It hasn't really become that much of an issue yet, because Jim is just four years old. Nevertheless, we've not hidden it from anyone in church or family that we do not intend to send Jim packing off to any Kindergarten (public or private) when the time comes. We get all the usual questions. We do not necessarily give all of the usual answers. Here's a quick rundown of my position (which is not necessarily always the same as Tracy's view) on these questions:
- Everybody home schools and everybody schools out of the home—the question is, when do you switch from one to the other. People do not think it unusual for kids to learn to walk and talk at home from Mom and Dad. At the other end of the spectrum, people don't usually homeschool college. The educational pattern for raising children is to begin their education at home and then to transition them to studies outside the home at some point. The whole debate is over the time of transition.
- Our experience suggests to us that five or six is too young to make the transition. Tracy has an M.S.E. (Master of Science in Education). She has taught in public schools. At one job, she participated in a teaching method called "looping." To state it simply, she kept the same classroom of kids for two years. Year one, she taught them first grade. Year two, she taught them second grade. For first grade, the class only did somewhat above average (attributable to the fact that Tracy is an exceptional teacher, IMHO). For second grade, the kids really took off and the whole class performed far above expectations. We believe that early elementary learning is as much (or more) about relationship as it is about skill. We believe that the kids blossomed so well in the second year because they started the year with a relationship already in place with the teacher. As we age, I think that the dependence upon relationship for learning diminishes (but never goes away) while the dependence upon skill and diligence (of both teacher and student) increases. What does Tracy's looping experience have to do with homeschooling? Quite simply, we already have a strong relationship with our children. We believe that, at the beginning of their education, they will never have any relationship more conducive to learning than the relationship with their parents.
- I'm committed to the education of my kids, not to homeschooling. At the very first moment that I conclude that they will get a better education in a public school, we'll be there to sign up the very next day. If we had one of several specific special-needs situations, I would do precisely that, probably. Different public schools have different strengths and weaknesses (as do private schools and homeschool environments). We're going to evaluate it all with one and only one criterion in mind—what is the best thing for our children? I will not sacrifice my children upon the altar of possible ramifications within the church. I am neither a part of any movement to keep everyone in government schools nor a part of any movement to drive everyone out. For me, it is not a career decision or a political decision; it is a parenting decision. We will discharge the responsibility given us by God to raise these children, and we will seek to do it with excellence. At this point, we can see no more excellent way than for us to educate our children ourselves. We have not worked out with precision the age (stage) at which we will make the transition to out-of-the-home schooling. We'll cross that bridge when we get there. We're very open to hybrid models like University-Model Schooling as a bridge from one model to the other. If I am ever a part of starting a school, it will probably follow the university model. But the point is that we plan to be open and flexible, responding to the educational needs of our child.
- I do not believe that attending a government school would make a drug-using, boozing, sleeping-around, baby-aborting, reprobate, parent-sassing, nose-piercing, Democrat-voting fiend out of my child. If you believe the gospel and if you'll consider the facts of history, I don't think you'll believe that, either. According to the gospel, people become this sort of thing because they are sinful human beings. Remember...Eve...a serpent...a big, red, shiny apple? My kids have a sinful nature, and I'm going to have to face up to that, no matter how much it scares the living daylights out of me (and believe me, it does). As for the case from history, compulsory universal public education is only around a century old. Guess how long we've had drug-using, boozing, sleeping-around, baby-aborting, reprobate, parent-sassing, nose-piercing, Democrat-voting fiends? A whole lot longer. Public education is not the cause here. I don't think public education is helping much—I acknowledge that many of the problems highlighted by my brethren who are pursuing other alternatives for education are indeed serious and real problems. But let us all be honest and concede that we are sinful parents, too. We are quite capable of making something horrible of our children all by ourselves.
- For precisely the same reasons, neither can I believe for one moment that my children, unless they get themselves into a public school from the moment of their third birthday, will become drooling, zit-faced, tongue-tied, crosseyed, Caspar-Milquetoast, misanthropic wallflowers. If public schooling is necessary for successful socialization, then tell me, just how did humanity survive for our several millennia before public schooling? Hmmm??? At least for some kids (school-shooting perpetrators, anyone?), public schools seem quite adept at anti-socializing them. On the other hand, some kids attend public schools and wind up with great social skills. Here's a thought—maybe there are at least one or two other factors that affect a matter as complex as socialization?