Ask my children what they like most about home-schooling, and you may get a variety of answers. ‘We like Latin’, or ‘We like wearing pajamas to school’. They may tell you that they like specific topics, like physics or astronomy. Or they may say it’s because recess consists of unique activities, from swimming to archery to playing on the trampoline. Their answers are as varied as their four personalities. But if you ask their mother and me what we like best, the answer is straightforward. We like being with our children.
People educate their children at home for many reasons. For some, it is a way to cloister their families from the world. That seems, to our modern, connected, socially conscious society, like a backwards idea. And indeed, in rare instances, the children do not benefit, but develop an unfortunate paranoia, transmitted from worried parents. On the other hand, a few minutes with the news, a few hours looking at the statistics on drugs, crime and sex in our culture, and a little ‘cloistering’ doesn’t seem so bad.
Others home-school because it frees them to teach whatever they think is appropriate, as long as certain educational standards are met. Scripture doesn’t conflict with learning; in fact, reading it can be a learning experience in itself, and a series of lessons in culture and history. There can’t be a concern over separation of church and state when the state isn’t involved. Furthermore, the home-school family can ask pointed questions about controversies without being accused of being Cro-Magnons: ‘What are the weaknesses of arguments for and against evolution?’ Or the more heinous, ‘Could it be that global warming isn’t a problem?’ The scandal! It’s getting harder and harder to have divergent ideas about anything in our modern world of alleged diversity; except at home.
I’m sure that our family was motivated by a little of all of it. We like keeping the children safe under our watchful eyes. We like teaching poetry and Ancient history in a time in which beautiful language is lost in abbreviated e-mails and text messages, and few children know the stories of the great empires. We like the fact that our children can start to learn the critical skills of rhetoric and argument, so that they aren’t one day ambushed by college professors who would happily bully away their deepest held beliefs.
But under it all, behind it all, remains the fact that we simply love being with them, and want to enjoy their lives as long as possible. Here’s the hard truth. Modern life takes our children from us, and their childhoods from them, too soon. In the best of worlds, we have them until they are around 17 or 18 years old. But then, in addition to the way they naturally speed to maturity, they’re kidnapped by organized activities, they’re in school all day, they spend evenings finishing loads of homework, and they go to sleep. Little time for play; little time for contemplation or imagination.
In school, public or private, schedules are set by the state, or by private institutions. The individual needs of families for time off, or spontaneous time together, simply can’t all be met when thousands upon thousands of families are involved.
So last year, when we were contemplating the next step in our children’s educations, and as our oldest was about to enter middle school, it just seemed right to step back and do what we had considered all along; keep them home. It wasn’t a reflection of distrust of the teachers they had before, or the teachers they would have had later. It was an expression of our heart-felt desire to enjoy them, to shape them, to share with them, hour to hour, day to day, at home or on the road. We decided to home-school because we just missed them when they were away.
As the world wonders how to fix education, how to fix children, how to ensure that future generations are capable and inspired to greatness, everyone could learn a lesson from the home-school movement. And the lesson is this; it’s really not about the school or the teachers. It’s about the connection of parent to child. That’s where love and discipline are learned, that’s where education is inspired; that’s where faith and morals are born; and that’s where the future is forged; minute to minute, day after day in the close proximity inspired by love.