fits their teaching style, for instance, my mother never used unit studies because it didn’t fit her style.  We know other homeschoolers who truly enjoy them, and we’re glad that they work for some homeschoolers, but don’t try to tell us that “we should use such-and-such unit-study curriculum” because we know that it won’t work for us.

Furthermore, I’ve already posted on the socialization issue.  Children don’t learn to be adults when they are surrounded all day by their peers.  They learn to be childish.  They learn how to be noticed by their peers, how to be popular, how to trick their teachers, and how to disrespect their parents.  They don’t learn responsibility, good judgement, or integrity.  Those things are best learned from adults, preferably their parents.  What socialization they need with other children can be done with their siblings, and I think those are the best children to learn from and with.  Friends often come and go, but sibling ties last a lifetime.

Why does it make sense for a mother to teach her own children?  Because a mother can invest the time to know her children’s personalities, learning styles, feelings, opinions, and desires.  A mother can do this because she has only a few children and because she cares about each child.  Teachers may see dozens of kids each year.  They don’t have the time, no matter how good at teaching they are, to get to know each and every child.

To top it all off, when God asked that we train up children “in the way they should go,” to whom was he speaking?  Parents.  We have a God-given directive to train our own children.  If you are okay with turning your children’s education and well-being over to the public or private school teachers, then that’s your choice.  I cannot help but think it the easy way out.

Believe me, I know that homeschooling is hard.  I know that homeschooling is more than an educational choice; it’s a lifestyle.  I have watched my mother homeschool myself and four younger siblings.  I know that she has a full-time job in raising us.  But does she think it’s worth it?  Absolutely!

Now, not every school is going to have large classrooms; our schools have some pretty awesome teachers in them – I know several.  Some mothers may not be all that organized and may struggle with homeschooling.  On the average, however, you get at least as many teachers who are either hostile or at best, inattentive to your child’s needs.  Even the best teachers will have a whole classroom full of kids.  Even the best teachers cannot undo the harm done by giving children too many authority figures and too much peer influence.  A homeschooling mother who cares about her children can teach them more about life than any school system.

That’s why I think homeschooling should not be a decision to make lightly.  That’s why I think that decision should be God led.

That’s why I wasn’t in school; that’s why my children won’t be in school.

I Am A Homeschooler.

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