Homeschooling Offers Families a Great Option. (My column in today’s Greenville News.)

I have, in my house, a rising Tiger. Our second-born, Seth, begins his college career at Clemson this fall. He has always been, and remains, an amazing young man. He is filled with both passion and compassion, he loves learning, reads voraciously, is strong as a bear and is an outstanding musician. He makes our parental hearts swell with love and pride. Oh, and for the record, he looks like me and is thus incredibly handsome. What? His mother tells us that all the time so it has to be true!

Like a growing number of college students, Seth comes to the university from the home-school world. From the time he was in 4th grade, he was educated by his awesome mother (with a little help from me), and over time by wonderful teachers in several co-op groups, culminating in a few semesters at Tri-County Tech, receiving college credit as a ‘dual-enrollment’ student.

It appears to have been a good experience for him. His college acceptance letters came without a glitch, giving him several choices for his university education. And despite the constant protests to the contrary (by those outside the home-school world), Seth does just fine in the mystical ‘socialization’ arena.

I have always said that education can be accomplished with great success in any of several ways. Public school, private school and home-school all work just fine. But they only succeed to the extent that parents care and are involved in the educational process. All can fail miserably if parents are dismissive and believe ‘that’s someone else’s job,’ and particularly if moms and dads suggest that learning is drudgery, unnecessary, boring or somehow a form of oppression.

However, for anyone considering home-schooling, I would say that it is a fantastic way to spend time with, and really know, your children. Jan and I have emphasized learning from the beginning. But home-schooling allowed us to tailor the learning to the child. More than that, it allowed us that precious, ever dwindling commodity, time.

You see, our schedule was our own. Yes, the state mandates 180 days of school per year. But we could accomplish that in any way we desired. If we had a schedule conflict, learning could take place in the afternoon and evening. If we had the opportunity to take a trip during the ‘school year,’ we took it and learned in the car, in the hotel or at the National Monument. If I was working evenings, we could play and visit during the day and they could finish up later; or I could help with school during the day while Jan took a welcome break for lunch with friends.

Furthermore, we could design curricula for the interests of the children, whether it was learning Biblical Greek or taking bagpipe lessons. BB-gun team was a credit towards PE. Jan once applied for, and received, a grant of beautiful copies of art from the National Endowment for the Arts. The entire process was, in a word, flexible.

The reason this matters to me, as a parent, is that the world grabs our kids so quickly these days. They have school, of course, but culture tells us that if we want our kids to succeed, they have to engage in a vast array of activities. Beyond academics, clubs, teams and the ubiquitous Internet conspire with parental work and home responsibilities and seem to drive us ever further apart.

This endless motion sometimes robs us of the simple joy of being together; of eating and laughing, telling stories and just sitting quietly, basking in the presence of those we love most. My schedule has always been pretty malleable. But I feel deeply for the loving mothers and fathers who work second and third shift, and for whom any time with their children is rare and precious. For them, in particular, online or home-schooling could offer unimagined opportunities to enjoy their children while they can.

I wouldn’t trade a day of it. And Jan and I would do it all over again; and hopefully do it even better. But as Seth goes off to Clemson, and my remaining two children likely transition to public school this fall, I just hope that parents keep their options open. Even a year or two of home-schooling, strategically placed, can offer opportunities, memories, and bonding that they’ll never regret.

And never forget.


2 thoughts on “Homeschooling Offers Families a Great Option. (My column in today’s Greenville News.)

  1. Dr Leap,

    I’m about your generation but never had the pleasure of a wife & children. Like your nefarious senior senator, I’m a lifelong bachelor, a’bro wif no ho.’ Well in this day of performance enhancing drugs, I suppose there’s always hope – though prob’ly not in post-republican America. I may have to emigrate to Ukraine or Vietnam.

    But I digress …

    My recollection is that by 37 years ago, when I escaped it, the US public education system had already failed. The turning point for me was in 8th grade, when – essentially kicked out of public school for repeated clashes with teachers – my principal steered my extremely secular agnostic parents toward a nearby Jesuit high school. At the time I regarded y principal as Sauron, so I was surprised to learn, later, that he had told my folks that he thought I was in a tough situation and that he felt public schooling would be wasted on me.

    My parents’ parents, and their brothers & sisters were conservative West Texas protestants of various denominations. Nowadays I reckon you could call me an irreverent non-church-going yet sincere Baptist. So it’s ironic that the transformation in my world view took place via the Jesuits – who after all, were the shock troops of the Counter Reformation!

    I was impressed how our Jesuit instructors enforced grown-up expectations. I also couldn’t overlook how ecumenical their outreach was – at least a third of the student body were non Catholics whose parents just wanted them to transcend the failed public schools. THIS WAS 1974-5.

    I’m sorry: Public schoolteachers – I know a few – gibber ad nauseam about ‘critical thinking skills,’ but possess none and impart none. The public schools have become an indoctrination facility for the uber State. I’m not in the least surprised to learn that yer boy Seth has debunked the whole socialization myth: I think it’s the public school environment that’s socially artificial nowadays.
    Best regards – JJ

  2. Thank you for that. I too am an ER doctor with a wife who home schools our two boys. When done right, it is an excellent education for the kids and a gift for the family.

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