March 13, 2009 8:00 AM
Is homeschool for everyone?
In the midst of my Why Homeschool Preschool? series I'm reminded that I need to clarify something:
I am posting this series - taken from my books - because of the overbearing cultural pressure for moms to put their children in preschool. I know many college educated women who've chosen to stay home with their children, only to face peer and family pressure to send their children off at an early age.
There is also a trend in our ever-more-controlling government to provide - and eventually make mandatory - universal preschool. I think readers here are savvy enough to understand why this is an extremely dangerous path. The government's interest in gaining control of children at an early age comes from the fairly recent understanding - as heralded by Newsweek and Time in the 90s - that the most important foundation-building goes on before the age of 5. Maria Montessori wrote about this in the early 1900's but it took the American education establishment a long time to accept her ideas - and they have never credited her for them either.
Many of you know the kind of brainwashing that goes on in public schools. Though I sent my kids to public school in high school, we had brought them up with a moral worldview - not a blind dogma, but an understanding of all the forces at work in our culture that would enable them to withstand even the sharpest attacks on their beliefs. That my kids are who they are today is because we invested heavily in their intellect and their spirit. We could not have done that if they'd spent the most productive waking hours under the control of others whose worldview - or the worldview they were mandated to teach - was different than ours.
We did not homeschool because we were afraid of the public schools, but because we felt we could do a better job. Though they would try to make you feel inadequate and unworthy, the fact is that parents have been teaching their children throughout many cultures and times. And the public schools have no record to brag about - it seems the more money they spend, the more programs they come up with to fix things - the lower the test results fall. The greatest help to our country's education system would be to break the monopoly and open education to free market competition. Give parents vouchers and let them choose how to educate their children - at home or in a school of their choice. In a country that touts CHOICE - even down to the killing of unwanted babies - doesn't it seem absurd that we are denied this choice?
Why are we locked in this problem?
- Teachers' unions
- Politicians beholden to teachers' unions
- Parents - themselves products of public schools - who simply cannot think outside the box and who have been taught to worship public schools.
Those of you with young children, I urge you to pray and consider the future as you begin to make plans for your children's education. Every sacrifice you make to keep your children under your tutelage will be well repaid, believe me. Homeschooling is the ideal, it truly is. And it does not have to be looked at as a 12-15 year commitment. It's simply something you decide on year-by-year for each of your children.
Last week I mentioned a mother who sought my advice because her second grader was beginning to struggle at school. When I met with the homeschooling moms on Tuesday, there was another mom who came with tears in her eyes because her second grade son (Catholic School) was floundering. The teachers suggested ADHD and she had already taken him to a clinical psychologist. He was obviously headed on the path to medication.
Mothers!!!! Please, know that when your child does not conform to school model that doesn't necessarily mean that there is something wrong with your child. It just means that the way we educate kids in this country is very cookie-cutter. Children are expected to behave and conform in a certain way. Any deviance from the expectation becomes an inconvenience and the reaction is to fix the problem with summer school, specialists and/or drugs. The option that is never recommended is to remove the child from school and to educate him or her at home to remove the pressure and give them a better chance to succeed.
Second grade seems to be where a lot of this struggle shows up, but it can happen anytime. Though my children have been in Loudoun County Public Schools since we moved here in 2002, my daughter Maddy asked me to homeschool her in 7th grade. It was quite a surprise as she is very social and outgoing. But one thing you learn as your children are growing up is that they also hear the still, small voice of God.
So Maddy stayed home a year. I must confess that I was too busy to do more than the minimum in terms of her education, and I was - frankly - very worried when she returned to school for 8th grade. She had always been a mediocre student - a brilliant singer, but just not that academically inclined and I am not a pushy parent when it comes to those choices. Yet, Maddy returned to school a gifted student. She takes AP courses and Latin now and math is no longer a struggle.
What happened? I have no idea. I thought it was a lost year, and yet it was so much what she needed to succeed. The fact is that they have drawn out an education that used to be complete in 8th grade to make it last through 12th. And our kids graduate from high school knowing so much less than kids who graduated in the 60s - which contributes to the dumbing down of out colleges and the vulnerability of so many students to the radical leftist worldview which will be their steady diet there.
Wow. I've gone from preschool to college and this wasn't even what I set out to write about.
What I wanted to do was to explain that when I push for the ideals I believe in at MomyLife - from relying on God for family planning to breastfeeding, from homeschool to adoption - some people feel judged or rejected or defensive because their choices have been different.
Please believe me that rigid thinking is not at all what I'm about. There will always be exceptions to anything I espouse in my writing. I am passionate about my convictions, but I am also well aware that God is the Final Authority for every believer as we journey through life making individual decisions. I have belonged to churches where people find nothing strange about telling you what God wants for your life. To me, that has always seemed ridiculous. I trust God, and just as I trust Him to let me know the way to live my life and raise my family, I trust Him to tell you too!
God has a plan for each of us - and that includes our children. When we become parents, we become responsible not only for following His direction for our lives, but for hearing the still, small voice concerning each of our kids - individually and not as a collective. Therefore, I would not presume to judge another mother's choices.
Was I always this way? I'm sad to say no, in my younger years I was very judgmental (the sin of pride) and whatever choices I made became the standard by which I judged others.
Many things have happened in my life to humble me and to teach me to trust more that God has plans which often take believers off the beaten path. For instance, when we moved from California to Virginia, we felt led to put our children in public school. It seemed ironic as we were actually moving to Purcellville, homeschool capitol of the world. I was blacklisted as a homeschool conference speaker - though I had 10 years of experience and a truly unique message about preschool. And can you imagine how embarrassing it was when Mike Farris was my daughter's softball coach? How in the world could I explain that God wanted us to make this change? In fact, how would I ever know for sure myself? Only time would tell. And today - for many reasons - I feel confident that we have been just where we were supposed to be.
We must always be willing to buck conventional wisdom - including that of the Christian variety - to allow God to lead us where HE wills.
I hope this helps my readers understand that while I may passionately make the case for homeschool preschool - or homeschool in general - I certainly understand that there will be many instances where God has plans that will take some in other directions.
For instance, one mother wrote:
I have been following your blog for about 2 years and have a 3 year old, 2 year old, and one on the way. My question for you is regarding preschool for my 3 year old. Next year he has an opportunity to be a 'peer student' in a preschool for students with disabilities. The students he would be with would have physical and mental disabilities. The school is 4 days a week, 2 hours a day and is much like a regular preschool except that there is regular speech therapy and lots of gym time.
I am curious about your thoughts. I know how you feel about preschool at home. I completely agree with you and never considered sending him to preschool until I came across this opportunity (which is free). I also know how you are an advocate for children with disabilities and am sure you see the value in a peer student program.
This mother also mentioned that she has a painful health issue requiring constant medication - which she gives up when pregnant and nursing, She continues:
I have to factor in the reality that I will be struggling with this at that time. What is better for a little boy? I am trying to think of what is best for everyone- but yet want to make the best decision for Joey. It is hard to reconcile the fact that the two may not go hand in hand.
Can you please share your thoughts? Registration is approaching but please
answer if you are able. I know you are extremely busy.
I am so glad this mom didn't just read my homeschool/preschool advocacy as the final word! Here's what I wrote:
What a wonderful opportunity!
While I am an advocate of preschool at home, like most things of this nature, I strongly believe that we should never be so rigid as to prevent God from moving where and how He will. I would neve presume to judge a parent for their decisions for this reason.
Who knows what future God has in store for your son or How he might be planning to use this opportunity later in his life. If God is nudging you to go with this, I would say by all means, go for it. Your son would be a wonderful role model as a peer student - what a blessing!
Please let me know how it all works out!
You know, dear mommies, my heart is so full when I think of all the struggles you face each day and the burdens you bear. I never would want to contribute to that burden or the guilt we all experience for never getting "everything" done. We need ideals and high expectations of ourselves, but as I tell every group I speak to: Let your ideals lift you up, not bring you down!
Please know that I am here to serve you by opening up new possibilities while encouraging you to put your hand in the Lord's while you make minor and major decisions each day. I respect the decisions you make and am here to help in any way I can. I am always thinking of and praying for you - thinking of myself more and more as Momma C.
Trying a pre school is not a permanent commitment. If it works out, fine. If it does not, you can always take out the child.
My little ones really enjoyed preschool. They got away from Mom and home and learned to play with other kids without the moms hanging around. Learned a lot of group rules very quickly. I would not have hesitated an instant to have removed any of them if it were anything but a positive experience.
I doubt that preschool will become a national requirement. As it stands now, most places don't require a child to be in school until age 8. Also many states have very lax homeschool rules and standards, so that parents who choose not to send even their older kids to school, don't have a whole lot of standards and requirements. That's where I have seen some damage. Though responsible homeschoolers are marvelous, there are those who just can't do it, and the kids don't learn. Have a cousin in my family who falls under this category. And I saw a lot of such kids when I worked in Western Pa, West virgina and Eastern Ohio.
Having homeschooled three of my kids at various times, I feel it is a big commitment. I have nothing but the highest respect for successful homeschoolers, but if it is not working, it can be a problem. I've seen the problems as well as the successes.
Posted by: Cath Young | March 13, 2009 10:58 AM
Thank you for this Barbara. I am one who (with my husband) has made the decision to have my children in public school and preschool. I am frequently questioned about this choice and feel a lot of pressure to do something I just don't think is right for me or my children. I love homeschooling. I was homeschooled and it was the best thing for me. I planned to homeschool my kids, but health issues made it impossible. Now that I feel better, I still question myself. But, my child is in a good school (it's a classical education charter school that uses the Core Knowledge system and has a very strong liberal arts focus) and so far, I've been happy with his learning. I do think I could do a better job in some ways, but I think some seperation is better for my relationship with my child - at least the oldest. This way, I'm his cheerleader and we both needed that. We'll see how things go for my second, who starts kindergarten this next year. It's quite possible she won't be as good a fit at this school. We'll deal with that if we have to. I still feel that I am in charge and ultimately responsible for their education and have chosen to delegate for the time being.
It is so hard sometimes for people like myself who truly believe in an ideal, such as homeschooling or having large families, but for whom God has shown a different path. And maybe I'm a bit of a glutton for continuing to read blogs such as yours (although you're a bit more like a full-service stop, with your wide variety of subjects), but I feel they help me, since I do believe that education takes place at all times, not just in a school. So I feel that reading your blog helps me as a mother, even if I don't fit the "target audience."
Thank you for all the time you put into this blog. I read you every day!
Posted by: Lucy | March 13, 2009 11:44 AM
Hi Barbara - I would really highly recommend the book "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto and also a much more recent book "The Marketing of Evil" by David Kupelian. Parents and children who choose public school certainly need to go in with their eyes open!
I have really appreciated your coverage of the political situation in the USA. I was thinking of you last night while watching a new movie that has just been released on the internet called The Obama Deception over on www.infowars.com. It's well made and well documented, and exposes the lies, broken campaign promises, and the influence of Wall Street.
I'm a Canadian citizen, but even "up here" there are people watching and wondering how all the chaos in the US is going to affect Canada. In my own small town, every single lumber mill (the main employer) has shut down because of the collapsed housing market and hundreds of people don't have jobs.
Posted by: Amy | March 13, 2009 11:57 AM
This is so very well written, Barbara!
I just wanted to add that Thomas Eddison went to school for 3 months, then came home one day asking his mother: " What does addled mean?" He explained that his teacher had called him addled ( spelling?)because he asked too many questions. Mom brought him home and homeschooled him. It is amazing to think- he was a homeschooler!
One thing that really scares me is when moms buy into the myth of socialization, the myth that they cannot teach their own children, and all the other garbage that the world throws at us. If God is calling you to the p.school system, then by all means, listen to him... But if you have an interest in homeschooling, stop buying into all the myths and check out all the research. It is overwhelmingly GOOD.
I would also add, we need to be willing to count the cost. Count the cost with whatever decision you make. Homeschooling can be lonely, even if you have friends who support your decision. I have learned that it is wise not to mention to strangers that I homeschool. I made the mistake of mentioning my plans to homeschool years ago when I was getting my blood drawn. After the woman responded negatively, I realized that it's not wise to bring up homeschooling when someone has a needle in your arm, LOL!
Private and public schools will come with their own " costs" as well... So I think it's wise to take a good hard look at what you are choosing to do, and what it is going to cost you...Not just in terms of money, but in time.
I love not having to go to teacher's conferences, do homework with wiggly children in the afternoons, or get up while it's still dark.
On the other hand, I hate having to keep my politically incorrect ideals almost a secret from many of the people who are close to me, all in the name of getting along and keeping the peace.
Rick and Marilyn Boyer have some excellent resources on homeschooling. Their website is www.thelearningparent.com
Posted by: Lisa | March 13, 2009 1:10 PM
As a parent I learned first hand how a rigid scholastic view within a school can be devastating to some children. When my daughter was in second grade at a private Catholic school, the teacher informed us that Olivia struggled and was, at best, a mediochre student.
My husband convinced me to research the local public school, which was very highly rated on Greatschools.net. I did some research and went on a tour and decided to enroll all the kids there. What a difference! Olivia is now in advanced honours classes where she maintains a 4.0 grade point. She competed with the middle school math team.
The difference? That first year after the Catholic school was taught by a wonderful, sensitive teacher. The next year was a highly motivated, energetic teacher.
The female teacher at the Catholic school had been rewarding the female students in the class with opportunities to brush the teachers hair!?
Now I know not to let any teacher be dismissive of any of my kids.
Any parents out there who are being told to lower the bar of expectation for their child need to look around for better placements of their children. I have a belief that parents have a gut instinct about their kids' abilities and if you are being told something that runs contrary to that, a red flag should go up.
Posted by: kelly | March 13, 2009 2:18 PM