Monday, November 25, 2013

The Homeschool Mentor #1: 5 Reasons to Homeschool

an experienced and trusted adviser.
synonyms:adviser, guide, guru, counselor, consultant

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.  I led a mentor group of 8 new homeschool moms this fall, and really enjoyed getting to know them and sharing information from the mentor manual, Home Education 101, byVicki Bentley,  as well as from my nearly 20 years of experience as home educator.
It dawned on me that I could share those things here on my blog as well.  So here we have a new series of posts: The Homeschool Mentor.

First up:  Reasons to Homeschool

A quick Google search will bring up many, many lists of reasons to homeschool, as well as 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 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., but 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... and they often bring friends with them who enjoy the laid-back, fun-loving, affectionate  atmosphere of our home

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 assumptions about what is true and right, and that will come through in what information is presented and how it is presented in a lesson.  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 of the "school" or of "society".

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 missions 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, and 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.  TV and video game time was limited. 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 featured prominently in our daily life.   Entertainment - television, movies, music - was chosen carefully.  They may have heard of them, but there were no posters on the bedroom walls of pop stars, pro-athletes, or teen heart-throbs.  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 field trips, volunteered at a nursing home and food pantry, went to the library, spent time with friends.  Homeschooling allowed my husband and I to shelter our children in a good way, and give them a variety of rich and memorable experiences.

No comments: