A few months ago as I was out and about I ended up having a conversation with an older gentleman I’d never met before.
He was old, the kind of old where his skin had given up on the whole concept of elasticity and instead folded in upon itself in valleys and peaks across his face. He was a World War II veteran and I thanked him for his service in the midst of our talking. He didn’t want to talk about his service in the military and instead looked at the four children I had on display and turned the conversation toward them.
“Where to they go to school?” he asked me.
“We homeschool,” I replied. He looked affronted. With so much skin available to him for use his expressions were magnified. It was obvious he was reevaluating my placement on the “normal” to “psychopathic killer” stranger scale.
“Well, what do you use to teach them reading, writing, and arithmetic?” he asked. I explained our educational plan and how we are careful to meet the state standards in these areas and go beyond the standards when it makes sense.
“Hurumph,” said my octogenarian friend. His face showed that he was trying to help me see the error of my support of home education without being rude. “Well, what about socialization?!” he asked me.
A little part of me was amazed that I was getting all of the stereotypical complaints against home education in one conversation, but I responded with an explanation of our civic groups participation, our weekly gatherings of youth activities, and how the flexibility afforded by homeschooling allows us to visit interesting places like museums regularly.
He was unimpressed and equally unwilling to let go of his belief that home education was foolhardy. So he finalized his questioning with what he saw as the knockout question:
“So, I guess you got your degree in education to be a teacher, then?” he asked me suspiciously.
The reality is that no, I don’t have my degree in teaching. I shared this with him, including the research that most home educating parents don’t have teaching degrees, yet their children are able to perform as well or better than their publicly educated peers on standardized tests and ultimately are able to find success as happily employed adults. I mentioned the studies that cite example after example of hiring professionals valuing skill sets encouraged by the home education lifestyle: autonomy, ability to respond to changing situations, problem solving skills, etc.
But then, seeing his interest had completely faded in the barrage of information I was using to convince him our family is educating “properly” and he wasn’t going to change his suspicious nature regardless of anything I said to validate my perspective… I just stopped talking.
He didn’t notice. He looked the other way for awhile. Eventually we said goodbye and went about our respective business. I don’t expect we’ll ever see one another again.
As I played the conversation over in my head later, one question echoed:
“What am I trying to prove, and to whom? Why?!”
Having just returned from our state’s homeschooling conference, I have educational models and methods on my mind. I am inspired and challenged, convicted and overwhelmed. I feel supported in this educational lifestyle choice we’re making, and like I’m part of a larger group of likeminded people.
I learned that there are more children homeschooled in this country right now than there are in parochial schools. The pendulum is swinging.
That being said, we must figure out what we are trying to prove with our home education and to whom. We must know our why are explore the underlying motivations.
If we homeschool because it’s the new trendy thing to do we will not be successful. We will simply be sheep following the next new thing.
If we homeschool because that’s how you prove to others that you’re a real Christian, we will fail because real Christians educate their children in all sorts of different ways. This isn’t a competition.
If we home school because we are out to prove the public education system wrong, to prove our kids are all little geniuses, we will ultimately be left with an empty spot in our heart because we push so hard for our children to “succeed” we push them right out of our homes with our perfectionism.
I’m of the opinion God blessed us with these children and we are called to be stewards of their individuality, to shine the spotlight on the ways they are gifted to be unique, they ways they can be used to impact this world.
It’s our job as educators to give them the skill sets necessary to allow those giftings to bloom.
For example, if I have a child who is gifted in design it behooves all of us to teach her the skills necessary for engineering so that the visions in her head can find a place in reality.
If I have a child who has a gifting in leadership it’s my educational responsibility to expose her to reading so that the stories of past great leaders, of people who learned to use their leadership not to “boss” others but to “empower” them, will be present in her brain and she can learn from their wisdom.
It is not my job to convince others to home school. I don’t know their stories or what they witness in their own families. I can’t compare.
It is my job to sacrificially educate our children with the tools needed to accomplish the work God has laid out in advance for them to do. I need to educate and then get out of the way… because this is the task God prepared for me to do!
And when it’s all said and done:
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” — Erma Bombeck