Last week a blog reader emailed to ask me the following question, and I thought it was an excellent one to visit and discuss. I’d love for you to enter the conversation through the comment section. Keep in mind that with homeschooling, there is not a “right” way, there is a only what works well for a particular family in a particular season, with particular goals, with particular children and particular parents. And that is subject to change with changing dynamics.
Before a conversation like this, one must realize that the idea of the school system isn’t, in my opinion, the best idea for preparing kids for life. (Read: School Has Nothing to Do With Real Education) Also, while basic knowledge (the three R’s) is necessary for every student, beyond that, we should be encouraging our children to explore their strengths, passions and gifts, which isn’t a cookie-cutter curriculum. (See Think Outside the Classroom for more on this subject.)
However, even if you prefer the strict, traditional method of a classroom, I’ve seen it work incredibly well with many, many families. So regardless of your goals and educational style, homeschooling is always a great fit.
So, my attempt to answer Sheri’s question from my slant:
“When I consider what high schools offer, I do think they can provide more multi-faceted, specialized options because they have teachers with training in specific areas. (ie. My technology, foreign language, and shop classes just aren’t a match for what they can get at school.) What really is needed to prepare them for life and how is homeschooling a better preparation? What are our reasons for continuing through the upper grades? These are the questions I am wrestling with. I’d love to know your reasons/motivation for homeschooling through high school. So many homeschoolers drop off in the high school years. What motivated you to continue?”
I understand people choose classroom learning for their children for different reasons, and I don’t presume to tell them they are wrong. Some kids thrive in that setting and I don’t presume that’s not true. But if you ask me if homeschooling can work through high school I’ll say “absolutely.”
First let me answer the question,
“What really is needed to prepare them for life?”
In a word, wisdom. In all their endeavors, wisdom will determine whether they are successful or not. Wisdom will shape their character, helping them learn diligence, perseverance, good decision-making skills, conflict resolution, business sense, integrity, relationship-building skills, and I could go on. Wisdom is foundational to their job, their home life, their marriage and their parenting. And do not forget that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
So to answer the second:
“How is homeschooling a better preparation?” I would answer, “Because homeschooling gives freedom to parents to raise their children with wisdom as the fountainhead of their education.” And while you may not have as nice a shop class or biology lab, you have real life, equipped with all the things for learning how to do real life. And you have the opportunity each day to lead them to wisdom which will be the guiding principle that leads them to success.
Practically speaking, I think a focus on the 3 R’s prepares any student for anything. A basic understanding of math (which may lead them to any level their profession requires), a rich library and lots of reading, and writing/communication skills are the essentials of a well-educated individual. Beyond that, the opportunity to pursue what a person loves and thrives in will be the formula for success.
Are they deprived?
Also, your children don’t have to be “deprived” of anything a school offers. You can either find someone you know who can impart skills to them you can’t, or provide them with tools to learn. In fact, I think this is a better way to learn, because again, it’s real life instead of a manufactured situation.
Better to spend some time on a construction site building alongside a carpenter than a few hours in a shop class. Better to be assigned to cook dinner once a week and help care for siblings than take home ec. and learn in a fabricated environment.
We can provide our children with microscopes, balances, a magnifying glass, dry ice–whatever you’d like to be in your lab, and their curiosity is an excellent teacher, in addition to science books/videos that allow them to study anything they desire.
Essentially, there is nothing out of our reach with homeschooling that can’t be provided through the rich resources available now, especially through the Internet. Even with upper level education, the Internet can prove to be far more cost and time efficient, still providing the knowledge and expertise for some careers. (Example: I just spoke with a friend whose son was discouraged, by a successful graphic designer, to go to college for graphic design, because he said, “You can learn more on line for a fraction of the cost. I learned more on my own than I learned in college.” No brainer.)
If sports is important, there are many options for homeschoolers. I personally love that our kids have a big group of friends to play volleyball and soccer with often, without the pressure of organized schedules/games, and they love it too. But every option is available.
Aside from these reasons, the biggest answer to the question of “how homeschooling is a better preparation” simply lies in the ability to give our children a solidly Christian education, walking with them in wisdom, building friendships, and giving them far more opportunities to engage in real life than if they were spending the better half of the day in a classroom. I especially love that homeschooling allows parents to tailor an education to their child’s style and interests and that we have the freedom to put equal emphasis on the arts as society does academics.
For one of THE best books ever written that undergirds my commitment to homeschooling, get A Different Kind of Teacher, by John Taylor Gatto. His experience confirms that a classroom is typically not the most suitable place for people to be educated and learn how to live in the world.
A glimpse of our homeschool
We are looking forward to having our son finish up his high school year with a heavy emphasis on graphic design and art. His gift of art is strong, and we want to give him every opportunity to be able to mesh his life work with his passion.
We also give our high school students a heavy dose of Dave Ramsey (we bought his homeschool high school curriculum, Foundations in Personal Finance), because no matter what they do, the way they handle money will have huge implications for their financial freedom or bondange.
One of the best lessons in finance is letting your children start a business, if only to learn the basic operations. The Internet makes that easy with so many options and a customer base at your fingertips. My daughter’s Etsy shop ended up landing her a commercial contract with a local business, and my son’s art website has supplied him with all the business he has time for. Also, this facilitates a knowledge of computer skills and website design.
Our science focuses on anatomy, nutrition and basic treatment of ailments/first aid, because good health and knowledge of treating illness is an invaluable resource. (Our older kids are also certified in CPR.) Good nutrition and exercise wards off a degree of health issues saving money and adding quality of life. (For anatomy, for our younger and older grades, I have loved Apologia Science.) They also study astronomy, and basic chemistry and have learned so much through just living life. (My 11-year old is a budding mechanic so he’s learned quite a lot of physics on his own.)
Our history is done through reading good books and biographies. I like including these in our evening reading too, so Dad can be involved. I’m currently looking for a great video or DVD series with an emphasis on our country’s founding, because I believe we are witnessing what it looks like when our posterity forgets.
Update: I found one! Compass Classroom has been an answer to prayer. Short, interesting, accurate, easy-to-understand, videos (hands off for me). We are doing American History from a Christian perspective this year (my 3 oldest) and they love it. And you can get a free lesson here! (They also have other subjects.)
We encourage lots of writing through summaries and letters (having penpals is great writing practice) and make sure they know how to write a basic 5-paragraph essay before graduating. Letting your children start a blog of interest is also one way to encourage their writing.
For math we’ve used Khan Academy (for our visual learners), Teaching Textbooks, Rod & Staff, and A.C.E.
Don’t forget the importance of good conversation in helping your children to formulate their worldview and understanding of life through the lens of truth. Ask questions. Play the advocate. Challenge their claimed beliefs. Read news stories and discuss them as a family, asking their opinions. Always challenge them to back up their answers with principles from Scripture.
Another emphasis we are trying to focus on is service. I think it’s so easy for us to get caught up in what we think is important that we forget that the essence of the gospel and Christ’s message to us was to serve one another. It’s important enough that in the past we designated one day a week to it for part of our school. I’m planning to revisit that idea this year.
Thankfully, because of our flexible schedule and the Lord’s graciousness to us, we’ve been able to add some extra things this year, including piano camp for two and gymnastics lessons for two. My son is also spending the summer in CO with my brother, working and learning in both the construction field and real estate. We have been trying to let all of our children go on at least one mission trip and just give them different opportunities for learning and serving.
Alexa and Ashton have enjoyed training and participating in a few runs/mud run courses this past year which I concluded was an excellent P.E. program. Alexa finished 2nd in her age category in her most recent mud run (Panther run) and Ashton finished 2nd in his age category in the challenging Spartan Race (and 12th overall out of about 400 competitors). I’m proud of my people.
These are hopefully just some ideas I’m throwing out for you, and certainly not any “right way” to do things. I pray you seek the Lord’s guidance for your children and may we continually be committed to raising men and women who love the Lord above all else.
Here are some helpful resources a reader shared with me too:
His B.A. Was Only $8k–How to get a college degree from home in a year.
Setting the Records Straight–How to craft homeschool transcripts and course descriptions for college admission and scholarships.