Home Education Magazine
May-June 2004 - Articles and Columns
Publisher's Note - Helen Hegener
Apples and Oranges - Rocks and Pears - Schools and Homeschools
Have you ever thought about what makes homeschooling such a unique approach to living and learning with our children? Have you ever considered why it changes our lives in ways no other educational option can? As we've written here many times over the years, for our family and for thousands of others, homeschooling is more than just an educational option; it's a completely different way of being with children, and it's about much more than an academic definition of learning.
Homeschooling families are not tied to schoolish schedules and requirements. They don't need to track school bus arrivals and departures, don't need to plan family outings around school attendance demands, and don't need to focus family efforts on studying a specific subject just because it's what appears on the teacher's plan for that week. Homeschooling families don't need to embrace the competitive, conflict-filled atmosphere of the public school, and their children are not subjected to the stresses and confusions which so often lead to labelling kids and routine prescriptions for psychoactive drugs and chemicals.
Homeschooling, as many of us have come to know and love it, is giving our children the time, the encouragement, and the freedom they need to examine and explore their own interests, to develop their own confidence, and to discover their own unique abilities to contribute to the world around them. Homeschooling means showing our children how to take responsibility for their own learning, and for their own lives. Homeschooling means trying a path - and if it doesn't go where we want it to go, taking the lessons learned and trying another path, and maybe even another until we find what works and what gets us and our children where we and they want to go.
By homeschooling our children we're changing how we all interact with the world. We're changing our thinking and our lives in meaningful ways which will reach beyond our lifetimes. This is no small thing we're doing; we're changing the future from what it might have become if we'd simply packed our children off to school each day.
So to return to the question, what makes homeschooling such a unique approach to living snd learning? It's primarily the freedom, the autonomy, the ability to make our own decisions about what is important and worth doing in our lives and in the lives of our children. Homeschooling means having the freedom to choose which talents and interests we'll encourage our children to pursue. Homeschooling means following their passions and ours wherever they may lead, without needlessly worrying about the conventional limits and restrictions of teaching and learning. Homeschooling means following our own family dictates, our own individual muses, our own wandering stars wherever they may lead us.
This freedom from school's rules and regulations, this wonderful freedom from schoolish routines and requirements, this important freedom from unnecessary outside authority over our lives, distinguishes homeschooling from conventional public schooling.
This distinction is an important one, because as homeschooling families we are part of a small minority that is, in a sense, in competition with The largest, most powerful, and most pervasive institutions in our society, the public school system. Designed to serve the interests of government and big business, public schooling dismisses the most basic needs of childhood. Public school demands performance; it rewards those who perform well and punishes those who do not rise to the objectives of age and grade level standards. The expectation is to conform, to fit in, to lose the unique and distinguishing features of oneself and become part of the larger whole.
Homeschooling, in contrast, encourages development of a child's own individuality and presents a nurturing approach to learning. A child's innate talents can be fully explored and his personal interests built upon. Homeschooling means taking responsibility, taking care, and taking the time to get learning right.
And yet, as the homeschooling movement has matured and become just another widely accepted option for educating children, many families have turned back to the institutional schooling models for educational resources and support. This has led us toward a gradual breaking down of the important "wall of separation" between homeschooling and public schooling, an invisible wall which divides family responsibility from institutional responsibility. In part this has happened because schools have come to be regarded as the "keeping-places of wisdom" in our society, and their original purpose has been largely replaced with a disingenuously benign sheen of simply "helping children succeed."
Helping children succeed? Success has come to mean conforming, following dictates, observing the rules and regulations, the policies and procedures of the institution of school. Success is defined as good attendance records and high test scores. Homeschooling, on the other hand, redefines success as the learner taking responsibility for his or her own life.
There are important differences between homeschooling and schooling under the authority of a government-funded institution. If homeschooling is to remain an option through which we can maintain responsibility for our lives and our children's lives, we need to protect and defend the right to homeschool without undue interference from others. We need to acknowledge the differences between homeschooling and enrolled public school options, and we need to spread the word to others who can help us keep homeschooling as we currently know it available to our children, and to their children.
© 2004 Helen Hegener
May-June 2004 - Articles and Columns
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