While on this homeschooling journey, I’ve taken note of the inquiries I get about homeschooling. Some of these questions undoubtedly involve the practical “how-to” aspect of homeschooling as well as mere curiosity. Yet, many of the questions I’ve received elicit deeper questions, often about our relationship with our children, the common person’s capabilities, and the role we want government to have in our lives.
One question I’ve often received is, “how do you spend all day with your kids and get them to listen to you?” A fellow mom once pointed out that weekends tend to be family catch-up time with built-in incentives for managing children’s behavior like movies, food treats, games, and outings. She said she wasn’t confident in the prospect of “managing” her kids Monday through Friday if they were home all day with her and she didn’t envision having something special planned with which to motivate them with. What can be said of the typical parent and child relationship out there? Have many lost the ability to spend most waking hours alongside their kids? Do they simply lack the confidence or vision of how to do so? Have we been overly reliant on material forms of motivation? The woman I spoke to also told me, “If I don’t have much to bribe or threaten my kids with, I can’t control them”. Do we need to learn how to parent in a way that doesn’t mostly rely on bribes and threats and control? By the way, Homeschool Life can assist you with this very challenge.
Another question I’ve heard, from those whose boldness I find admirable, is “why do you think you can teach your child as well as a certified teacher can?” I often ask them if they remember when teachers would introduce an idea, concept, or equation, and then talk about it, demonstrate it, make metaphors, ask questions, and then assign some kind of homework related to it, referring to a book or other resource the entire time. Our favorite teachers showed enthusiasm, let us ask questions and share our thoughts, and worked to provide some hands-on project in relation to the topic. Are we adults not capable of sharing what we’ve learned with children or learning alongside them? If not, is it because we didn’t retain or master our own education? And if we did not, then what was the point of investing over 15,000 expensive hours in classrooms with certified teachers? Teacher certification doesn’t create the spark required for learning. The spark comes from within. It’s often inspired by witnessing reality, a problem, a dream, or a challenge. Your loyal and enthusiastic support, your example, and the environment you create for your child are all sufficient catalysts for their learning. My husband and I do not do any computer programming, but our son does. Our daughter is making digital animations with her art. We did not show her how. Both our kids read books without being forced to. Their ability to learn at home has surprised us. I’m only sure of it now that I’ve seen it. But, shouldn’t we have known all along? The modern school system is a recent development. Before it was ever widely introduced, didn’t we have the same range of learners in society as we do now, from those conquering only the very basics all the way to those who achieve impressively high levels of mastery, and everything in between?
I’ve also been asked a lot, “do you have a college degree?” It’s an innocent question. We’ve certainly been conditioned to think that our most competent and intelligent people are college educated and many certainly are. Our teachers go to college, too. But, I did not. However, I’m not homeschooling my children at a college level. I’m homeschooling them through the same 13 years of schooling that I successfully passed. What is that high school diploma for if not to indicate competence in grade school subject matter? Or do we all understand that it doesn’t necessarily indicate competence? Perhaps we all know that many graduate without achieving competence and thus a college level education is really the minimum requirement for being able to teach kids basic concepts. Either way, what does this say about our public school system?
A particular line of questioning has been particularly revealing: “What if you end up teaching something contrary to what schools teach? someone will ask. “I plan to do that in some cases,” I respond. “Really…in what case, for example?” I’ll give an example, perhaps related to the subject of nutrition or history and I’ll be challenged with, “And what makes you sure you are correct? How can you decide to teach your kids what you think versus what actual experts conclude on any given topic?” I ask, “Do you not believe parents should ultimately have the freedom to decide how they raise their children as well as what they should know?” Eyes will open wide and I’ll get something like, “No! I’m sorry, but parents can be wrong. I don’t mean you but other parents, in general. It seems risky, letting people teach their kids whatever they want. It’s how we become an ignorant and hateful society.” Many fear that they but mostly others, are incapable of teaching their kids the right things and that if we don’t all agree on important matters, we’ll get a society of ignoramuses or bigots or we’ll have a lack of consensus which will result in chaos and so it is easier to abdicate responsibility and leadership and leave our children to “experts”. Not only do we live among many who cannot steer their own ships, but more and more parents are keen to teach their kids something contrary to what is being taught in schools - and for good reason. There is still a general fear of parents grabbing hold of the reigns on their child’s education. Why is there so little trust in our fellow parents? Why is there so much trust in those who work for the government?
The truth is many homeschooling parents seek and highly respect true experts. Since the responsibility is entirely on our shoulders, we are highly invested in ensuring our children learn accurate information and learn it well. We teach our children to recognize how much they don’t know and team them to think critically, to seek empirical data, and to keep an open mind. With freedom comes extra responsibility and we embrace both. Many of us have learned that we can develop wonderful relationships with our children and lead them without bribes or threats. We discover that we can help them learn math and reading. We realize that if we value truth and competence, nay excellence, our children do as well. It is the firm belief of many of us that children are not wards of the state. And if parents who went to public school think they aren’t qualified to teach their young children simple concepts, then why aren’t more people asking the question, “is there something intolerably wrong with public schools?” This question, as well as the frequent questions homeschoolers receive, are worth pondering.