Standing in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble, my phone chirped, alerting me to a Facebook notification.
My children were completely engaged in reading twaddle of all sorts or playing with the elaborate train table, so I touched the screen on my phone and it took me to a post that I had published notifying me of a new comment.
I struggle with the home-schooling concept. There is a reason that most people don’t fix their own cars. There is a reason why most people don’t treat their own diseases. There are professionals who study the theory and application of the relevant principles in various disciplines. They become experts in their field.
I couldn’t read anything more in that moment. My knees were shaking and I felt a little sick that I had attracted such attention to myself personally because of writing about unschooling.
We don’t unschool, but I felt obligated to defend not only it, but also the whole notion of home education.
They become experts in their field…
I think the reality that home school parents are not all experts in the field of education is a common anxiety for all of us. The fear is preyed upon by people in the field of education as seen in the comment I received.
But what’s interesting to me is that even highly respected educators who have been trained, certified, and tried-by-the-fires of classroom management have felt the same anxiety when it came time for them to take their child home for school.
Home education is not a matter of expertise and readiness. It is a matter of conviction, commitment, and choice.
Even the trained experts in the field of education feel unqualified to teach their own children:
I was terrified, which was ridiculous. After all, I was a state-certified teacher. I’d taught public school for six years… The most discouraging thing I encountered was the lack of support from family and neighbors. When I started home schooling, I worried a lot…But as I look back none of the worries materialized. (Jessie Wise from A Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise; pages 3 and 628)
There are usually misconceptions driving people who confront home education.
The most common is that an education can be given. A true education is one that is sought after by the learner. In our society, many people are steeped in the lie that the best education happens in an environment manufactured by the experts. (Which, as it turns out, is one big sociology experiment that ends up changing its methods every 5-10 years or so, but that’s a subject for a different post.)
I cannot take out of my brain what I have learned and hand it to you and expect it to have the same impact. That’s why the real influential teachers that any of us have had the privilege to learn under were the ones who inspired us and gave us an example of confidence and respect for learning.
Knowing this, I understood that I could not give the author of the comment an education on the value of home education. Instead, while my heart was pounding, I wrote my response. Not one I could copy and paste from a handy home education manual, but rather from my experience, conviction, and from a spirit of unity.
“I will do my best to reply to each of the issues you raised:
1. It takes a professional to educate a child.
I completely agree. I would go so far as to say that there needs to be a higher standard for professionalism in parenting as well. I do not take my role as primary educator of my children lightly. It is my primary profession, and I take my job very seriously. I’m investing my life into this work, and the sacrifice to do so is very costly. I hope you can see from my writing that I am endeavoring to continue my education. This is not a mandatory requirement for me, but it is because I have learned to love learning. My number one goal in parenting my children is to always lead them by example. Inspiration has a great effect on the human spirit….”
I went on to detail many more points to answer his comment, but the value wasn’t in what I said – it was in being ready to say it.
Often, confrontation comes without warning.
Whether the individual questioning your choice to home educate is coming from a place of good-will or not, the most important stance you can have toward home education is simply to know what your stance is.
- Your state requirements.
- Your family’s #1 reason for choosing home education.
- Your feelings toward other educational environments.
- Your options for obtaining further support, resources, and tools for home education.
And I recommend that you know these points well enough to express them to your spouse, a friend, or another home educating parent.
Chances are you won’t have warning before someone (well meaning or not) confronts your decision to keep your child home for their education. This simple confrontation will feel like a personal attack.
Maybe you’ve had a great first few weeks of schooling at home and so you’re all smiles and berries – happy to move into fall with field trips to apple orchards with your safe and supportive home school group.
I hope this is the case!
During times of joy and celebration, our guard is down and an attack from the outside can be hugely damaging because of the simple fact that it took you by surprise and the fall from the heights can seem more painful than already being low and going lower.
Or maybe your first few weeks of teaching your own offspring has lead to more battles than books and the voice inside your head is saying that maybe you made the wrong choice. Did you hear the wrong call? Are you living outside the plan for your life?
These doubts, feelings of failure, and the battles of everyday life in a season like this can be paralyzing. It feels best to hide the failures than to expose them to ridicule. Each day is a struggle already without someone knowing and judging you for it.
You are not alone.
In times like these, you do not need an attack from the outside. But confrontations always come in one form or another. Search for support now.
Do you have your response ready?
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