Saturday, July 7, 2007

Why We Homeschool

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
The ultimate baseline assumption for all of my opinions on this matter is as follows: Raising my children is my responsibility. That responsibility includes, among other things, providing for their education. Although I will gladly seek help and employ resources, I will not (even if and when they go outside the home for schooling) ever give away my authority and responsibility in that area to anyone else.

23 comments:

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

In a nutshell--What is University Model Schooling? I have read the links and it appears that this model is completely dependent on parental involvement.

From what I get from the UMS there is no safety net if the parents do not heavily involve themselves. Is that correct?

Blessings,
Tim

Bart Barber said...

Tim,

You are absolutely correct. University-Model schooling is a system in which the school is sold per-class and the classes do not meet every weekday. So, the University-Model school is in these ways modeled a lot like a...University.

In my opinion, apart from parental involvement, there is no effective safety net in the universe. A few students succeed scholastically in spite of parental noninvolvement, just as a few students fail in spite of parental involvement. One cannot discount the aptitude and motivation that the student brings to the table. But (again, in my opinion) the more robust the emphasis upon a purported "safety net", the more incentive for parents just to trust the net and let go of the trapeze bar entirely.

micah fries said...

Bart-

As a homeschool graduate who has struggled greatly over what to do with the education of my own children, I appreciate your insight. It is most intriguing. It is also, in my opinion, a much more balanced approach to homeschooling than much of the rhetoric that I hear from homeschool proponents. This is, as I said earlier, coming from a fan of homeschooling.

Sean M. said...

Bart,

Good post. I too am an advocate of allowing each family to make their own decisions, instead of an SBC resolution or a demoralizing sermon telling people what the only Christian thing to do is. Articles like this actually help others think through and reason out this huge decision.

I just returned from visiting a man in our church who gives music lessons. He told me that one of his students is a pre-teen girl who is homeschooled by her Christian(?) mother using christian curriculum.

The young girl revealed to her instructor that she sees no place for women in the Church, so she is becoming a practicing/studying/performing wiccan. Further, she told him that she is bisexual and reported numerous sexual encounters.

A few months ago this girl's mother told us that she would not let her daughter come to our church youth group because "she might be around other kids' who are a bad influence".

Of course, this is just one case. But I relay that story because so many people use homeschooling simply as a means to "protect" their kids and think that is the only step they will have to take or that it is a fool proof way to shelter them. Well, think again!

Tim Guthrie said...

Excellent post. We have done all three (Christian, Home, and Public).

We have found that regardless of which choice is made, Parental involvent makes the differnce -period.

I am thankful that our two boys had the grounding in the early years. It took both of us being involved.

And still does!

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. B.B.,

I could wax eloquent about homeschool for quite a while, but I'll just leave this brief comment.

We started to homeschool on a "just this one year" basis, but have been so impressed with the results in our children, that we now have committed ourselves to homeschool for all the children all the way through high school. (We are very firmly committed, I think!)

Thanks for posting on this important subject!

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Steve Weaver said...

Very balanced approach. Thanks for articulating it for us. We are currently homeschooling, but I think your approach makes sense for the long-term. In regard to parent's responsibility to educate their own children (which I strongly believe in), I've often made the comparison to our responsibility to clothe, feed, and provide shelter for our children. That responsibility does not mean that we have to make all the clothes, raise all the food, and build the house. Neither do we have to provide all the education. Others who are trained in certain fields may have to teach those fields to my children. But at the end of the day, the education of my children is my responsibility and I must be involved in the education process.

Benjamin S. Cole said...

Bart:

I believe that homeschooling is of all places the most appropriate venue to produce homemakers, in particular.

Do you think biblical parenting and responsible childhood education would render courses of study in homemaking at higher levels of "out of the home" education unnecessary?

Or asked another way: Do you think homeschool parents should receive undergraduate training in child development, pedagogical methods, etc., in order to succeed in homeschooling their children?

Does our culture not downplay the role of parents in educating their children? Do you think our seminaries should offer undergraduate curriculum in homeschooling? Perhaps a degree concentration?

BSC

Bart Barber said...

Ben,

Shouldn't that be either "an undergraduate curriculum in homeschooling" or "undergraduate curricula in homeschooling"?

To give your question a more serious answer than you intended, I'm sure…

First, I do indeed believe that successful upbringing of children will include strong training in life skills such as those which you are referencing. I do also think that American families in general have underperformance issues in this regard. Thus, ideally, seminaries would not need to offer such training. That they have taught things such as table etiquette since the days of James Petigru Boyce is evidence in my book that this is an ideal we will not likely achieve anytime soon.

As a bonus, I offer this morsel—if parents were doing what they should as parents, the task of the biblical studies department would be much easier, too.

Second, Tracy's formal training in education has been very helpful to us in homeschooling. I do not believe such training to be a prerequisite for successful homeschooling, but I do acknowledge its value.

Third, if memory serves, several administrations ago SWBTS offered a degree in administration of private Christian educational institutions. I remember where the office was located. Especially for missionary couples relocating to heaven-only-knows-where, I can see the tremendous value of such an approach.

Bart Barber said...

The "such an approach" on the end of the last comment refers to the idea of offering educational training that would make better homeschoolers of parents.

Liz said...

qcxrbuMr. Barber,

I began homeschooling in 1984 or '85 because we were going through the process to become SBC missionaries and did not ever want to send our children away to missionary boarding schools. After several years, my husband's migraines kept us from qualifying, but we continued.

I homeschooled my children K-12 when homeschooling wasn't cool and initially, I knew no one that was doing it. My youngest just graduated from college, with honors, last Dec. I am now homeschooling my grandson.

I have used just about everything out there at one time or another, in my 22 years.I am sure you have done your research, but may I suggest that you look at My Father's World curriculum for grade school? That is what I am using for my grandson. You can find it at www.MFWbooks.com.

William said...

Like Liz, we HSed in the 80s when it was not only not cool but considered lunatic fringe stuff.

For different reasons, we also used a private school, a private Christian school, and our kids finished in public schools. The private Christian school was by far the absolute worst of all.

Let parents make educational decisions for their kids as the Lord leads.

God bless you in it.

Bro. Robin said...

Bart

A very balanced approach. We decided not to homeschool, but we also have been very involved in our kids education. Of course there have been some rough spots, but I have also seen my son shine in that he invites his friends to church and engages them on spiritual matters.

I will close with Tim Guthrie's comment, in that I believe he has hit the nail on the head, "We have found that regardless of which choice is made, Parental involvent makes the differnce -period."

God Bless

Ched said...

This is helpful reasoning.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the comments. We homeschooled about the last half of our children's education, but got help in areas in which we felt we were weak. The main thing, IMO, is what you point out -- parental responsiblity for the education of their children. If we accept that responsibility, we can understand that we don't have to be boxed in by any particular method but rather must do what is best for our children's education.

CB Scott said...

Now, this is better.

cb

tracey fields said...

we started homeschooling last semester and are seeing amazing benefits/results flow from it. thanks for your post. my brother, kyle goen (fbc smyrna), linked me to your blog.

Bart Barber said...

Liz and William,

Thanks so much for your early leadership in this area. We who follow you are indebted to you.

Bart Barber said...

Robin,

We are agreed, my brother. Someday we too may find that we have made the same choice at some point along the way. For right now, this is the path we have chosen. Parental involvement necessarily means that parents have not defaulted to any unconsidered opinion.

It was great to see you today, brother.

Bart Barber said...

C.B.,

I'm so relieved! :-)

Bart Barber said...

Tracey,

Welcome, sister in Christ. Come back often.

CB Scott said...

Bart,

You should be. I was deeply concerned:-)

cb

Tony said...

Hello Bart,

I followed my way over here from Brother Dave Black's blog. I have perused your blog before but this is my first time commenting. My wife and I also homeschool.

This is one of the most well-reasoned, rational Why We Homeschool posts I have read in recent memory. So many of these types of posts are over zealous and anti-public school but yours is neither. I agree that parents can lose their children even if they homeschool, what I like to call "jumping ship". Thank you for the fine emphasis on the Gospel in the educational endeavor as well and parents' particular responsibility in the education of their children.

Sincere blessings in Christ,
Tony