This week’s Homeschool Grad is Jonathan Lewis, editor of Home School Enrichment Magazine. I first became familiar with Jonathan’s work about a year ago, when a friend sent me a link for a free digital subscription to HSE. I was immediately surprised by the quality and depth of the publication, and the articles by the members of the Lewis family are still among my favorites today. Their view of home education is encouraging, yet grounded; family-oriented, yet God-focused. I am honored Jonathan agreed to take time from his busy speaking and writing schedule to share his views with us.
Homeschooling is a way of life. More than just an academic alternative, it’s about raising the next generation for the glory of God—preparing children to make a difference in the world around them as they fulfill their God-given destiny.
I rarely write about the academic side of homeschooling because other aspects of home education are so much more important. In my book, raising your children with spiritual maturity, good character, and a sense of purpose and vision outranks the goals of perfect grades and admission to an Ivy League university.
This notwithstanding, I’d like to share a few thoughts on the academic side of homeschooling. First, however, some background.
My parents made the decision to begin homeschooling my brother and me in March of 1990. With just nine weeks left in my first grade and my brother’s third grade year, we embarked on the journey of home education. We never looked back.
As we began homeschooling, our family was far from wealthy. We weren’t living at the poverty line—we were below it. As a result, we didn’t have much money to spend on homeschooling. In addition to this, my parents aren’t highly educated people. Although intelligent, neither of them has been to college a day in their life. My father has a high school diploma, my mother has a GED.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that we were poised for failure—that two parents without much money or education couldn’t possibly give their two boys a decent education. If the sages around us made such a prediction, however, they were wrong. Despite the so-called negative factors present in our homeschool, my brother and I routinely tested well above the national averages on standardized achievement tests. In fact, we rarely scored below the 90th percentile.
Our experience isn’t particularly unusual. According to research from Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, family income, educational level of the parents, and the amount spent on homeschooling all have virtually no impact on the educational achievement of the children. Across the board, homeschoolers are succeeding.
That’s good news, and it gives us some interesting insight on why homeschooling works. Ultimately it’s not about money or qualifications—it’s about concerned parents getting involved and making a difference in the lives of their children.
Money alone can’t buy a good education. If it could, public schooled students should beat homeschooled students every time. After all, public schools spend something like 20 times more per student than we do; yet it’s not they who are coming out on top—it’s homeschoolers.
I was more or less an ordinary student. I wasn’t lazy about my education, but I wasn’t unusually driven, either. I generally just wanted to get my daily assignments done so I could ride bikes or play in the woods behind our apartment. It wasn’t an unquenchable thirst for knowledge that catapulted me to good grades and high test scores, but simply the blessing of God, the diligence of my mother, and the inherent strengths of homeschooling.
Beyond the academics, homeschooling helped prepare me for life. It paved the way to the entrepreneurial path I’ve taken where learning new things is a constant reality. Currently I serve as the editor and designer for Home School Enrichment Magazine, a national publication for Christian homeschooling parents. It’s a family venture now in its eighth year of operation.
Starting a business demands an ongoing willingness to learn new things. Homeschooling prepared me well for the challenge. Because of my home education experience, I don’t need someone else to give me the answers—I’m willing to go looking for them on my own. This trait has served me well countless times during the past eight years.
Although I’m still single, I look forward to the day when the Lord allows me to marry and have children of my own. When that day comes, I desire to give my children the same gifts my parents gave me—a solid foundation for life, a good education, and a willingness to always keep learning. There’s nothing like homeschooling to reach those goals.
And for this week’s Question …
Can you think of something your parents included in your home education experience that made a difference in your life, yet is something most people don’t realize is an important ingredient to home education?
I recall one ingredient my mom included as she homeschooled my brother and me that many parents might not think about: questions.
As my brother and I got older, we eventually moved beyond the level where mom could help us with our work (particularly in math). When we had a question about a particular problem, she wasn’t able to give us the answer. However, she disguised her lack of knowledge with a clever technique that forced my brother and me to think for ourselves. She started asking questions.
When we didn’t understand something in our math book and went to mom for help, the questions would begin. “What does the book say? What do you already know about this from earlier lessons that could help you today? Explain to me as much as you understand.” By following this technique, mom forced my brother and me to figure things out for ourselves. As we started answering the questions, we would often realize where we had gone wrong and were able to move on with the assignment.
Mom didn’t spoon feed the information to us. I believe this prepared us well for a lifetime of learning.
Certainly there are times when parents need to answer questions and give their children proper assistance. However, there are also times when students need to figure it out for themselves. Even if you know the answer, don’t always give it right away. Try asking questions instead. Help your children identify what they already know, and then use that to draw them towards the answers they’re looking for. In this way, you can help them develop a self-reliance and a can-do attitude towards learning that will serve them well all their lives.
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