Here’s how it reads: A school-age child residing in the State of Texas who is being educated in a bona fide manner by the parents…
That’s the first phrase in the ruling by Judge Murray as he describes the rights and responsibilities of home school parents in Texas.
As a Texan, I have read this ruling many times. I can spout off the main points to new home schoolers quite easily. There is not much required of us. We are to teach grammar, reading, spelling, math and good citizenship. While good citizenship can leave you scratching your head, the other required subjects are pretty self-explanatory.
But what about this phrase “bona fide manner”? Further explanation on THSC’s website states — “not a sham”. This simple phrase describes the difficult part of home schooling. It puts the responsibility of the quality of our children’s education squarely on the parents’ shoulders. We can’t blame someone else for the quality of our “school”. It is all up to us — individually.
I have wondered in the past why this phrase was included in the ruling. As I have seen many home schoolers go about educating their children, I have been sadly surprised by the lack of attention to this phrase by some people. Educating children is hard work. While we have been given lots of freedom to educate our children the way we see fit, we have a huge responsibility to see to it that it actually gets done. We must be consistent and diligent to ensure our children are not slighted. In our determination to ensure our parental rights are not hampered we must not forget that our children are totally dependent on us to educate them.
I’m all for having a relaxed home school, taking advantage of opportunities to make memories with our children through spontaneous fun days and including our children in non-academic activities such as taking care of the sick and elderly but we must put the education of our children high on our priority list. If we find that we are having trouble getting school done with our kids, we need to step back and figure out why. We need to adjust our schedules, drop outside activities, and determine that we will home school in a bona fide manner.
What do I mean by adjust our schedules? It could be something as simple as getting everyone to bed at a reasonable time so everyone (mom included) is rested in the morning. It could mean that a definite start time for formal schooling is established so that it will get done every day. It could mean that the teaching parent must give up a hobby or a job or a desire to shop or a desire to play computer games. Let’s get serious about what is really taking up our time and be honest enough to make the changes necessary.
Drop outside activities? Isn’t this one of the joys of home schooling? Co-ops, field trips, clubs, lessons, sports, jobs, etc. These are all good things that we want our kids to participate in. How could they hinder our home school? We can have our kids involved in so many activities that there is not enough time for them do the work necessary to learn basic skills. Our kids can be so over-scheduled that they don’t have the time to quiet their minds and think on the things they are learning. They can be involved in so many “adult directed” activities that they never learn to be a self-motivated learner or to think for themselves. We need to guard our children’s free time so that they don’t become over involved in outside activities.
Determine that we will home school in a bona fide manner. We must actively make the decision that we will be consistent. We must provide the educational materials necessary so our children can learn. We must provide a calm and relaxed atmosphere so our children are not distracted with excessive noise, clutter and activity. We must set aside a specific time each day to “do school”. We must get it done — not just talk about it, not just plan it, not just want to do a good job — we must do it.
Home schooling is not easy. It is probably the most time consuming, brain draining, difficult things we could do. It is also one of the most rewarding but if we don’t do it in a bona fide manner we are only cheating our kids and ourselves. So get busy and get it done!
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” Ecclesiastes 9:10