Trust The Children

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How Not to Quit Home Schooling

Hi, I'm Cyndy, wife of Mark and mother of eleven, writing my first article for our blog. I am hoping to convince you to take the time to write your own vision statement about home schooling. Something that comes out of your heart and if possible the heart of your spouse. Writing a vision statement has helped me "stay in the game". The blessings of home schooling become unavailable to children when parents get discouraged, quit and send their children back into the system. Remembering the WHY of this commitment to home school is essential in maintaining the enthusiasm through the ups and downs that are part of every year of home schooling.

Really pondering about "WHY do I choose to homeschool?" will give you something to hold onto when you feel your knees go weak. Writing those thoughts down and keeping them handy is some of the best advice I can give you.

We have been homeschooling for 27 years.
My youngest is now 12, my oldest 30. Our eleven children have all "turned out" exceptional. (I'm not prejudiced, just ask our friends!)

I sat down the other night to prepare for local Home Educators Association Conference and this is what surfaced as I reflected on my quarter century plus of "learning by doing".

Do age and experience bring wisdom? I'm not sure, but note how my "philosophy statement" has changed over the years:

• The baby steps (Years 1-10)
(We kept our children home until age 8)
I will keep my children home in a safe environment until they are 8 years of age, have the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and are capable of discerning between right and wrong.
I don’t want them to ever lose the innate curiosity with which they have been blessed.
My job it to provide an exciting, stimulating environment and nurture that curiosity.

• As I got braver (Years 10-15)
(We kept our children home until age 10, using community resources and “cherry picked” the public system for music, lab sciences, and foreign languages.)
My desire is to create an environment conducive to spiritual, emotional, and intellectual growth for my children I know my children are safe and well treated in my home. I am free to teach them what I feel is important. I can control the quality of my children’s education. I am free to combine my spiritual beliefs with everything I teach. Children naturally want to learn and do the things they see their parents and other people doing. Perhaps my most important role is to continually model “seeking” and “love for learning”. I want them to internalize this message: “I am loveable, I am capable, I am a child of God. I like myself, I like myself, I like myself, I like myself, I like myself.”

• My confidence grows (Years 15-20)
(We kept our children home until age 12-14. We went through hoops necessary for high school diplomas.)
I believe that the environment I can control and create is superior to that in any public or private setting. I choose not to involve my children or myself it too many outside of home activities. My children will be strong enough to withstand negative peer influences before I will place them in public school settings. I must feel that they have internalized our family values before I will allow them to be transplanted outside of our nurturing “greenhouse”. I trust my children will learn what is important without so much structure. All children are exceptional in their own unique way. I believe that if children are given a nurturing, loving environment where they learn what they want, in their own way, at their own pace, they often look and act exceptional.

• Currently: (Years 21-27)
(We keep our children home until age 14. We begin using internet on-line classes. High school diplomas are optional. Good scores on SAT/ACT expected. We encourage our married children to homeschool.)
I know that the environment in my home is the best place to custom make moral armor sufficient to protect my children from negative outside forces. I know that my children will be leaders in their social groups. I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide them in the choices they make because I can see the influence of the spirit in their daily lives. It is more important to me that they be morally clean (of mind, heart, and body) than they be educated according to the world’s standards. I try to keep out of their way and allow them to grow in a more open, free environment and pursue their interests to the point of excellence. All children are exceptional in their own unique way. If my children can experience the joy and satisfaction of “seeking” and “finding out” in their fields of interest, they will make their way in today’s society without problem. I am a facilitator. I pray that my grandchildren will be homeschooled.

How have I changed in 27 years of homeschooling:
From tentative to confident that homeschooling really works.
From moderately structured to increasingly unstructured.
From “teach them before they leave home” to trusting that children can learn what is important when the time comes.
From “What do others say I should be doing?” to “What works best in my home with my children?”

It has been a great ride…and I am still learning, but I do believe President Boyd K. Packer, LDS Church Leader when he states:
“No teaching is equal, more spiritually rewarding, or more exalting than that of a mother teaching her children.”
Boyd K. Packer Ensign, Feb 2000

Cyndy and Mark Weiss are from Vancouver, WA. You can learn more about their home schooling experience at Their exceptional children are Allison, 30, currently University of Chicago, completing 2nd masters program (musicology and Latin American studies), Fulbright Scholar; David Weiss, 28, Team leader at MacBusiness Unit at Microsoft, father of 3; Tamarah Bartmess, 27, Linguistics major turned mom of two, finishing General Studies coursework through BYU Independent Study program; Christine, 25, graduated BYU-I, now in Masters of Public Health program at BYU-Provo, Jennifer, 23, working on degree in family Therapy at BYU-Provo, teaching Mandarin Chinese at the LDS Mission Training Center; Deborah, 21, serving mission in Quito, Ecuador; Jonathan 20, serving mission in Berlin, Germany; Samuel, 18, doing CNC work for local company that he learned in "Pre-engineering and Design" courses at Skills Center; Benjamin, 16, part-time employed at bike shop, doing internet classes and Physics and Art class at High School the rest at home; William, 14, doing Science and Spanish at High school the rest at home, internet English and Saxon Math; Joseph, 12, homeschooler extraordinaire and skateboarder.

Seven children so far have served missions (Chile, Brazil, California-Spanish, Ecuador, Taiwan, Ecuador, Germany) 4 more young men to go, Three did running start program (early college--simultaneous High School credit), 5 received full or part tuition scholarships to college, 2 Eagles (2 more in the works)-5 YW Recognition Awards, 10 have been Quorum or Class Presidents in Young Men/Young Women church programs.


  • Cyndy,
    Great comments and inspiration for those of us just beginning! I cannot tell you how much the comments from you and Mark, and the example of your children, has helped me see what home schooling can be. You two have helped me to understand what it means to "Trust the Children".
    Thanks again,
    Jim Gay

    By Blogger Computer Jim, at 8:51 PM, August 17, 2006  

  • It is so hard to break out of that public school mentality for me--I came from the public schools, of course, and my formula for educating my kids is based on that. How do I decide what is necessary to teach my kids--what they will need in life? What "fluff" I can leave out of my busy homeschooling life that they will pick up later?

    By Blogger funnymommy, at 11:21 PM, August 18, 2006  

  • Funnymommy,

    I am sorry it took so long to get to this comment. busy end of the month.

    These are great questions. I think we all have entertained them at one point or another. Some answers come easy, some not so easy So I am afraid, I need to ask you to be patient while I try to boil a tough question down to about 5 minutes of response.(give or take) I wish we were talking at our kitchen table, so you could see my eyes and feel my sincerity. But here goes...

    The school system has taken upon them the task of educating the masses. So they have to do certain things to deal with masses, numbers of kids. One way they do that is segmenting. Businesses do that too. Segment the market. You know, just walk into a Wal-Mart. Store departments. Schools segment by age groupings and call them grade levels. Nothing inspired or even clever about this at all.

    Then the school system begins assuming that certain things need to be learned by each grade level. Now they can declare your child as behind, ahead or average. So learning objectives are assigned for each grade level. Again all of this is generalized for the masses, because dealing with the numbers they do, doesn't allow them to cater to the individual. Right?

    God didn't say that certain things needed to be learned by such and such an age. No prophet has said that either. They know children are individuals and that we all grow at different rates. Yet in the public system and too often at home, if your child doesn't measure up, at the end of a certain year, your child is out of step, behind everyone else.

    If your child wants to go ahead of the arbitrary preset grade level because they are bright, they can't because the public school approach is an approach for the masses. It can't deal with someone out of step. Either a step behind or a step ahead.

    So in a class of 30, some are bound to be behind and some are bound to be ahead. So only a few are "normal". And this "normal" rating is only possible because we accept THEIR "trained" judgement as to what is "normal". Why we do is beyond me, but we all do. I mean really, normal for what? Normal for whom?

    Well what is the answer here? In answering this, I want to address children from 0-12. Forget the older kids for now. So the following is just about the younger group. For me I love the statement by Pat Montgomery, founder of Clonlara School, when she said, "Why should (our children) be "abandoned" to systems that (fail) to take into account the fact that children learn by imitating the people around them? Having good models, having lots of time to play, and being surrounded by people who love them (not judge them and grade them and mold them) is the recipe for successful growth."

    THIS assumption, that children learn by imitating and not by being taught, for me changes everything. Because IF that is true, and I believe it is, especially from 0 to 12 or so, then sending them to school is a lead pipe synch that they will imitate their peers and not your family values. Why? Because they spend so many hours "observing" others there and therefore less hours observing you and your family.

    This is where for the ages 0 to 12 or so, "TRUST THE CHILDREN" is the key. Our children didn't learn to walk by attending lectures on walking. Whey learned to walk by observing you and trying and failing with your loving encouragement. They didn't learn to talk by attending talking classes. They learned to talk and met that "learning objective" by observing and listening to you. Their minds filled up with sounds. They memorized those sounds and eventually associated them with objects and ideas. All without a teacher. All without school. In fact the only reason a teacher has anything to work with in a child, is because of the language, vocabulary and "modeling" YOU provided them before they ever went to school.

    Then as you read to them day in and day out, at one point they read along with you because they see your model and want to be like you. The want to read like you. So your children begin to associate the vocabulary in their minds with symbols (words)on paper. The words are mostly already in their minds, but they need to connect the words in their minds with the symbols (words) on paper. This is called reading. This is why most of our own children "taught themselves" to read right in front of our eyes."

    There are so many natural processes for learning things. They can learn math by baking cookies, fractions as least. They can also learn math collecting baseball cards. Of course flash cards can be helpful in the early years. But mostly, if they see you learning, curious about life, going to the library to find answers or studying the scriptures to find out something or other, they will see that model, example in you and will want to be like it. They will, IF their lives are not clouded and confused by other competing models at this early formative age. Things change at the older ages. I accept that. So natural learning like this, means that you must preserve curiosity and inquisitiveness at all costs. This requires exposure to all kinds of stimuli in field trips, games, playing, building things, digging, walking about and many other fun activities COUPLED WITH the freedom to stop and find out more about something when the learning moment presents itself. (TV is limited as are computer games etc.) (Remember we are talking about 0-12 or so).

    By reading and playing with your children, by observing them and listening to them, they will tell you what to teach and how far to go with it. You go until they don't want to learn any more. Then read to them, walk about with them some more and watch for the next thing to show up. Then go with that.

    Now Dad's will say, "At some point they need to learn to do things they don't 'want" to do." I agree, but that point is best saved for later not sooner. It is a lesson to be learned at the right time. If learning that lesson kills curiosity, you just shot yourself in the foot big time.

    How do you decided about "fluff"? Trust your children and follow their lead. Stick to their lead and it will be relevant. And watch your parent's amazement when they see your children with a special light in their eyes, way different than others.

    And may I just add, this isn't just a Weiss philosophy alone. One of the pioneers in psychology, Carl Rogers, said, "I have come to trust the capacity of persons to explore and understand themselves and their troubles and to resolve those problems, in any close, continuing relationship where I can provide a climate of real warmth and understanding....I learned that I could not only trust my clients and staff and students, but I could also trust myself. Slowly I learned to trust the feelings, the ideas, the purposes that continually emerge in me."

    The Savior himself said, "The greatest of all is the servant of all." How could this be more true than with our own children, their natural curiosity for "good things" and our power as adults to provide the resources they need to explore, learn and fill their minds with the stuff of the next great adventure?

    By Blogger Mark and Cyndy Weiss, at 5:17 PM, September 01, 2006  

  • I have gone through this blog. I found it very interesting and helpful. Nowadays I am completing my studies from home only.
    And this blog really doing great for me. This blog also offers me more ideas and advices concerned to my career.

    Study From Home

    By Blogger joancasilo, at 11:24 PM, April 20, 2010  

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