Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Homeschool?

While I didn't write all of the following words, they clearly communicate the reasons why  homeschooling is the choice for our family... 

(PS- The I’s and We’s below kinda bug me…but sometimes I am applying homeschooling to Brandon and I and sometimes just myself, as I will be the one homeschooling.)

1. God. This is the number one reason: I am called.  God has put this on my heart time and time again.  I know this is the direction He is taking our family.  While following  His lead is sometimes the road less traveled, it is the way we strive to go!  Starting with the Word, the bible lays it out with several verses. Ephesians 6:4 states: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Deut. 4:9 says "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Deut. 6:5-7 says "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  So, how am I to teach my children when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up if they are gone all day long? How can I hide God's word in their heart if most of the opportunities happen when they are at school? How can I truly impress upon their hearts if I only see them at dinner and at bedtime?  2 Cor 10:5 says "...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" How can I make sure they learn to bring every thought captive to Christ if they are spending 80% of their day with someone else?  Isaiah 38:9 "The father to the children shall make known thy truth."  And finally, Romans 12:2 "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." I had to let go of preconceived notions of what I thought homeschooling looked like and realize that I do not answer to this world, but to Christ.  The Message states it this way: "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. God brings the best out of you, developing well-formed maturity in you." Again, it came down to time: how can I teach my kids if they are not with me during the everyday ordinary comings and goings?

2. Opportunity: The opportunities for spiritual, character, academic, social, and family time when homeschooling are endless.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the business of this world, running from one activity to the next ... or whatever takes up our time.  We can become so busy running around we forget to actually spend time together. Homeschooling affords our family the precious commodity of time. Time spent together, and frankly that's really what our kids want from us, our time.   If the average person lives around 85 years, then the 18 years our kids spend with us is less than 1/4 of their lives. I don't want to look back and think I didn't spend enough time with them, and 3 hours a day just isn't enough for me.

3. Tailored Instruction: Homeschooling allows us to cater our teaching to things that interest and fascinate our children. If our child shows interest towards a particular area (art, science, math, writing), I can foster that gift and help it to flourish, selectively tailoring our daily lessons to bring more focus to those areas. (This doesn’t mean that our child doesn’t have to do math if he doesn’t like math. This only means that I can put more emphasis/extra time toward things that they do best and love the most.)  I can tailor our lessons  to be more hands-on and interactive, allowing more chances to build on skills and fortify talents. (And if a new interest arrives six months from now, I can cater to that, as well!)  Research shows that one-to-one tutoring is the most successful method of learning, with the average homeschooled child being two years ahead of schooled children.  With homeschooling, it is possible to create a personal, individual curriculum, tailored to the child rather than tailor the child to meet a ‘national curriculum’ and also, it is possible to tailor the method of teaching to the needs of the child / family, and we believe that the best way to learn is in an informal, relaxed way, involving lots of play and at the child’s own pace, keeping the flame of interest alive rather than extinguishing it.  "Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire."  This will allow me to tailor lessons to fit my children's dominant learning styles.  I can give my children in-depth, personal attention in any subject with which they struggle or excel, interacting with my children.  Homeschooling tends to let children thrive academically, whatever their special gifts and needs are.  Homeschool families get to meet their children where they are academically.  It's been called delight-directed learning.  Our children will retain that which they enjoy. We want our children to love to learn, read, and study God’s world, and homeschooling is a great means of accomplishing that in numerous creative options. We can learn and explore the world around us together through everyday activities.  The latest extensive scientific study on the matter shows that homeschooled students scored 34-39 percent higher than average on standardized achievement tests. In other words, while the national average for all students is the 50th percentile, "the homeschool national average ranged from the 84th percentile for Language, Math and Social Studies to the 89th percentile for Reading."   I can remember how I felt as a teacher when I had to move from one subject to the next, one lesson to the next, knowing half my class just didn't get it.  I knew if I could spend more time or just sit down one on one and explain in each child's own learning style, they would get it....but I couldn't.  I had to move on.  I had to have then ready for testing, whether it was for the test of the week, Benchmark testing, or even the MAP, we had to keep moving.  Homeschooling allows instruction to happen at a pace the individual child needs,  working on something until my child gets it and move on, revisiting it for review later, but totally individualizing it and tailoring topics to learning styles, along with interests.

4. Faith: We can keep Christ the center in our home.  Perhaps the greatest virtue of homeschooling is the ability to ground and help make strong our children’s Christian faith and beliefs during the most crucial years. Very young children aren’t totally able to know right from wrong. I am glad that I’ll be able to be heavily involved in the answering of tough questions, the learning of morals and manners, and the fostering of Christ-like character during my children’s most formative years! This task is a very big responsibility, yes, but an incredible honor, as well.  We want the cornerstone of our children’s education to be centered around a Biblical worldview. We see great value in learning how to discuss the many worldviews of our culture all through the lens of the Word of God. We desire for the foundation of everything we learn – from history to science – to be centered around God’s beautiful plan. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to design our curriculum around the core message of the gospel.  Homeschooling gives parents freedom to educate their children through the lens of their faith.

5. Influence:  Luke 6:40 states "A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." Which teacher do we want them to be like?  We want to be the primary influence in the lives of our children.  Our primary responsibility is to train and disciple our children to love and serve the Lord all the days of their lives.  I believe being their primary teacher is the best means for me to impart a love for Christ to our children and a love to serve and bless others with their lives. We are passionate about teaching our children as we sit down, as we rise up, and as we walk along the way (Deut. 6:7), and we believe homeschooling is an excellent fit in fulfilling this calling.  When we consider the influence we have in our child's character formation,  we realize that we will get to raise our children in a positive learning environment, with our own views of character development.  We value the opportunity and responsibility to pass on our faith to our children.  We desire to have a greater role in raising our children to become disciples of Christ.

6.  Close Knit Family: Homeschooling gives me the opportunity to cultivate and build intimate, meaningful, and strong family relationships with my children.  The beauty of homeschooling is learning together, of always being together and learning to love and work together in peaceful manners.   I have read that over time, homeschooling births beautiful friendships among siblings. I love spending time with my little ones  and just learning about the world together. It’s delightful and I cannot imagine exchanging it for anything. I want to walk hand in hand as we explore God’s creation, as we marvel at the plan of history throughout the ages, and as we glimpse the complexity of His design. Homeschooling brings families closer together. I’ve heard so many homeschooling moms say how much they have learned about their kids since homeschooling began. The family unit tends to be more unified and closer as a whole since learning is integrated so tightly with the day-to-day life of the home.  Homeschooling can build a strong family with common values and goals and philosophy, including a learning lifestyle for the whole family, taking the opportunity for extra time with extended family members  whom my children can learn a lot from.   Instead of just meeting at the dinner table between long school days, sports practices and piles of homework,  homeschool parents and children learn side-by-side daily. They have plenty of relaxed time to actually get to know and appreciate one another.  As parents and children learn side-by-side daily, there is plenty of relaxed time to actually get to know and appreciate one another.

7. Freedom: Homeschooling gives freedom as it provides flexible time to focus on Kingdom work.  If we need to set aside the day to serve another family, take a day outing or field trip, or simply take a break, it does not jeopardize anything. We want our children to know first and foremost that walking with God is our first priority as a family. Lastly, we love the freedom that homeschooling provides to allow us to get up and go as needed. As silly as it sounds, sleeping is one of my great loves and homeschooling offers unparalleled freedom and flexibility. No one else is dictating our family's schedule and study habits.  Instead of pushing through the morning sprint each day to get the kids dressed, teeth brushed, lunches packed and out the door in time for school, homeschool families can cultivate a more natural, relaxed home atmosphere.  Homeschooling lets families pursue big dreams without sacrificing crucial academics.  It allows the opportunity to take Fridays off to hang out with other homeschoolers, go on field trips, or head to piano lessons.  With homeschooling, we get to decide what our family's routine should be.

8.  Environment:  Our home gives our children a positive, loving, accepting place to learn and grow. The safe environment of our home is the perfect to gift to my impressionable young children.  Many families find their children are better able to gain life skills, genuine confidence and a strong work ethic through homeschooling.
Socializing in homeschooling is effective because children have many opportunities to be socialized through the modeling of good social behavior by caring adults rather than through peers, who do not know much more than they do.   Parents give their kids the skills they need to interact with other people.  Homeschooling gives children more time to be out in the world, with people of different ages so they can figure out where their place in the world is, discovering likes and interests.  Socialization is actually meant to prepare children for the real world, which means learning to interact and deal with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds.  Homeschoolers spend a lot of actual time out in society.  When I consider what kind of social contacts my children would actually be getting at school - are they in fact the desirable influences I want on my children? Will socializing exclusively with a group of 30 or more children of the same age really be teaching your children the social skills necessary to survive in "the real world"?  In what other situation in life do we find ourselves segregated only with our own age-group? Homeschooling offers  parent the opportunity to carefully select ‘suitable’ company for the child, including all ages.  Utilizing homeschool co-ops to glean further learning from other knowledgeable people is an great addition to all the interaction possible through homeschooling.

9. Our Goals: We asked ourselves "What do we want our children to look like when they've finished their formal education? In Luke 2:52 it says "And Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and men." We want them to learn to trust in the Word of God, to have it hidden in their heart. We want to train them in the way they should go, so it may go well with them. We want them to be healthy, confident, and to know they are beautifully and wonderfully made. We want them to keep their childlike faith, and we want them to be a light in this world. We want them to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope that they have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Pet 3:15) We want them to be confident, to have good manners, to be compassionate, to be respectful, and to be humble in spirit.  Our goals are not that we would have the most smart or well-educated children on the earth, but rather that our children would first love the Lord, desire to serve Him, love to learn, respect and steward God’s creation, and learn to articulate their faith from a Biblical worldview. We want to equip them effectively to be sent out to share the love of Christ with others. That is what this life is about. Education matters little if my children do not love the Lord. That's a tall order for a teacher, and frankly I'm not sure they'd be able to comply at our local school. Honestly, I'm not sure I can do it either, but I'd rather trust God to work through us than leave it up to a stranger.

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