“Homeschooling” is a noun; “homeschool” is sometimes a noun, sometimes a verb. “We homeschooled our daughters”—verb, past tense. Also, a true sentence.
This week we move our second daughter to university. She, like her older sister did, begins one year sooner than she would have if she had not been homeschooled. But this is not why she was homeschooled.
We began homeschooling in 1998, in part as a convenience for our family while I enjoyed a sabbatical at the University of Oxford. Homeschooling was portable. It was a reasonable experiment. Also a successful experiment.
At that point, our older daughter had been to public school for kindergarten and first and second grades. These were not bad experiences. But there was something missing. Later, she experimented with a return to public school in high school and changed her mind after one semester.
Our younger daughter was homeschooled from the beginning, but attended junior high for two years at an excellent private school. Then it was back to homeschooling.
Each year, and for each of our daughters, we made the best decision we could about their education. This is a parent’s responsibility. Thankfully, it is a freedom we still enjoy.
With each decision we considered several things:
- Where could they be taught what they needed to know?
- How would they be taught what they needed to know?
- Would the things they would be taught be true?
- Would they be taught how to think intelligently for themselves?
- Would they eventually be able to teach themselves the truth about things yet to be learned?
- Would they be treated fairly and respectfully by their teaching authorities?
- Would they be learning in a physically safe environment?
- Would they be learning in an emotionally healthy environment?
These were our major questions. Athletic programs, music programs, theater programs, and the like, were important but secondary. Whatever talent they had for any of these things deserved development, but not at the risk of shrinking—or, God forbid, losing—their souls.
Now I think of it, much of our concern reduced to three basic things, revolving round one major concept: (1) proper respect for truth; (2) effectual methods of obtaining truth; and, (3) behavior in accordance with truth.
The second of these depends on growth in reasoning powers and skill in assessing evidence. It’s here where many educational options in the United States prove so terribly inadequate.
I was reminded of this today when I came across a nice little article by Susan Wise Bauer, called “Dodging the Homeschool Stereotype.” She explains why she opted for homeschooling in the style of classical education:
Classical education leans heavily on the evaluation of evidence: The educated child learns to avoid logical fallacies, to decide whether arguments are trustworthy or flawed.
I believe she’s right when she adds:
And both secular and religious classrooms are prone to simplistic thinking.
The reasons why traditional classrooms, whether secular or religious, are prone to simplistic thinking deserves development in other posts. But I stress the point that simplistic thinking is the blight of current cultural discourse, infecting all of our institutions—political, educational, ecclesiastical—and methods of knowledge management—schools, media, church, and home.
It happens that homeschooling is susceptible to the same infection. But it need not be. And parents have more direct control over this dimension of childhood education if they do not rely on traditional classrooms.
Homeschooling is a choice. Parents must be free to exercise the option. The future of our culture, the outlook for the common good, may depend on the success of homeschooling.