By Andrew Kardon
My wife is a teacher. An Earth Science teacher. For the eighth grade. Yeah, I don't get it either. Super boring subject. Worst grade in the world to teach, what with all those insanely raging hormones. But that's where she ended up, and I'll admit, it is pretty cool when she points out something I didn't know about the weather or the stars.
When we first got married, she was going through all the training necessary to become a teacher. A ridiculous amount of studying. Planning. Student Teaching. She even had to videotape herself giving a lesson, as well as undergo a number of classroom observations. In other words, it wasn't as simple as grabbing a ruler, heading to the front of the classroom, and, BAM, you're a teacher.
Which is why I'm completely baffled by the entire homeschooling arena. I'm not trying to bash anyone here, but I really have no clue how homeschooling works. I mean, how are regular parents even qualified to teach their kids, when public school teachers need to go through such rigorous training?
Just because you can read doesn't mean you're qualified to teach your kids. Sure, every parent is a teacher in his or her own right. We all teach our kids morals, hygiene, and the ways of the world. But I'm talking about a full-fledged education here. The kind of learning that will help them master the English language, conquer Pythagorean's theorem, and understand exactly why volcanoes erupt.
Then, of course, there's the entire social aspect of school. Yes there are bullies, and food fights, and detention, and way too many cliques. But school really is just a microcosm of the real world. It's one thing to protect and shelter your young kids from harm, but what happens when these kids grow up, get a job, and face the same type of obnoxious people in the real world? Will they be able to cut it?
Half of school is actual book learning; the other half is social skill learning. Learning how to make friends. Learning how to deal with or ignore enemies. Learning responsibility, cooperation, team building, independence, etc.
Home also offers a place of refuge from school. Had a tough day? You can just head home after school and relax a bit. Out of sight, out of mind. But if you're homeschooled, you actually live in school! There is no escape from it. You don't even have homework, or rather, EVERYTHING you do is homework. There is no escape.
I'm not saying I'm completely against homeschooling; I just don't understand the benefits of it at all. What makes it a better experience over a public school education? How do you round out your child's social interactions? How do you separate home life from school life, or is it eternally linked?
I guess the biggest thing I don't understand is how any parent can just grab a book and a curriculum and start teaching their kids at home. No observations, testing, licensing, certifications, etc.
This might be a bit extreme, but if you needed to have surgery, would you go to a doctor who taught himself medicine purely on his own at home? Or would you prefer going to one who graduated from a top medical school and learned from experienced hands-on teachers?
Um, wow. Where do I even begin in this argument? Ok, here goes, point by point.
I would NEVER discredit a public or private school teacher's educational background because I believe that the training that they receive is completely necessary for their jobs for one reason: They do not know the children that are coming into their classroom each year. A teacher will have around twenty student, each with individual problems, hang-ups, learning styles, and personalities. These amazing people get only a tiny amount of time to get to know each of these tiny people before they have to be ushered onto the next grade, and out of the ring of influence. During that time, the teacher can be a teacher, a friend, a confidant, and a counselor. I could never do that. I could never get but a wisp of time with hundreds of children, knowing that my heart would attach to them forever.
The difference between an "educated" school teacher and a "semi-educated" parent is this: We KNOW our children. Inside and out. We can tell you what they are thinking before they ever verbalize it. A parent has a natural intuition into the minds and behaviors of their children. This makes me, as a mother, and as a homeschool teacher, inherently capable of teaching MY children. I may not have the answers to complex mathematics, but I can certainly learn right alongside of them when that time comes. My children are complex, each of them has their own personal quirks, but I can confidently navigate their complexities without labeling them a "behavior problem". My children will grow into mature adults with a solid foundation of truth, making them able to battle the lies and negativity that will inevitably come their way as they grow.
Onto the social aspect. This one is so cliche that it makes my teeth hurt. I don't know a single child who homeschools that is not involved in everything under the sun. You seem to imply that teamwork, cooperation, and making friends can only happen in a school setting, but I believe the basis of those skills begins at home. I have four children. Do you have more than one child? If you do, then you know that team work and cooperation are a BIG part of homelife. Sibling rivalries are a great way to help children understand how to verbalize their feelings, rather than duke it out. It is a great way to teach children patience and taking turns. It is THE way to teach kindness and selflessness. Aside from that, my children are enrolled in four 4-H classes each, from sewing to archery, welding to woodwork. On top of those classes, we attend church twice a week, giving them both social and spiritual support. We also attend science outings at our local museum twice a month, and an art class once a month. But I suppose you think that they sit in a corner and don't "socialize", you know, because they are awkward homeschoolers. NOT.
To a degree, I can relate to your point on home being a refuge, or having a place to go to, and having a place to get away from. I believe it can be a real struggle for people, moms too. We have a homeschool room that we school in, we break for lunch and recess, just like regular school, and then we come back to the school room to finish our day. At the end of our day, we can simply shut the door and be done with it. We have figured out a way to separate home and school that works for us, and that helps with that predicament.
All in all, I'm not hiding my kids from the truth of the world. My children are informed of the harsh realities surrounding us, but they also know that we do what we believe is best to protect them, or at least LIMIT the chance of that sort of thing happening to them. We homeschool because we love to be around the miracles that are our children. We homeschool because we don't believe in limiting a child by what is deemed the appropriate level or grade or text by a government official that has never met our children. We homeschool because while other children are forced to be indoors all day, every day, we are outside, soaking in the sun and practicing our multiplication tables. We homeschool because our children will SHAPE society, and not be shaped BY it.