Friday, August 21, 2009

Educational Choices

Just this past week, I had an opportunity to discuss homeschooling versus other school options with a friend from my own high school days. Home School Legal Defense Association (“HSLDA”) recently published a study conducted by independent testing services which illustrates “that, as a group, homeschoolers consistently perform above-average academically.” (See study here.) I posted a link to the HSLDA article on my personal Facebook page. In response to my post, a couple of my friends commented about homeschooling in general.

One of the points brought up during the ensuing Facebook “debate” was that “. . . at some point the child has to have his/her say in the matter [i.e., the type of education they receive].” It was basically an accusation that homeschool parents force their children to be educated at home, whether the children like it or not. In fact, the comment ended with the declaration that “[i]f the child is not on board then the resentment can be hard to overcome later in life.” Because many other points were brought up during the discussion (starting with the typical socialization argument), this particular one was not dealt with at the time. However, I’ve since pondered those statements and have formed some thoughts regarding them.

My initial thought is this – on what issues do parents allow their children a say in the matter? I’m not talking about things like what flavor ice cream they’d like after dinner, or what pair of pants they want to wear today. All parents, of course, allow their children to make certain choices in order to teach them responsibility. And, generally, the older a child is, the more choices he is allowed to make.

However, when it comes to schooling, do any parents allow their children a choice in how they would like to be schooled? If a public-schooled child suddenly said to his parents one day, “Mom & Dad, I would like to be homeschooled now,” would those parents be willing to make the lifestyle changes necessary to homeschool their child? Before they start each school year, do parents generally have a discussion with their children about where, and how, they’d like to be schooled? If the answer to each of these questions is “no” (as I suspect in most cases it is), then why accuse homeschooling parents of not allowing their children “a say in the matter?”

Except for a brief interval in a private school, I was sent to public school from kindergarten until graduation from high school. Did I have a say in the matter? Absolutely not! There was no discussion in our household about how or where I would be schooled. My parents made the decision and I followed their orders.

Do our children have any say in the matter of whether or not they will be homeschooled? Of course not. Neither do our friends’ or relatives’ children have any say in whether or not they will be sent to public school. Children are not the best judge of what is right for them or their family. Parents are, and it is our right as parents to keep our children at home and educate them ourselves if we so choose. They are, after all, our children. They don’t belong to the state, or anyone else. And, it just so happens that our children are very happy with our decision to homeschool. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Homeschool Planning

Homeschool planning. Two seemingly innocent, non-emotive words. Yet, amongst homeschoolers, these two words can invite a gamut of emotions, from pure bliss to pure misery. Whether your homeschool is an “unschool” or is the exact replica of a standard school room, planning is a necessary evil – or, perhaps for you, like me, a necessary joy.

The planning bug usually bites me at the beginning of May each year. I’m more than ready to be done with the current school year, and I start to eagerly look forward to the next school year – dreaming of how I can do things differently and better than what we’ve done this year. I start doing my usual search of curriculums, which, as most homeschoolers know, can quickly become overwhelming. The choices available to homeschools for top-notch, quality curriculum are seemingly endless. In fact, I’ve tired of the game of trying to find something “better.” After three years of trial and error curriculum shopping, I’ve settled on the materials that are right for our family and I’m going to stop looking. Really.

Anyways, once the planning bug bites, I’m off and running. Old materials are re-sold or put away for our younger daughters; new materials are purchased. The glee of getting boxes of new books and teaching materials in the mail can only truly be understood by teachers. It’s hard to describe to those who don’t teach just how much fun it is to unpack boxes of new school materials. For me, it’s even better than birthday presents. (But, shhh, don’t tell my family that!)

With the new materials in hand, I start planning for the next school year. Before I start the process, I make sure to first stop and remind myself of our reasons for homeschooling our daughters. When we first started homeschooling, I made sure to write down the purposes and goals of our homeschool – great advice I found on countless websites. The main purpose of our homeschool is to glorify God by teaching and training our children for His purposes. Therefore, it is important to me that I submit my planning to God so that He will bless my efforts in educating our daughters. I take comfort in His Word that if I “commit [my] work to the Lord, [my] plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

When I first began homeschooling, I tried to “keep up with the Joneses” by attempting to perfectly plan out every minute of our day using a very popular daily schedule program. Guess what? Utter failure. We are just not a schedule-friendly family. However, I did realize the need to make some sort of plan to get us through each day and keep us on task. Since I’m still fairly new to homeschooling – our family is only three years into it – there’s still a lot of tweaking going on. I haven’t quite found the perfect plan to fit our family, but I’m getting close.

This year, I’ve stumbled on a system that I’m very excited about. It’s the Sue Patrick Workbox System. This is one planning/organizing system worth checking out, even if you’re unschooling. Basically, the idea is that you set up a certain number of workboxes (twelve are recommended) for each child in which, each day, you put their school work and extra “fun” activities. Each child is given a schedule strip and they work through the boxes one by one, either independently or with mom depending on the work in the box. The system keeps you, and your child, on task. And, you can use the system with any curriculum. There are many, many ideas floating around in cyberspace concerning the workbox system. It can be fine-tuned to meet the specific needs of your homeschool.

Homeschool planning can be fun. Maybe it won’t ever be pure bliss for you, but it surely doesn’t have to be pure misery. Having the right focus and the right attitude is crucial. Before you begin, call to mind the purposes and goals of your homeschool. If you haven’t yet written them down, do so. Then, grab a piece of paper and pencil, or your computer keyboard, and start making a plan for the new school year. A plan that fits you and your family, a plan that you can live with, day in and day out, for the next 180 days. A plan submitted to the Lord that He may establish your steps.