men·tor noun1. an experienced and trusted adviser.
I love being a mentor to new homeschool moms and to younger women in general. It is one of the good things about “getting older. For the past several years I have mentored small groups of new homeschool moms, and I really enjoy getting to know them and sharing information from the mentor manual Home Education 101, by Vicki Bentley, as well as from my 23 years of experience as a home educator.
So here is the start of a series of posts sharing some of that information.
First up: Reasons to Homeschool
A quick Google search will bring up many, many lists of reasons to homeschool, as well as a few lists of reasons NOT to homeschool. My list won’t be unique, but nonetheless, here is MY list of some reasons to homeschool.
1. INDIVIDUALITY. Each child is uniquely and wonderfully made, with individual strengths, weaknesses, talents, and challenges. It is a common observation among parents to see a young child who is bubbling with enthusiasm, energy, curiosity, and excitement for learning when they start school become increasingly discouraged, disinterested and distressed as time goes by. Just as not all babies are ready to walk or talk at exactly the same time, so children are not ready to read or write or learn fractions at exactly the same time. Homeschooling lets you go slowly or speed things up, depending on the needs and readiness of each child. The ability to individualize a child’s education according to his learning style and particular talents is a tremendous benefit, and something that a classroom teacher cannot do. The institutional nature of traditional schools, with emphasis on conformity and test scores, is very often stifling instead of inspiring. The social atmosphere in schools does not nurture children’s individuality and make them feel safe and secure, but instead fosters conformity and cliques and a battle for survival of the fittest and most popular. Parents rationalize the suffering of their children as “part of life”, “a necessary evil”, “learning to deal with reality”, etc. Allowing your children to grow up free from that kind of pressure and stress is a wonderful gift, and I believe it will make them stronger, not weaker, in the long run.
2. STRONG FAMILY. A family that spends every day learning together builds strong connections. Part of the teaching that a homeschool parent must do also involves dealing with conflict, respecting one another, showing kindness, developing patience, etc., and these lessons have life-long benefits! My five children, spanning 13 years from oldest to youngest, are all great friends and enjoy spending time together as adults. They also like coming home and being with us. As parents, we were deliberate about making sure our home was not only a place to learn, but also loud, laid-back, fun-loving, affectionate, and welcoming.
3. FAITH and VALUES. Everyone has them, everyone teaches them. There is no such thing as value-neutral education. Every curriculum writer, every author, every teacher, every administrator has a worldview, which is simply a set of basic assumptions about what is true and what is right. That worldview will come through in what information is presented and how it is presented in a lesson, as well as the general atmosphere of the classroom and the school. Everyone has a set of values and everyone puts their hope and faith in SOMETHING. Educators, books, experiences, peers – all these things have a mighty influence on the development of a child’s values and worldview, and home education allows parents to choose materials, teachers, and experiences that will nurture and develop the values of the family, rather than what a teacher, school or even society decides is important or currently in favor.
4. FREEDOM. Embracing the homeschool lifestyle is intensely freeing. It is “outside-the box”. Your family’s schedule is your own, and not dictated by a school. You decide what time to get up in the morning, when to go on vacation, how long to spend on a lesson. You can spend the entire day reading aloud from a great novel or watching historical DVDs. You can do school 4 days a week or 6 days a week. You choose the books and materials that appeal to you and your children, and adapt them however works best for you! You can make volunteer work or church work part of your school curriculum, or focus on the arts this semester and the sciences next semester, or do schoolwork at the beach or on the back porch or under a blanket fort. It is true that each state has its own requirements, and some are more restrictive or demanding than others. But homeschooling is not just “school at home”, and can look and feel VERY different from institutional schooling, yet produce wonderfully intelligent, creative, compassionate and interesting adults!
5. GIFT OF CHILDHOOD. Children today are expected to “grow up” so quickly, and the hours spent in school plus a typical busy family schedule leaves little time for imaginative play, for just being a kid! My adult children express gratitude for their childhood, and for the fact that they had time to play, explore, investigate, and dream. We chose to limit TV and video game time. Craft materials were readily available and mess-making was okay. School lessons were broken up by breaks for outdoor or indoor play. Blanket forts, homemade play dough, building blocks and LEGOs, American Girl dolls and stuffed toys, Polly Pockets, baseball trading cards, Matchbox cars, board games, musical instruments, Nerf guns, the costume box – all featured prominently in our daily life. We tried to be careful about our choices of entertainment. Innocence was protected and valued. We read fairy tales and biographies and classic stories – stories of heroes and heroines, both real and imaginary, who possessed courage, fortitude, compassion, conviction. We baked cookies, went on interesting trips, volunteered at a nursing home and food pantry, played on sports teams. went to the library, spent time with friends. Homeschooling allowed my husband and I to shelter our children in the way we thought best and also give them a variety of rich and memorable experiences.
Every family will make different choices and every child will follow a different path. There is no “formula” for success or guaranteed outcome, not in homeschooling, not in traditional schooling, not in life. But this is an education option that has been rapidly growing over the past 30 years, is flexibile, family-friendly, comes in numerous styles, and has given millions of students a strong foundation from which to launch into about every career you can imagine.