Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Still Considering

A month ago, if you had asked me point-blank if we were going to educate our kids at home next year, I probably would have said yes.

Last week, on the other hand, I was overwhelmed, tired, unsure of everything, and full of doubt and heartache. This was unfortunate, as I had access all last week to a home educator for whom I have the utmost respect, but really squandered my time with her regarding discussing this topic, as I just didn't have the energy for it.

This week has been one of much prayer and I am feeling a fresh sense of vision and direction again pointing me toward teaching my kids at home.

Among the many other big things on our plate this summer--building our house, starting up Andy's woodworking school, etc.--I am busy this summer making this decision. Trust me, I am not considering my options lightly.

I hesitate to put my ideas out here in public yet, as so many people hold so many very strong opinions and I am not really looking for a huge debate right now...but...

Has anyone here had any exposure to Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy and methodology? She was quite radical and unconventional in her day, and continues to be so. For that reason, her ideas are perhaps controversial, but the more I read of her works, the more interested I am becoming. I started checking out her approach back in the Spring, then walked away from everything for a bit, but now am back, reading her stuff voraciously and imagining how her approach could really grab my kids' attention and interest.

Here are my basic desires, in no particular order and by no means comprehensive:

1. To increase my kids' concentration abilities, attention spans and powers of observation
2. To improve their work habits to the point that they strive for excellence in all that they do
3. To turn them into deep thinkers who deal in the currency of great ideas and are unafraid of addressing conflicting viewpoints
4. To remove the line between their Christian faith and the secular world to the point that their lives reflect a well-integrated Christian world view
5. To instill in them a love for great literature and a general thirst for learning that stays with them their whole lives
6. To train their minds to be able to handle the most difficult academically rigorous challenges--with pleasure
7. To build into them a genuine Christian character that truly reflects the heart of God, different from the typical casual, cultural Christian mindset, but instead, one that is radically life-altering
8. To bring joy into the learning process for the entire family
9. To prepare them to face, unafraid, any continuing education they should desire, and have the confidence to assume they can succeed in whatever endeavors they pursue beyond the high school years
10. To really get to know my kids well during the short years they are at home, to invest myself in them, to allow myself to be a model of an imperfect vessel used by God in whatever way He chooses

Whoosh. That list spilled out of my fingers very easily, having not put much thought into nailing down my motivations until I actually began typing it. Apparently, I am more passionate about this stuff than I was even fully aware.

The Charlotte Mason approach, specifically the way it is outlined in the Ambleside Online support network, seems to me like an excellent tool to help me meet the goals stated above. In contrast, although we have fairly good public schools here, I don't see much potential for meeting many of these goals within the current public school setting.

It's not that I'm afraid of the public schools--goodness, no, I was raised in them and went on to teach in them--but I am feeling like I want more. I've never liked being told what I have to do, once I discover that there are other valid options, and I've begun to question the public school methodologies and my seemingly blind loyalty to them.

What if, for my kids, in our setting, with the dreams and desires that God has put in me, what if--for us--there was a better way? What if I felt called to do this, even though I've never given it a second thought before? What if this is the very thing I have been inadvertently preparing for my whole life?

So, we are seriously considering it. I certainly am not trying to push my opinions onto anyone else, but I will open it up for discussion, if you are interested. I will try to be rational and polite where we disagree, and I ask you to return the favor. This is a personal thing, after all, and not a one-size-fits-all opinion.

On a lighter note, I found something funny today when I was rooting around the web. Apparently this dad, Mr. Alan Brymer, was feeling a little frustrated at the standard anti-home schooling argument about the necessary socialization that kids will somehow miss out on, and wrote this in a letter to the editor of his local paper:

Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 29 Aug 2005,

We’ve got socialization covered.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will personally corner my son in the bathroom, give him a wedgie, and take his lunch money. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my wife will make sure to tease our children for not being in the "in"crowd, taking special care to poke fun of any physical abnormalities.

Fridays will be "Fad and Peer Pressure Day," in which we will all compete to see who has the coolest toys, most expensive clothes, and the loudest, fastest, and most dangerous car, all while dyeing our hair the same color and ripping our jeans.

I had to post it here, as it did make me chuckle.

Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

You can probably guess how I feel.

I completely agree with your stated desired outcomes for your children, as I share them for my own as well.

I have no issue with those who choose to home school, so long as they realize that their tax dollars are still required to educate the masses in the public school system, regardless of their feelings toward the institution as a whole.

After a decade of teaching thus far, I have come to believe that not only do I want my children to have the same educational experience you stated, but I want them to be as globally competetive in their knowldege base and skill set as possible. If you can do that at home, God's blessings on the endeavor. I do feel that all of these objectives are achieveable in a good public school. It is the reason I get out of bed at 4:15 every morning.

You know your children best and I know that you and Andy will do the best thing for them. I'm certain you will get plenty of encouragement to home school your children. As your friend and brother in Christ, I encourage you to follow your heart for your kids education, academically and personally.

As a public school teacher, I can't help but feel a twinge of regret at the possible loss of two great kids not rubbing off on their classmates.

Be well.


Sherry C said...

I know, Michael. I am feeling the same twinge of regret. That's why the decision is not coming easily for me.

I'm just really questioning where my first responsibility lies. Is it with the rest of society, or with the two specific children God has entrusted to my care?

My son is steadily falling behind, academically, even with six excellent teachers in a row who have gone out of their way to encourage him, give him personal attention, and maintain close contact with us as parents. Do I send him off to middle school next year where he will have significantly less personal attention and accountability, when I can see he is spiralling steadily downward?

Both of my kids, though fairly well-adjusted socially and IMHO, quite bright and capable, have been begging me for several years now to home school them. They know I would be tougher on them than their classroom teachers, and have higher expectations, but both feel like they would learn more at home--and they've both stated that they just want more time with us, their parents.

I have to at least listen to them.

I have always believed, until this year, that my stated goals could be met within the public school setting, but now I'm not so sure. Of course, it helps that the micro-culture around me is extremely supportive of home education--and not just for religious freedom reasons, either. Montanans are very independent folk without much inherent trust of "the system," and Christians and non-Christians alike are big supporters of home education here.

I feel badly for the dollars that my kids' school would lose if I pull them out. I really do. I like our school and have volunteered there faithfully one full day per week as long as we have lived here. I was a huge supporter of their proposed levy this Spring, attending meetings and posting signs and writing letters to the editors of the local papers. But I'm just not certain if my pangs of guilt are enough to convince me to stay loyal to a system that I don't feel is meeting the needs of my family.

What do I do with kids who are frustrated with endless time-filler worksheets and pages of practice problems on topics they understand thoroughly, and instead are itching to learn Latin and read classic literature and write lengthy research reports? No joke.

Sorry, this should have been a follow-up post. I appreciate you commenting, Mr. F., and I respect you a great deal. Thanks for stopping by.

strider1971 said...

I understand where you are coming from. I feel that home schooling has many more benefits then public schools. you are more free to teach in the style that fits. instead of one size fits all and you can voice your beliefs in the Lord without fear of it coming down on you and being sued. if I could I'd home school but am not really in a position to do so. but the down side is the social interaction with kids thier age and freidnship building. I know that you'll make the right decision and know that I am praying for you and hope to hear what you've all decided to do.

FunKiller said...


Thank you for the reply. I know you well enough to know that this decision is not an easy one for you to make. It does sound like both your charges would blossom even more with home school. God will bless your decision.