We decided to homeschool when our oldest child was ready for kindergarten. Our two basics reasons were child development and school curriculum. Our school district went to an all-day kindergarten, and our daughter wouldn’t have been home until four in the afternoon. I’d taken several early childhood education courses, and under- stood enough about child development to know that that was far too long a day for a five-year-old. Earlier that year I had read Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s book, Home Grown Kids, and their research clearly indicated that starting school at too early an age was not beneficial for children.
I wanted to retain wonder in learning. At the start of the school year so many children start full of hopes and excitement over a new beginning. Far too often institutionalized education smothers a child’s wonder at the world. I wanted my children to become life-long learners who retained a desire to learn and understand new things.
Our state had also passed a law mandating sex education beginning in kindergarten, and we weren’t going to hand an area of morality over to a secular institution. As parents and as Christians we wanted to be the ones guiding our little ones. We were stewards of their lives, and we knew that no one would love them and have their best interests at heart as much as we did. We wanted them to become young adults who would love God.
The policy analysis by the Cato Institute, “Homeschooling: Back to the Future?” written by Isabel Lyman and published on January 7, 1998, is an excellent introduction to the modern homeschool movement. My main disagreement with the information presented is that I don’t think families can always be sharply delineated between ideologues and pedagogues. I see those family emphases as a continuum rather than an either or category. Other than that, I think the paper provides a very helpful overview of homeschool education.
Before you begin to homeschool, here are a few questions for parents to consider. These are general, because homeschooling is individualized for each family.
1. Who are you and your children?
An awareness of personalities of parents and children is important: interests, abilities or talents, shortcomings or frailties.
2. What is your philosophy of child rearing?
What are your why’s and how’s? From where or from whom do you get your ideas? Do you know older parents who reared their children into adults whom you respect? What are their thoughts?
3. What are your goals for your children?
Your goals will overlap with the first questions. What you want to accomplish in your children’s lives by homeschooling them? Character? Relationships? Family? Education?
As you discuss the above questions, do some thinking on:
4. Why do you want to homeschool?
Parents should discuss and then write down why you want to teach your children at home. You need to know why, and you need to be convinced of the validity of your reasoning. This doesn’t have to be lengthy, but a list of reasons will encourage and keep you on track in those times when you doubt the importance of what you’re doing or when it seems impossible.
5. How do children learn?
Have you done much reading about child development? You will need to think through and discuss the best pedagogy for your family.
To help with your discussions and decisions, there are two main resources: people and books. Do some research online to see what homeschool support groups are in your area. Ask people at your church or neighborhood if they know homeschoolers. Your public library probably has books on homeschooling. To learn about some of the different varieties and philosophies of teaching children at home, see if there are books by Raymond and Dorothy Moore and John Holt or Homeschooling for Excellence, David and Micki Colfax, and Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. You probably won’t agree with everything they think, but they will provide good background to the modern movement.
Our children are now young adults. Along the way because of family circumstances or needs, they experienced learning in a Christian school, public school, homeschool education co-op, and they took courses at a local community college for both high school and college credits. They worked as teenagers and interacted with people of different ages and different backgrounds. By no means was I your super-mom or super-teacher, and believe me, I’ve lamented things I think I should have done differently, but our children excelled academically in secular colleges, we are a close family, and we are proud of whom our children have become.
Education isn’t only about learning the ABC’s. Education is about people, life, and the wonder of who God is and the world He made. Parents are given stewardship of their children. They are the ones to decide how their children will learn.