I recently read a book about homeschooling that I disagreed with almost completely. The author's admitted bias, his background ... everything about it worked against the entire premise of the project: To begin the process of understanding homeschooling. I read the book, mostly because I am curious as to what anti-homeschooling advocates have to say, and also because I keep a sharp eye out for anything that might have the potential to undermine my ability/right/legal standing to homeschool my children.
I read the entire book. I shrugged when the author seemed unable to grapple with some of the truths we homeschoolers know to be self-evident (instructional time, for example, need not be as long as that often employed in a classroom setting). I shuddered when the author's point was proven. (Why, oh why, did the nearly illiterate parents from Tennessee--the ones who proudly displayed their "Rod of Correction"--volunteer to be interviewed?) And I was sadly resigned when the book closed with its premise unshaken: homeschooling is at best a substitute for poor classroom instruction, but at worst a detriment to the child.
I put the book down and tried to forget about it. The truth, though, is that a small seed of doubt was planted in my mind. Is my best good enough for my children? Are they missing out on something magical that would, truly, speak into them academically?
Academics are my weak spot, you see. I don't doubt--not for a single second--that the moral training my brood receives is far superior to the one they'd have at the hands of someone who was forced to stay without the limits of what is allowed in a public school. It's the academics I worry about--the reading, the writing, the math. Am I doing enough?
God has a funny way of setting these fears to rest. Last night, as Atticus as I made our way through a quick trip at our local grocery store, my eye was drawn to a bulletin board. On it were the collected works of a local third grade class--the best of the best, as it were. Assembled, for our viewing pleasure, were the efforts of several 8 year-old children who had been handed a worksheet. On it, the teacher had left a space for artwork, then written in a few sentence starters. On first glance, I thought this was a kindergarten assignment. In my homeschool, I stop giving intros in the beginning of first grade. Yes, I might dictate something ("I want you to write a couple of sentences about how you feel. Need some help? You can use "I feel ...' or even "I am ...' Let's talk about how a sentence starts. First, you use what kind of letter?" etc.) but I'm not giving them fill-in-the-blank sentences that will be easily scratched in and forgotten.
But these sheets were noteworthy in their lack of any evidence of actual creative requirement, let alone any real instruction. These kids--one year older than Logan, one year younger than Atticus--these kids, these promising, star public school students, were lauded for their work.
Seeing their efforts made me feel so much better. Punctuation either wildly incorrect, or missing entirely. Words misspelled far beyond phonetic accounting. Handwriting that is completely illegible. And these are the ones they chose to celebrate in front of the entire community as a sign of the excellent education our local students are receiving!
Why did seeing this horrible excuse for public education make me, a citizen, feel better? Because truthfully, if this is what my local public schools expect of a third grader, I am in no way failing.
Homeschooling is not perfect. There are children out there, right now, ostensibly being homeschooled, who are 17 years-old and unable to read a newspaper through no fault of his own. There are homeschoolers who put on Wiggles videos to fulfill a music requirement. Yes, there are "homeschoolers" who beat their children.
But when held to the standard of education that is set before us by our communities, most of the homeschoolers I know personally far and away exceed the "bare minimum" that so many outsiders think we struggle to maintain. We are the parents who stay up late researching creative math games. We are the parents who spend hours sitting cross-legged on the floor with a globe on our lap and geography flashcards at our sides. We are the parents who peek over our 8 year-old's shoulder and sing, "I-before-E-except-after-C ..."
We are doing a good job. No matter what a handful of detractors think, we are educating our children. And we're doing it well. And with love.
Never forget that, mom.