A reader asks …
We seem to be running into a lot of questions — many from well-meaning people who are just curious about what homeschooling looks like fleshed out. Often though these questions take place in social settings where we don’t have an hour to “reeducate” on education. Does anyone have any small sound bites that can help in situations like these?
For example, my husband was recently at a dinner party and was questioned about how I’m going to homeschool a 3rd grader, 1st grader and preschooler all at the same time. They wanted to know if I had separate rooms for all of them, how I taught 3 different grade levels at onetime, if [my husband] mentioned that we do some subjects together (history, science, Bible, music, art, etc.) there was a general gasp at the table. If you mention that you are training your children to take the responsibility for some of their learning, and as they get older, I am facilitating more than teaching, they accuse us of slacking in our teaching. Some of these people are critical but some are just genuinely curious, including family members who don’t see how I can possibly do all of this. So…how do you reeducate about education in a short period of time to leave them something to consider rather than something to scoff at?
This is such a common problem, I had to smile a little when I read this question. I get similar remarks constantly: at my husband’s bank; from family members; at the library; in emails from my writing; even from fellow home educator’s with fewer children or a different philosophy.
In each case, I tend to handle the situation differently. How I answer a family member (or if I will even discuss it; my husband has taken over objections from my in-laws) would be quite different from how I answer a complete stranger. Even different would be my explanation to a fellow home educator. Here are a few thoughts I keep in mind:
- The questioner’s motive may be completely innocent. Institutionalization is very much entrenched into our culture. Remembering that what I am doing is counter-culture helps me deal with the misunderstandings gracefully.
- Living counter-culturally causes a reaction.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
People will either be drawn to the idea of what you are doing, or they will be repelled by it.
- Negative reactions are not necessarily a reaction to me. People are reacting to the idea itself, not me personally. Home education, particularly intentional home education, causes onlookers to consider their priorities. This can bring up thoughts and emotions that have nothing to do with me at all.
- Parents are responsible for the rearing of their own children. As much as I wish everyone agreed with me and loved me for what I do, in the end, it is I who must “give an account” and it is my husband and I who must catechise our children. With that responsibility in mind, we as the parents decide what is best for our own family.
So, with those principles in mind, how do I answer the questions?
- To the curious family member: David and I have decided this is the best way to rear our children. We are happy to see that they are growing healthy and happy in the home we have made for them. Yes, we plan and pray about their future education, but we are assured that the Lord will lead us through each new challenge in parenting just as He has thus far. Family members are also encouraged to spend more time with the children. After doing so, they inevitably come away reassured that the children are growing intellectually as well as spiritually and remark on the success … “so far.”
- To the stranger or community member who expresses confusion: David and I are teaching our children classically. This means our children are learning more like children have been taught for centuries, before modern educational changes. They study Bible, math, logic, grammar, writing, history, and science year-round. They are reading classic literature, journaling regularly, experimenting scientific theories, and visiting museums, galleries, festivals, libraries, and cultural events several times a month. They enjoy learning and make it part of their regular life. I then take questions and answer them as pointedly, briefly, positively, and clearly as possible, emphasizing we have chosen a different way.
- To the fellow home educator: David and I know that the Lord has called us to rear – educate – our own children. We try to follow the Biblical pattern of home discipleship as the Lord continues to teach us. As God works within our family, we have found that learning and growing together has been a joy, not a burden. If the homeschool parent has particular questions, I will answer them as thoroughly as time allows, praying for discernment. Asking the parent “why do you want to know” or “what difficulty are you hoping to solve” helps to determine the motive and shape my answer.