Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why Homeschooling

Take a leap
Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
He shall direct your paths. (NKJ)

~ The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ~ John Lubbock
The subject of homeschooling arose in 2002 when I had a conversation about it with a few good friends. It was not something that was on my radar at all. These conversations led me into a time of reflection as I began to examine my motives in life and my perception of education.
It coincided with the time where I was registering my girls for a plethora of private schools (the criteria for choosing a school was firmly based on location and high academic standards). It would be the type of school that would ensure they ‘got a good education’ which meant going to the right schools in order to get into a good university, and it also had to be a school that wasn't rough and it should offer a wide range of activities to encourage them to discover their talents.
What began to dawn on me was the realisation that I was simply going with the flow. I never questioned that there was another way or any other reason for education. I figured that children went to school and as a Christian parent, I would do my best to build good foundations at home so that they would have the ability to withstand any corrupting unhealthy influences that they might face.
I was never bullied at school, so I wasn’t worrying about that (although there was a worrying increase in the reports of bullying in schools) . However, the one thing I do remember well was how I flourished at school when I was encouraged by one teacher and just as quickly lost all confidence in my ability when discouraged by another teacher. I began to wonder if education should be left to chance where we hope our children get good, inspiring teachers? How many people had I met who had shared tales of how they lost confidence or desire to learn because of bad teachers.
The thing is, we tend to go with the status quo and challenging the idea of education being achieved only by sending your children to school had never occurred to me until I heard about homeschooling. I had to look again at what I thought education was and what I wanted for my children and how that could actually be best achieved?
What did a " successful education" consist of?
When I looked at my criteria for choosing schools, it became apparent that my concern was about success in exams and achieving the right environment for them discover their potential. When forced to reconsider the issue, I came to the conclusion that a successful education is not measured by academic success alone. After all, I have seen many people successful both academically and in their careers, whose lifestyles and general character I would not consider successful or wish for my children to emulate. We know that such success is no guarantee of a balanced, Christ-centred, responsible life.
If that was the case, I had to redefine my view of success.
A successful education for my children had to be something that encompassed their whole person.
I sat down and wrote down my ideas of what I wanted for my children and it went like this:
1) That above all, they love and serve Jesus and that they have a vibrant and true spiritual connection with God.
2) That they walk grace-filled lives and demonstrate themselves to be persons of integrity, strength, humility and compassion i.e. a person of good, godly character.
3) That they develop a love for learning for its own sake rather than for the sake of passing exams and have lots of fun at the same time!
4) That they acquire good habits and life skills.
5) That they learn to communicate effectively with people irrespective of age, social class or culture.
6) That they have the opportunities to explore their personal interests, develop their strengths/talents and find their purpose and destiny in Christ.
7) That they be fully participant, useful, responsible members of the community and society that they are part of as well as having a global vision.
and last but not least, that they develop deep, loving, secure and happy relationships within our family unit.
Now, of course, I would love them to be academically successful but that is no longer the top priority. If they want to become doctors or astronauts, then we will do all that is within our power to enable them to achieve their dreams.
The question then arises: how is this successful education achieved? Can it be achieved wholly or in part in a state school, private school, Christian school or at home? I think, to some extent, it may depend on your means and resources, location and priorities.
Most of us ‘regular’ folk balk at the home alternative because it seems so radical and seems to place so much responsibility on the parent. But this thought kept coming back to me -surely as parents, we are ultimately responsible for our children – we can blame schools to some extent for things that go wrong but before God, it is us that will be held accountable.
I must confess, it took a few years and a lot of research before my husband and I felt ready to take the plunge. They were in a lovely Christian nursery and then got into a highly regarded private girls school. Why rock the boat? Even when we moved abroad and I considered it again, I balked because I didn't feel adequate to do it and I was afraid of stepping off that well-trodden path. What would people say, what if I mess it up, what if my kids end up as social rejects, what if I fail them? A hundred "what if's" filled me with doubt and shoved me back from the cliff's edge. However, the truth was that I couldn't escape that nagging feeling that this was so right for us and it would not go away. I was longing to do it but only held back by fear. Finally, after many discussions with my husband about our future and where we were heading, I finally stepped off the cliff.
The free fall has been scary and exhilarating all at the same time, but my reward has been seeing my kids connect with God in a way they hadn't before, their huge smiles when they get excited about learning, plenty of extra hugs and kisses, time to play, time to be......
So ask me now, and I'll tell you that as long as I have a choice, I won't go back. This is not to say that there haven't been any challenges. There have been plenty! But that is the other thing I'm learning - this process is not just about my kids learning and growing - it is also effecting a transformation in me. My rough edges have nowhere to hide in this wonderful intense closeness - I've got work to do on myself and that seems to me just about right.
~ I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt

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