The Best and Most Crucial Choice?
Since we have children, and since they have friends, we hear our share of the challenges that go on in other homes. Parents share these concerns back and forth. You joy in the highs and hurt for the lows, whether in your family or another. For our family, the joys and challenges make for a thrilling AND scary roller coaster ride. I suspect it is the same for other families. Uuuuppp then dooooowwwwwwwwn, hoping to come uuuuuuppppp again, only to go dooowwwwnnn again, twist and turn, wonder if you are going to get sick from it all, and finally the peace of rolling back into the flat and slow part of the track where we got off and others get on.
Cyndy commented a few weeks ago, out of the blue saying, "Mark. Do you know how many problems we have avoided because of our decision to home school our children?" If we made no other decision, home schooling has been huge in preserving and strengthening our children.
As I drove to work, I saw new saplings planted along the parkway I drive on to get to the freeway. Each one had a stake driven into the ground next to it 4-5' in height, holding that new tree straight while it established its roots. I thought to myself, "If it is good enough for them, it is more than good enough to me." The county has an investment in planting a new tree, and protects that investment until each tree is ready to stand on its own successfully. We have a more important and larger investment in our 11 children. Home schooling has been like that stake, allowing us to firmly establish the spiritual, mental and emotional roots of our children until they are prepared to stand on their own.
I am preparing to speak at a local home schooling convention. They take a chance in having us speak I guess, because our style of home schooling includes cherry picking the resources of our public system in the high school years of education. My talk is supposed to be to the fathers, offering ideas of what fathers can do to help the in home education process. To anyone who knows me, I am not an expert on this, since Cyndy carries the majority of the load. I have had to search a bit to identify just exactly what role I play. And then decide if my experience is of any worth to others at all.
However, in harmony with this topic, I have to say that one thing that I have brought to the table is this. Early in our home schooling career, I read John Taylor Gatto's book "Dumbing Us Down". I was open to the idea that even though I had a ton of great experiences in my own public school exposure, it was still possible that hidden influences of the system still played out in my life. Gatto's book described these unproductive influences for me. I became convinced that it was not only possible that I was negatively influenced in my own personal public school experience, it was probable. And, if the negative influences of the education system I was exposed to could have quietly and invasively impacted me, which they did, they could also do the same to my own children if I was not careful. Our decision was to eliminate this 7 hour a day exposure and influence in the lives of my children for as long as we were able. As long as it made sense. My role, then, was to remind Cyndy that as hard as home education is sometimes, the negative influence of the alternative on our children was completely unacceptable. In addition, Cyndy reminded me that at first we only committed to keeping them out to age 8. As our courage increased, we began to feel we could extend beyond age 8. Finally it led us to where we are today.
Some say less is more. In this case, less of the public school influence, especially in the early years, has meant more for our children in a myriad of ways.
• We have preserved their curiosity,
• We have contrasted the negative influences in the system clearly against the back drop of more time proven values.
• We have caused our children to think twice about the risks and rewards that are part of a more self directed education versus the spoon feeding and regurgitation method that is the public system's fare.
• We established that the home is the center of learning, where life is processed, not the public school environment.
• We made clear that we value learning from hands on experience as much if not more than the learning process in the public system. The public process has become, in many cases, more a driver for the implementation of social and moral norms in the lives of our precious children, than the business of educating them and developing a love for lifelong learning. (A reality that is still lost on most parents in the siren song of the "convenience" of the public system.)
In short, the elimination of some influences in the lives of our children has allowed other influences to flourish. In other words, you kill the negative influence by starvation. Or to give it a political overtone, if you don't like it, you just don't fund it. We accomplished that by removing them from the influence, and embracing the home education path. Home schooling, with its ups and downs, has been the best and most crucial educational choice we have made for our family.