Archive for July, 2006
Home schoolers tend to be independent. The very fact that a family home schools means they are willing to go against the norm. They're willing to stick their neck out and do what they feel is best for their family. If home schoolers are so independent, then why are there so many home school support groups?
When I first began home schooling (many years ago — 1991), I knew a few families that home schooled. I wasn't a member of a support group, but I had some casual support. One weekend, I attended a Greg Harris seminar in Houston. I walked into the auditorium and saw 500 people. I knew there were home schoolers out there, but I had never seen so many in one place at one time. I was amazed. The seminar was good, but the fact that I was sitting there with so many people who were doing the same thing I was doing was the best thing I got out of that weekend.
We need each other. It doesn't matter what we're doing, we want to be around other people who are doing it. If we're trying to lose weight, we seek a group of people doing the same. If we have a medical problem, we seek others who have been through it before. The list can go on and on. We need each other.
Home schoolers are no different. We need the support of those who are doing what we're doing. We need to hear the experiences of those who have been doing it longer than we have. We need the camaraderie that comes with those of the same philosophies of life.
There are different types of support groups. It may be beneficial to participate in one or several at the same time. There are local support groups, regional/state support groups and special interest support groups.
What can the local support group do for me and my family? It can provide us with group activities such as field trips and co-op classes. It can provide us with opportunities for growth through seminars, book fairs and newsletters. It can provide us with contacts to experienced home schoolers, home schoolers that have the same interests I have, or home schoolers that just want to get together with others.
Well, what about the regional or statewide support group? This support group is a means of organizing the smaller support groups to enable them network more efficiently. It may put out a newsletter with information that covers a broader range than just your little area of the town or state you live in. It may provide a large convention with nationally recognized speakers and lots of vendors. It may provide a voice with your state government and keep abreast of the laws that are being passed that might affect home schoolers.
Then there are special interest support groups. These support groups might be relatively local (in a metropolitan area) or nation wide. They may band together people who are teaching children with learning disabilities, or those of a particular faith or those of a particular nationality. These groups may be all the support a particular family needs or just another resource that they use to aid them in their home schooling experience. Special interest support groups may offer regular meetings, seminars, magazines, newsletters or have a presence on the internet.
All of these support groups have a noble purpose and good intentions. So why haven't I stopped talking about support groups at this point. I want to talk about some of the negative aspects of support groups. Let me say before I go further that as of this writing, I have home schooled for 15 years in 3 different cities in Texas. I have been a member of various types of support groups and I have even done some of my home schooling solo. I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly of home school support groups.
When I first began home schooling, I was in a town that had no local support group. I knew a few families that were home schooling and we decided to start a group of our own. We set a time and invited anyone that was interested to come participate. I got a phone call from a representative of the regional support group in the area. She wanted to come help us get started. I didn't know why we needed help, but I told her to come anyway.
Our first meeting was attended by several families and this representative. We began making plans on what we wanted to do. We basically wanted to have a park day, go on some field trips and have a mom's night out. The representative spoke up and said that we must form an organization, elect officers, write by-laws and have a statement of faith. None of us saw a need for this. I asked why we would need a statement of faith. I was told that having people sign a statement of faith would keep the witches and devil worshipers out of our group. Well, that didn't make any sense to me. If there were witches and devil worshipers trying to infiltrate our group, I didn't see why they would have a problem signing the statement of faith even though they didn't believe in it.
To make a long story short, the meeting left us feeling a little disillusioned. We did start our loose support group, but another one was started that was done the “right” way. We had a wonderful time at our park days and field trips. I don't recall ever having a witch of devil worshiper among us.
Our next experience with a support group was in a different town. The support group was very rigid. The laws and statement of faith were quite controlling. In fact, the statement of faith stated that the support group was an extension of the family. Since it was an extension of the family, it should be organized like God wants the family organized. That meant that only men could be leaders. I didn't get the connection. I've never thought of a support group as an extension of my family. I don't recall ever reading in the Bible where there was a husband, wife, children and support group. This group controlled every activity that wanted to associate itself with them. They wanted to control money paid to co-op teachers, who these teachers could be etc. It seemed the independence of the home schooler was forgotten and the support group had turned into an organization that had outgrown its purpose.
The support group we're involved with now is very loose. No organization except an email group. No elected leaders, no by-laws, no statement of faith. This loose organization has been the most peaceful I've ever been a part of. We're just a bunch of families that are home schooling our kids.
I have never understood why parents would take their kids out of school so they could be in control of what they taught their children and then turn around and sign on with a group of people who wanted to tell them how to home school their kids.
The perfect support group would offer some activities for the kids to get to know one another (field trips, park days, co-op classes), some activities for the moms and dads to socialize (mom's night out, family nights, seminars) and a means to keep in touch with each other (newsletter, blog, yahoo group).
If you are being asked to spend a lot of time doing support group sponsored events, you might want to reconsider your priorities. If you're being asked to sign papers stating your allegiance to the group or the groups beliefs, you might reconsider if you haven't jumped from the frying pan (public school system) into the fire (home school system). If you're being asked to spend money for things that don't benefit your family (monthly or yearly dues), you might want to reconsider if this is really the best way to spend your money.
Well, do I recommend you join a support group? Yes. It is a great way to gain the confidence you need to do what you're doing. But, be careful that the “tail doesn't start wagging the dog”. Remember what your goals are and that it is your family.
So you've decided to home school. That's great! Are you going to bring school home or are you going to home school? Yes, there is a difference.
Doing school at home might go something like this:
At 8:30 the mom/teacher and children/students are in their schoolroom with desks lined up in a row. They work through their textbooks, filling in worksheets, preparing for the end of unit test. The teacher is kept busy grading papers and keeping the students focused on their work. At 3:30, they leave school at the schoolroom door, teacher turns back into mom, and students turn back into her children. This is done 5 days a week using a typical school calendar.
Home schooling will probably look more like this:
At 8:30 in the morning, one child is practicing the piano, another curled upon the couch reading a book about George Washington, mom is in the schoolroom listening to the 6-year-old read, while the toddler is playing with his cars at her feet.
After awhile, they all gather in the Living Room to listen while mom reads from the Bible and from Louisa May Alcott's book Little Men. Then while mom nurses the baby, the others go outside to play. They get interested in a frog in the garden and rush inside to ask questions about it. One writes about it in his journal, while another draws pictures of it.
After working on math and other academic activities they all eat lunch. The afternoon is filled with activities such as co-op classes with other home schoolers, park day or running errands with mom.
What is the difference between home schooling and doing school at home?
Home schooling parents realize that learning is not limited to a schoolroom. Instead, learning happens all day, all over the house inside and out. While there is a certain amount of “book work” to be done, the “book work” does not dominate the schedule. Trips to the grocery store offer lessons in economics. Playing in the yard teaches about weather, seasons, insects etc., going to the local museum teaches about history.
Homeschooling parents also discover that they are not teachers in the traditional sense. Their job is to provide their children with the experiences and resources they need to help them grow into responsible, God-fearing adults. At times, this comes from play time, visiting grandparents, doing chores, or watching TV (yes, carefully chosen TV programming can really be useful). At other times this comes from sitting down with pencil and paper and working those math problems.
Homeschooling is an extension of what parents do from the moment their children are born. Instead of helping them learn to walk and talk, they are now helping them learn to read and do Algebra.