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Our homeschooling journey … the philosophical framework

(Edited to add: feel free to browse around our site by clicking these links: homeschooling in South Africa, homeschooling in our home and FAQs about homeschooling)

Recently, the SACHS blog carnival focused on how we came to choose homeschooling.  It prompted me to record, for the first time on this blog, the details of our journey into homeschooling.

Now, the SACHS carnival topic is “philosophies of homeschooling”.  In other words: the ideas behind a family’s approach to home schooling and what that looks like in terms of curricula, day-to-day living and so on.  Again I find myself recording, for the first time on this blog, the details of our approach to education.  Here goes …

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Our home schooling style has developed in a most unorthodox manner.  Organised, methodical people would gather lots of information, read through various philosophies of education and come to a conclusion.  I came to a conclusion and worked backwards.

My conclusion?

For us, literature-based education with a Christian worldview is the way to go. 

Having studied through a system that flip-flopped on Christian principles and was all out antagonistic at a university level, I realised that I wanted to equip my children with better skills than I had ever acquired.  Having taught in a Christian school, I saw a wonderful example of how this could be done.  And, as a former history and English teacher, I knew that students learn best through good stories where well-developed characters relate to the world around them.  I saw how my own students most seemed to soak up knowledge with interest and excitement when we read excellent literature together.  And, as a child growing up loving books, I came to realise that my learning was best fuelled by great literature.

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My own experience began with one book that I must’ve read when I was ten or so. It was a beautiful story about a young boy and his sister, stuck away in their grandfather’s old house.  I don’t remember much about the book, except two things.  The first was the way the author described how the children began to learn and discover the world around them.  With their grandfather encouraging them, they delved into deep history studies through exploring the stories in his vast library.  The children transformed from bored, book-wary kids into curious, excited to learn young people who found their time with their grandfather to be the best learning experience of their life.  The second was my emotional reaction to the story.  I was caught up with the children in their excitement.  When I closed the book, I remember feeling a sense of disappointment that my own education was mostly snippets of dull and boring information handed out on a worksheet or found between the pages of musty old textbooks.  I was *jealous* of a couple of fictional characters.  I wanted to learn that way too.  So I did.  Even though I didn’t consciously count it as learning, I discovered historical novels and other brilliant books written in other time periods or around subjects I hadn’t read about before.  Countries, circumstances, wars, heroes, geographical locations – these things became alive to me when I read.  It was the most fascinating learning I ever did and led me directly into my History major at University.

Francine Rivers: The Atonement ChildWhen I became a teacher, my students taught me how important literature is simply by how they responded.  I had even the most disinterested, reading-adverse students loving learning when we read Atonement Child together.  Abortion was the main topic and after reading the book, the kids did group orals around abortion, abortifacients, birth ‘control’, s3x before marriage, counselling and more.  It was the most interesting experience of their year.  I had never seen such enthusiasm for a school project before.  These kids were committed – heart and soul.  Quite simply, they could identify with the character’s agonising journey as a Christian person faced with a terrible decision.  It was faith-testing stuff and they were challenged deeply.  Their final projects were excellent: they were driven by heart-felt convictions of young 13 and 14 year old young people. This was the the type of learning I wished I could infuse into every aspect of school life.  But… I fell pregnant and left formal teaching.  I never had the chance to research this way of learning and apply it in the classroom.

Fast forward a year or so.  I found myself faced with the education decision when my first born was just a pint sized 1 year old.  Home schooling became a real option.  And then I read the Sonlight catalogue.  I was sold on homeschooling.  While I had read about homeschooling here and there, I was only convinced when I read through the Sonlight catalogue and engaged with the 27 Reasons Not to Homeschool with Sonlight article as well as the 27 Reasons Families Love Sonlight, not to mention the numerous glowing testimonies from families whose home schooling experience had been revolutionised by this literature-based curriculum.  The more I read, the more I felt the curriculum resonate with me.  This truly was the way that I wish I had been taught.  It was Christian world-view, literature-rich education.

But what did that mean exactly and what about all the other methods of education?  By this time, I knew I would school the Sonlight way.  But, I needed to know more about what that was:  the philosophy behind it and how it compared with other popular methods.  I needed to check that I wasn’t missing something that would fit our family better.  So, working backwards from my already established conclusion, I began investigating home schooling in a broader sense.

I went along to an open day at Footprints on Our Land’s co-creator, Wendy Young’s house.  She answered many of my questions.  Through her, the mystery of who this ‘Charlotte Mason’ person was was made clearer.  I had come across her name but I hadn’t really got to grips with who she was and what she had to do with literature based education.  I soon discovered that she, in many senses, gave birth to it. The Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola became a much loved gentle explanation.  I visited Ambleside.com, a free Charlotte Mason based curriculum online.  The concept of educating the wholehearted child came into focus for me through this process.  And I loved it.  Then my sister gifted me with the Clarkson’s book: Educating the Wholehearted Child.  It was another great resource for helping me crystallize my thinking. I knew that I wanted to homeschool in a whole life sense.  In other words, I wanted the school part of our lives to fit seamlessly into the rest of our lives.  Every life moment would be a school moment and every school moment would be a life moment.  We would learn by living: living books, living life, living out our convictions, living while interacting with our world.  I could picture our happy home schooling moments like picture postcards – all with their rose-tinted borders.

Then I was introduced to the concept of ‘unschooling’ – it was my ideal: learning through living.  I love how much freedom home schooling allows and unschooling seems to give families huge scope in which to learn through life circumstances.  But it called for child directed learning.  I knew my limitations and my vices.  Without some kind of structure to follow daily, my laziness would prevail.  I would easily fall into the trap of following my own desires all day and neglect the kids.  “Later dear” would be my refrain when the kids asked to learn something new.  As much as I loved the ideal of learning through living life, I realized that I would need more structure if I was going to home school my kids effectively.

Which brought me back to Sonlight.  By this stage, I had learned about a number of different approaches to homeschooling.  Namely:

  • Classical Education, where children learn Latin and classical literature from a very young age.  It was a brief consideration until I realized the only part of me that the curriculum appealed to was my pride: namely, having my children be little child geniuses who were academic wonderkinds.
  • Konos, a fantastic Christian unit-study program that focuses on Christian character traits was tempting, but with the focus being on loads of hands on activities with a small injection of living books, I was not tempted enough.  Especially when I compared how much preparation would be involved compared to Sonlight.  I would need to visit the library to find our supplementary books for example and knowing how hard it is to always find books on subjects I had needed as a teacher, I didn’t like the idea of having to wait for books to be returned by other users, or having to improvise with other books or prepare something different for that day. With Sonlight we got all our books and formed our own personal library.  As a former teacher who had to develop a lot of the curriculum from scratch, I was not keen on spending hours each week in preparation for our home schooling – hours I could rather spend enjoying my family.
  • Accredited textbook based curricula like ACE, Bon Jones, Calvert and others looked glossy, rich and approved.  But it didn’t fit my now well-formed ideal for our schooling future.  Dry and boring, school-at-home was not what I wanted. Added to that was the expense – some programmes cost as much as private schooling. It was not for me.

I kept coming back to Sonlight.  It was everything I wanted for my kids and everything I had wished I had had growing up.

That was 8 years ago.  How do things look now? We still use Sonlight and we still love it.  By far the best part of all we do are the living books.  We have had the most amazing learning experiences through the books we’ve read.  Most especially the books that touch the heart.  I’d love to say that it is all as ideal as those rose-tinted picture postcards of my imagination.  The truth?  While we do have plenty of awesome days, we also have frustrating days where learning is boring but necessary, where we don’t learn a thing because we’re having a lazy day, where life interrupts learning despite my wanting life to inform our learning.  I am still trying to find the right fit for my second child who seems to be on the ADD spectrum and thus struggles to concentrate long enough to do anything that’s vaguely boring for her.  Which accounts for most of our seatwork: grammar and handwriting particularly. I don’t regularly remember to be consciously looking out for learning opportunities wherever we go.  Oftentimes I am tripping over obstacles I had never anticipated.  And tripping over obstacles I’ve created all on my own.  And I do mourn the things that schools offer that I just can’t.  But, by and large, the philosophy behind our choice of education stands firm and strong.  And, by and large, our experience has been that this style of schooling is the best approach for our family.

And every single time we finish another chapter of a great living book and I hear my kids beg me for another chapter, or I listen to their discussions about the characters and their experiences, or their knowledge of broad and deep biblical and secular concepts comes out in later conversations, my heart swells with joy.  In many senses, I feel like these excellent books are teachers in themselves.  And where I fail, many times these books fill the gap, informing my children’s worldview and giving them tools to manage the world around them with maturity.  Living books for a living education.  It’s a philosophy of education that works for us.

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In this series: Our homeschooling Journey…

  • how we got here.
  • … the philosophy behind our style of curriculum (this post)

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This post  features in the up-coming 11th SACHS Blog Carnival focusing on The philosophies and styles of homeschooling and hosted by Linnie of Back to Ancient Ways.  To find out more about the South African Carnival of Home Schooling Blogs, head to our SACHS BLOGS page. Keep posted for the 11th Carnival – live on Friday 11/11/2011!

Our homeschooling journey… how we got here

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In the beginning: Homeschooling is for weirdoes!

In 1995 I was a Rotary Exchange Student to the United States.  It was a wonderful year filled with amazing experiences, many of which were brand new.  I learnt how to ski and waterski, talk to strangers comfortably, figure out an American high school system and cope with –40°F (wind chill) weather.  I lived in Menominee – a little town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Yooperland.  Ice fishing, deer hunting, Green Bay Packer-supporting land.  And I loved it!  I really embraced one of the many pithy sayings of Rotarians across the world – “It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different”.  I even embraced the foods we ate, although, I was known to tease my host mom about all the “baa-ahxed” (boxed) food we ate – including beautiful looking stuffed potatoes! 🙂  But, the day I came across homeschooling, my embracing attitude came to a skidding stop.

“You’re going to a what?  A homeschooling science fair? Uh. Okay…. Well, yes, okay… I’ll come along.”

My best friend babysat a couple of homeschooled kids.  It was the first time I’d heard of such a thing.  And the first thoughts through my 18-year old brain were, “Oh shame!  Those poor sheltered kids.  They must be so strange!  They couldn’t possibly have any social interaction.  I wonder if they’re like super shy or something.  Homeschool?  Homeschool?  Boy, that’s just weird.”

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I went to the fair.  What can I say?  I was curious.  I went in wondering about the “weird, unsocialised homeschoolers inside” and yet came away a little shaken by the bright happy faces, the personable young kids, the awesome projects on display and the buzz of people.  I had honestly expected to see just one family’s stuff on display.  I had thought hiring the church basement was a little over ambitious.  Turns out that I had no clue.

But, I wasn’t letting go of my firmly held deep convictions.  Those convictions that I formed within a few seconds of first hearing the words “home” and “schooling” being placed together.  I, in my 18-year old arrogance, had determined that homeschooling was inferior on all counts.  And I felt deeply suspicious.  Why would parents want to reject all that schools offer?  It had to be sinister – or, at the very least, silly overprotective parents who were destined to have unmarried adult children living with them until the day they died.

Well maybe not weird … arrogant, then?

Fast forward a few years …  I’m infinitely more mature: all of 22 years of age, I have entered the work force as a high school teacher.  I’m slightly more aware that I don’t know everything, but I’m pretty confident that I know a thing or two about education.  Hoo boy!  Looking back, I cringe.  But at the time, I thought I was well within the bounds of educated opinion when I met my first South African homeschooling family.  The mom was pointed out to me in a crowd, “She’s the one who home schools.”  We were at an educational conference on Christian education.  I remember feeling a mite offended that this mom was muscling in on a school-aimed conference.  After all, she had rejected our system in favour of her own.  Some time later, I met her kids at our school gala.  The school had opened our sporting events to homeschoolers in the area.  I remember purposefully trying to suspend my prejudice and be welcoming and warm.  When the young boy looked at me strangely, I put his behaviour down to “poor child must be embarrassed that he’s homeschooled and is trying to play it down at this Real School event.”  I neglected to take into account my, potentially, big fake happy smile and loud welcome that must’ve screamed “Oh, so YOU are the home schooled boy!”  The fact that the boy didn’t run away screaming is a testimony to his superb self-control! I was that scary woman.

A few more years later, I left teaching.  Oh, I loved the profession.  I loved the kids.  I really loved my colleagues and the ethos of our school.  I would miss it all.  But, I had something I loved more: a little baby girl who was due to be born just 2 months after I resigned my position at school.

Homeschooling, a viable alternative?

Kiera was born in August and before long my every waking moment revolved around her.  Her wake times, her feed times, her happy times, her poo nappy times, her bath times, her routines, her sleeps – it was all about baby.  It was also about tea dates with other moms.  And with those tea dates I met many new women.  Other moms.  Before long, I began to hear the tales of schooling woes.  I learnt that popular opinion was that if I wanted my child to have a decent education, they would have had to be on a private school list from birth.  If I couldn’t afford private schooling, I had better aim to move into the right zoned area for a good government school.

Education suddenly became a huge pressure in my life.  And my daughter was not yet 6 months old.

Meanwhile, all the way in Israel, my elder sister had decided to homeschool her eldest daughters.  They were 5 and 8 at the time.  She wasn’t convinced that the school system was right for their family.  So she took the plunge and began to homeschool in a country with very little homeschooling support.  Homeschooling was now in the family!

Closer to home, my friend, Sue, began talking about home schooling as a possible option for her baby daughter, Tegan.  As former colleagues who had both experienced our government’s attempts to introduce all sorts of undesirable learning material into the curriculum, Sue and I were aware that the question of education was indeed a pretty huge question.  We didn’t want our own kids subjected to age-inappropriate material like s ex ed in Grade 1.  I didn’t like the Outcomes Based Education system that was moving its way up the grades at the time.  Oh, I applauded the concept, but I also could see that it would not work well.  Not without an enormous amount of support, financially and physically.  Even our little school with its small classes couldn’t really do the system justice.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted my kids to experience an educational system that I didn’t place much stock in.

And, as teachers, Sue and I had worked on the other side of the system.  Now we were the parents.   Having such insider knowledge meant that I was more discouraged than encouraged.  I knew how my own failures as a teacher had a negative impact on a classful of kids.  I didn’t like the idea of how a single teacher has such enormous persuasive power over her classroom of kids – especially in the younger grades and especially when no other adults are present.  Kids intrinsically believe everything their teacher says, and with hours of unaccounted time with impressionable kids, well, a teacher could have fantastic influence … or cause a lot of damage.  I also really didn’t like the idea of how much influence peers had over each other.  I remembered moments inside and outside of my classroom where impressionable kids would be led astray, just to be accepted or loved by their friends.  It was worrying.  And looking at the schools available to me, it was also quite depressing.

Soon, though, I realised that I was operating out of unhealthy fear.  And despite my fears, my kids needed to be educated, one way or another. I knew that there were wonderful things about schools and that focusing on the negatives, especially those that weren’t givens, was simply self-defeating and pessimistic.  God had a plan for each of my kids and I could rest in that.  It was simply a matter of making a choice for our family that we felt fit our family, in the light of who God made us in Him, and asking Him to open and close the doors accordingly.   The best government school available was the obvious choice.  There were a few that we would’ve considered too.  Until home schooling started becoming a viable alternative….

It was when Sue showed me the Sonlight catalogue that the small seed of interest in home schooling began to grow and flourish.  She said something to the effect of “if I homeschool, it’s because this catalogue sold homeschooling to me.”  I read the catalogue and had to agree.

It was exactly how their advert said it: “The way you wish you were taught!”  The literature-based, rich programme of learning was exciting and interesting.  The catalogue was peppered with photos and interviews with real live families happily home schooling.  The testimonies spoke time and again of the very values and educational ideals I was seeking to find: family relationships solidifying, faith deepening, exciting learning, no dry boring textbooks, but rather living books that brought history and the world around us alive, flexibility in lifestyle, fathers involved, paced according to the kids’ abilities and more.

I wanted to homeschool and I wanted to homeschool with Sonlight.

But reason dictated. And so did Craig.  He wasn’t interested in the idea AT ALL.  And I wasn’t 100% convinced, despite having a rather romantic notion in my head of happy families learning at home.  So I began to pray.  And I began to talk.  And I began to read.

I prayed that the Lord would clearly guide us in the decision.  I began to talk about the idea a little with friends and family around me – gauging their opinion, while voicing mine.  All in the name of research.  And I read and read and read lots of articles online and beyond.  Then, I talked some more.  Prayed some more.  And read some more.  Things began to happen.

And I began to learn.

Many of my friends and family weren’t interested in home schooling and would either argue vehemently against my exploration of the subject or quietly ignore me.  It was one of my first big lessons in learning to be more gracious in how I presented my thoughts and ideas to others.  And, I learnt to think through things a little more deeply on my own, before putting it “out there” for open discussion and risking being hurt.  One lesson has stood me in good stead; the other has been a mixed blessing.

I want to home school! Does Craig…?

One evening during this time of searching, I happened to be browsing the book sale at our church.  At the time, Craig and I were alternating night church and it was my turn.  My heart was feeling quite burdened by my conflicting desires regarding home schooling.  On the one hand, I really wanted to give that life to my kids.  On the other, I was worried that it wouldn’t be right.  It was a matter of prayer.  That night I prayed that I’d find something on home schooling on the sparse tables of books.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I came across the only home schooling book in the shop.  The only home schooling book in the shop that also happened to be on sale.  I had just enough money for its half-price tag.  Just enough to buy the book with the title that was my very own burning question, “Should I Homeschool?”

I read the book within 24 hours.  Written by home schoolers who were determined to be as open as possible to all the factors worth considering, the book made no bones about having a bias.  Instead they promised to be as balanced as they could given their bias towards homeschooling.  Then they began answering the many questions posed in each chapter in a way that resonated with me.  I finished the book convinced that homeschooling was a fit for our family.

But what about hubby?  What did he think?

Again I prayed!  I prayed that he would read the book.  I prayed that if it was right for our family, that the Lord would give him a similar conviction.  I prayed that I would graciously accept whatever decision he made and work with it from there.  The most important prayer.  And then I asked Craig to read the book.

It was a big ask, simply because Craig’s not a big “parenting non fiction” book reader.  Reading a book on home schooling was definitely not going to rate highly on the ‘what to do?’ list.  But, knowing that it was a big decision, he agreed.  I promised him that if he didn’t agree with the idea of at least trying it for a few years, then I wouldn’t ply him with other books and information, but would rather explore the more mainstream options of schooling.  Craig read the book in a couple days too and came to this conclusion, “I think home schooling is a good option for the early grades.  We can commit to Grade 1, 2 and 3.  But I’m not keen on going further at this stage.  We can reassess later, but I’ll commit to the first phase of school.”

I was floored!  He did a complete 180 on his views.  While he wasn’t shouting it from the rooftops, he was open to home schooling!  I was thrilled!

By this stage, Kiera was not even two!  I have a good chuckle at myself when I think back to this time.  There I was, frantically researching formal education, all while my child was still having day time naps in her cot!  But, if I had to do it over, I don’t think that I would change a thing.  Because, from that moment on, I felt a sense of peace about our decision.  Oh, for sure there were times I wondered if it was the best decision, or felt pangs of regret for the things we’d be missing out on: school uniforms, break time fun, school plays and the like.  But, mostly I felt relaxed about the schooling decision.  We knew we would home school.  I could enjoy my child’s learning at home without having to worry about applications and school readiness.  We would work at her pace.  And we would enjoy precious time together.

By the time our decision was made, I had already joined a little weekly play group with a few other moms.  Katie had arrived and Sam followed two years later.  Our group grew and then it shrank.  The other kids were heading off to school and it was time to say goodbye to our little group and hello to another one.  Enter: Lunch Bunch.  My friend Sue had also chosen to homeschool.  So, together with Sue, Kate and Caren, we formed our homeschooling co-op in Kiera’s Grade R year.  And we’ve not stopped meeting.  Each week we meet together for enrichment studies in music, art, and Xhosa.  We enjoy educational and fun outings together and our kids are firm friends.

Homeschooling… it’s for us!

It’s been four years since we started “formally” home schooling.  When we started, my main motivating factors were fear-based: would the schools be up to scratch? what about large classes? what about bad influences? what about the crazy curriculum the government is proposing?  It was mostly about what pushed me away from mainstream schools that influenced my decisions.  Now, my motivating factors are lifestyle-based: the pull factors of homeschooling.  Because home schooling is more than an educational choice.  It’s a life style choice.  And we’ve found that we love this life.:

We love the ability to pick up and go whenever we want.  We love being able to explore subjects of interest if we like or spend a little extra time focusing on a story we love.  We love that our biblical worldview is not pitted against a secular worldview on a daily basis, but that rather we get to explore the world through the lens of the Word of God.  We love that seatwork is over by lunch time.  We love that we can do school just about anywhere, even following dad up the coast on a business trip-family holiday and doing school in the resort gardens. Or hanging out mid term with granny and grandpa in Hermanus for a week.  We love being able to go at our own pace, whether that means slowing down to lighten my ADD daughter’s work load or allowing her to read aloud as much as she likes because it’s the one part of school that she loves.  We love that it means more family time and more opportunities to be a part of our kids’ lives.  And we love that that means we sometimes catch the most amazing moments in the middle of a maths lesson, like a s ex talk I had with Kiera a while ago.  We love the leisurely hours of reading beautiful, living books that are filled with exciting history lived out in the lives of the characters – especially in winter time when we gather around the fireplace after lunch with hot chocolate and fluffy blankets, or in summer time when we lie outside under the shade of our big plane tree, sucking ice lollies, still wet from a mid-morning swim.   And I certainly love not having to battle the early morning traffic doing the school run!  There is something to be said for waking up after dawn, instead of before it 🙂

As I write this, we are nearing the end of Kiera’s 3rd Grade and we have already bought the curriculum material for next year.  So, what happened to committing to Foundation Phase only?  Craig’s of the opinion that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  He says,

It’s working!  The kids are responding well and there are no reasons to change.”

Home schooling has shaped the way we do the day-to-day business of life.  And we love it.  It’s flexible and we’ve got so much freedom, without sacrificing on a quality education.  Of course, there are days when things are crazily chaotic or I second guess our decision.  And we don’t know if we’ll do this all the way to grade 12.  But, right now, it truly is the way that I wish I had been taught.  And it’s been a journey I wouldn’t exchange for the world.

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This post  features in the 9th SACHS Blog Carnival focusing on How We Came to Homeschool and hosted by Tanja of So Homeschooled.  To find out more about the South African Carnival of Home Schooling Blogs, head to our SACHS BLOGS page.

Querying Homeschooling – the faith factor

Recently I posted an article from the Cape Home Educators featuring FAQs about homeschooling.  The article included a section focusing on perceived advantages of homeschooling which parents listed as among the reasons they choose to homeschool.  In an enlightening discussion with a non-homeschooling friend, I came to realise a) how easily statements are misinterpreted, depending on one’s own life experience filters the information and b) how carefully we need to word things so that intended meaning and actualities are conveyed clearly.  I thought it worthwhile to run through some of the factors of homeschooling that the pamphlet touches on, and, where possible, deal with some of the objections raised.  Hence this post which is part of a series called Querying Homeschooling.  I hope that my explanation is not only clear, but that it is also received as honest and gracious.

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Many parents who home school have issues of faith as their primary reason.  While views on how faith fits into education differs vastly from person to person, it is not unusual to find that many homeschoolers agree that homeschooling creates an environment favourable to teaching kids about the faith of the family.  Do they believe that mainstream schooled kids don’t get a good enough education about their faith at home, however?  Let’s examine this thought further – starting with an excerpt from the CHE pamphlet:

Pamphlet excerpt:

WHY HOME SCHOOLING?

The following are some of the advantages of home schooling and are among the reasons given by parents who’ve decided to home school.

1) Parents can educate their children in their faith.

2) …

Objection raised:

My children are being educated about Jesus at home and at church, and will attend a predominately Christian school. Why would it be important for me to educate them in my faith more than that? (I’m asking seriously)

My thoughts:

Parents who mainstream school their kids can educate their children in their faith.  Homeschoolers do not have the “faith-education” monopoly.  And it is certainly not an either/or scenario.  The statement “parents can educate their children in their faith” is ambiguous and therefore subject to their reader’s interpretation.

I can see how annoying that statement could seem to a non-homeschooler.  As if their children are going to be 100% brainwashed by the secular humanist viewpoint of their school teachers from the moment their little Grade 1 toe steps over the threshold of the classroom.  All evidence of their parents’ teachings prior to this being washed away, and all further attempts rendered impotent.  Yes, that would annoy me too.  But is this the statement’s intended meaning?

From a homeschooler’s point of view, that statement can be read as innocuously as saying “homeschoolers can get up later in the morning”.  It’s a general statement about two general principles that apply to all areas of homeschooling.

Namely: the freedom of time and the freedom of flexibility.

Homeschooling generally allows parents more time for the opportunities of engaging with their children about faith-related issues.  The very nature of homeschooling means more contact time between parents and kids and therefore more opportunities and time to read the bible (in our case); talk through issues; read biographies and missionary stories et cetera.

Some families homeschool specifically for religious reasons.  I know of at least one family in the Western Cape who homeschool their child so that he can learn the Koran off by heart.  Attending a mainstream school would mean that he wouldn’t have the time to commit to this exercise.  Some religions require that children learn a different language, so parents choose homeschooling because it better facilitates this learning.  Many Christian families who choose to homeschool primarily for faith reasons do so because they want to teach their children about the world only through a biblical worldview, rather than feeling pressurised to combat a secular humanist worldview that many of the schools teach (which, incidentally, seems to be what the new curriculum requires of teachers, since it now contains a heavily secular humanist religious education component).

My personal experience:

Personally, “faith education” is not my primary reason for homeschooling.  But it is a big reason.  I’ve taught and have been taught in a secular humanist environment.  I know how easy it is to be “tossed about on waves” as a young and immature Christian.  Having been a teacher, I’m also aware of how powerful the teacher’s word is, especially to littlies.  For some reason, kids have it in their heads that their teachers are better authorities on knowledge than their parents.  Knowing what power I had as a classroom teacher, and how I could tell my class just about anything as the autocratic ruler of my class, kinda scares me today!  Especially since only a fraction of what I said would ever reach the ears of the parents.  I am wary of the messages that my kids will receive – messages that I may never hear about myself – messages that they may take on board without question, and without my ever being able to help them think critically and biblically about these messages.  Of course, I reason with myself, God is in control and so I need not be neurotic.  But at the same time, I would like to teach them as much as I can, in as much time as I can, while they are still our responsibility.

I’m also abundantly aware of my own weaknesses.  One of which is how easily I abdicate responsibility.  If something is not squarely on my lap, I can very easily let go of the responsibility entirely.  It’s probably the sin of laziness (and I should probably investigate that a little more deeply!).  When I examined myself during those “should I homeschool?” days, I realised that I didn’t think I would have the motivation and sense of responsibility to teach them as much as I would like to in the after-school hours.  Knowing that, by homeschooling, I could follow a curriculum that mirrored our faith and taught things from a biblical perspective meant that I would be “forced” to fulfil my responsibility.  And, it’s an absolute added bonus that I have more relaxed time with the kids to talk through their many questions about faith-related issues.

So, while I understand that there are many wonderful opportunities for children to share the gospel with their friends at school and this is often a motivating factor for Christian parents to send their kids into a secular environment, I’ve felt that I’d prefer to let those gospel-sharing opportunities happen in their extra-mural activities, while we focus on spending the bulk of their day reading inspirational biographies; talking through ethical issues; learning bible verses and discussing the bible passages we read as a part of our curriculum.

A suggested rewrite:

To avoid the confusion that the quoted statement under discussion in this post can so easily generate, I would like to suggest something less ambiguous.  Perhaps, in this arena of homeschooling for faith reasons, the pamphlet could say something like this:

WHY HOME SCHOOLING?

Primarily parents choose to homeschool because it allows them more time, freedom and flexibility to…

… 1) educate their children in their faith.

… 2) …

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How have you experienced the tone of the posts from the Querying Homeschooling series?  Please participate in this anonymous poll to help me gauge whether I am hitting the intended mark: Polling the Querying Homeschooling Series.

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Posts in this series: Querying Homeschooling

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