Public Schools and Naive Kids

I’ve been fishing some of my better posts from GAH v1.0 out of storage for reposting. I’m not sure how relevant they are today, but they’re mine, and I like them. This one was written December 2, 2013. 

Public Schools and Naive Kids

One of the constantly recurring, and frankly silliest, objections to homeschooling is the embarrassing  naiveté of homeschooled kids. The implication is that a child’s growth and maturity will somehow be stunted by not witnessing the full smorgasbord of sinful behaviors and moral pitfalls that popular culture has to offer. If he hasn’t had a joint offered to him in the school bathroom by the time he’s a senior, there is simply no hope that he’ll be able to say no to it when he’s twenty!

When I put it that way, of course, the hollowness of the whole objection becomes evident, even to those who will most likely still think it’s better for a child to be “educated” in the ways of the world by his peers and (God help us) D.A.R.E instructors.
Fine, you’re right: I fully intend to turn my kids out into the world with little more than a theoretical understanding of the kinds of criminality and perversion that will most likely be going on right under their noses any time they walk down a busy street. By the time they leave my nest, they’ll most likely be in the same social position I am right now; people who engage in those activities don’t even want to talk to me much, let alone invite me to their parties. So I’ve just raised my children to be the kind of bland, boring, morally upright people that the unwise, unstable, and criminal amongst us shun out of instinct.

Oh, how could I be so stupid?

Like I said before, there is no way that I can keep my kids from finding out about sin, being sinners as they are. I don’t expect to. But there’s a flip side to this whole naiveté thing, and that is the fact that, when I send my naïve children off to be educated by government-employed strangers, their naiveté is a serious weakness, making them prey to unscrupulous teachers, wayward peers, and even crooked police. If I keep them either at home with me or under the tutelage of Christian teachers I know to be working toward the same goals that I am, these little ones of mine will still be naïve children, absolutely! But what else do you want children to be? Jaded? Worldly? Street smart? I thought we wanted to keep them off the streets, not familiar with them.

Where does this perverse desire to destroy childish innocence come from? Certainly not from God, who says that we must become like little children, and not the other way around, if we wish to see the kingdom of Heaven.

Several years ago, I witnessed the whole adult congregation of a church gathering around a group of teens to pray for them because of the sexual pressures and violence that they were forced to deal with every day. Now, I’m all for prayer, and I’m glad they were at least doing that much for the poor kids. But what caught me was the pastor’s words before they prayed. He said “Our children have to deal with pressures every day that we as adults would never have to face. They need God’s hand of protection on their lives in a special way.”

So we’re sending kids into these spiritual and emotional pressure cookers, even though in the “real world,” for which we are supposed to be preparing them, this stuff (bullying, sexual pressure, drug use, etc.), doesn’t happen among decent people? In the real world where grown-ups live, if these things happen there are both practical and legal steps that a grownup can take to defend himself. He can simply choose not to go there; he can prosecute wrongdoing; he can find a new job; he can find new peers. But these kids, who don’t have the benefit of years of wisdom? Meh. Just cover them in prayer and send them to learn from these people how to walk in Truth.

This little episode at church was what did it for me. It was about 8 years ago, and it was what convinced me to homeschool.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
–Proverbs 13:20

Not long ago, I witnessed a similar thing with a group of parents lamenting the sexual pressure that middle-school girls must face at such a young and inappropriate age. “Lord, help them!” they said. And they sent them back into the cesspool the very next day.

My dad is kind of a funny guy. When I was a teenager, he’d often see me doing some household task and ask “Do you need some help with that, honey?” I’d accept his offer, only to hear, “Help her, Lord!”

The difference between my dad doing that and these parents doing this is that my dad knew he was joking, and would then get up and help me. The Bible says some things about praying and doing:

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
–James 2:15-16

Now, if we’re called not just to pray, but to do for the physical needs of our brothers and sisters, how much more does this apply to caring for the souls of our own children?

My children’s naiveté will vanish, despite the foolish concerns of naysayers, but it will recede through years of Bible training, not through the hardening effects of early exposure. My son will learn how to keep to the narrow path through the learning of Proverbs and being made aware of his own sin by God’s word, not through being slammed against locker doors because he’s the only kid that won’t get high with the rest of his social group between classes. My daughter will learn to honor her body by being around those who also honor her body, not from those who belittle and objectify her.

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
–Luke 17:1-2

I went to a public school, so I know how that naiveté we’re so scared to see in our children gets worn away, and it is not through the maturing of a child’s spirit, but through the breaking of it. No thank you. We don’t want any of that kind of jaded “maturity” in our family.

 

A Weekly Homeschool Schedule

It’s January. Let’s get organized.

I’ve got a couple of new homeschooling mom friends who have wondered–with much more awe in their voices than I’m actually entitled to–how I keep eight students of different ages straight in my head. Honestly, I have in the past lost track of one or more students while thinking I had everything under control. I have one child who is so quiet and clever that he can make me forget to do his lessons, like a Jedi. It would be creepy, if he weren’t so cute.

One of the tools I’ve been using for a couple of years to make sure I know where we’re all supposed to be at any given moment, is this free printable week planner. This one gives me a plan for how our time will be used, but doesn’t get into the details of what we’re doing. Details are written out elsewhere. I’ve made a sample plan for you that doesn’t resemble our own very much for the sake of our privacy:

Sample Weekly Schedule

Each person in the family is assigned a color, with my color, purple in this sample, being the base color. The “everybody” color is blue, Child #1 is green, Child #2 is red, etc. If a child is with me directly for a chunk of time, his stripe is right up against mine, so I can see quickly who is entitled to my attention at that time. If he doesn’t have a stripe on a particular block, that means he has flexible time to play or finish whatever chores or schoolwork he has. I put chores on here, too. On Monday, Child #2 will be my dinner helper. Everybody cleans the chicken coop on Tuesday. You get the idea.

Our morning meetings are the times when we do whatever we can together, like Bible study, prayers, reading aloud from Shakespeare or Plutarch, PE, art and music study. The length of that meeting varies, so I do the week schedule after the lesson plans are finished. I give each student an individual meeting time for one-on-one teaching. If you have only three students, like the sample planner pictured above, you’ll have quite a bit more free time and flexibility than I do. I try to get to everybody one-on-one at least three times a week.

Maybe you don’t even need a plan at this moment. Don’t feel pressured to be organized if you’ve got everything well in hand without the extra work! When I was a new homeschooler with only a few kids, I didn’t often feel like I needed a plan, but after a while I did start to notice things slipping through the cracks, even with just a few students. Now that I’m teaching all stages, from three-year-old preschool to almost-grown ups (oh, my!), I definitely do need a little more structure to my day.

I use this planner for lesson plans, and the older kids have their own ways of organizing (or not) their independent work.

Since the only people who even know about this blog are my old readers who kept their subscriptions active when I stopped blogging a few years ago, I’m sure you are already doing things your own way, and many aren’t even homeschooling anymore. But if anybody is interested, or knows some new homeschoolers who would benefit, I’d be happy to show more about how we follow, roughly and haphazardly, and not at all in a way that Charlotte Mason would approve, a Charlotte Mason-style education using Ambleside Online.

 

 

Homeschooling in the Christmas Season

How did Christmas get to be a month-long thing, anyway? 

Christmas has become quite the to-do in our home, even though I never really got into the spirit of things for the first several years of our marriage. If I could put the tree up on the 23rd, then take it down on the 26th, that would have been quite enough for me, thank you very much. I guess motherhood is the Grinch-buster, because the longer I have little ones in the house, the more excited I get about all the baubles and lights. Christmas has become a treasured season in our lives, and not just a day. And that’s the way it should be!

Growing up in Appalachian mountain evangelical churches, I don’t think I ever even heard the word “advent” until I was in my twenties. Most people will find that amusing, I’m sure. Dumb hillbillies. Regardless, once I heard about it, I adopted the Advent calendar as a tradition in our home. When we only had a couple of kids in the house, I just put small candies or toys into a paper bag calendar I’d made. I’m not crafty, so you won’t see this one on Pinterest. I can’t believe this was 10 years ago.

As the family grew I couldn’t fit individual things into the bags anymore. Besides, doing things is way more fun.

Now, sometime in November I sit down and think of 24 Christmassy things to do (or eat!) leading up to the Day. I write the ideas on strips of paper and put them in the little drawers of our Advent Calendar.

Advent Calendar

 

Each year is a little bit different, depending on my mood and how much of a mess I think I’ll be up for. There is a lazy side of me that wishes I hadn’t taught the children to expect so much every year, but the quality time is always worth the effort. There are a few things that we do every year without fail. Of course, there is always the Reason for the Season, reading the Christmas story and singing hymns. There are some less pious things, as well, like gingerbread houses made with graham crackers and royal icing. I’ll post a how-to later on for those interested. Yesterday we put together a Christmas puzzle. We’ll use some peel-and-stick sheets to stick it together and frame it. Other things we do are making and taking gifts to neighbors, singing Christmas carols, and drinking hot chocolate.

So how do we keep on schooling when it’s just one big party? Well, to tell the truth, I called the puzzle geometry and art (it’s shapes and colors!) yesterday, and when the time comes for gingerbread houses, I’m going to call that “handicrafts”. We do our morning meeting with prayer and Bible reading, a few together things like Shakespeare or Plutarch, then a little bit of copywork and math. After that we’re as flexible as we need to be, depending on how time-consuming the day’s activity is. Sometimes it’s just an extra story or song. Sometimes it’s an all-morning event.

The kids can still fit their lessons in around the edges while we center our lives around the Truth that Christ was born for us. If we skip some academic things, I can still rest easy knowing that January is coming. We can grind it out then. We have so much going on in December that I’ve learned to look forward to January as a time to accomplish much. Perhaps I’ll even accomplish a few more blog posts! Sorry it’s been sparse so far, but as long as I’m raising these kids, it’s going to be like that. You know how it is.

What are your Christmas traditions? Do you have an advent calendar? Let me know in the comments what you do so I can fill out my calendar with new ideas next year! 

Permission to Be Ordinary

This is a repost from May 21, 2014. With the growth of homeschooling, and virtual schooling, and whatever else families have had to do to adapt during this ridiculous upheaval, I thought it might be a good time to remind ourselves that homeschooling isn’t really all that special. 

Homeschooling is going mainstream, and we’re about to lose one of our favorite arguments for it. 

Homeschooling is kind of an extraordinary thing to do, isn’t it? Even with the rapidly rising numbers of homeschooling families each year, we’re still in the minority (for now). Nearly every weekday outing I take with my kids requires me to explain to someone why my older children aren’t in school. People still don’t think of children staying with their mothers all day as a very normal thing. Parents just aren’t qualified to raise kids, you know.

When we think of homeschooling, we still think of violin-playing spelling bee champions with 140 IQ’s who were just too smart for normal school. And you know what? There really are a lot of home educated kids like that! It isn’t at all surprising that homeschoolers like to promote as much good press as we can for ourselves.

Stories in the news like this family with seven kids in college, all by the time they were twelve years old, and blog posts asserting that homeschooled kids are 120% more smarter than public schooled kids are constantly circulating the web, not because those are our best reasons for homeschooling, but because associating ourselves with such an outstanding group of people easily, if fallaciously, counters the arguments of which we grow so weary.

“You’re not qualified.”
“They’ll never get into college.”
“Homeschoolers are bad at math.”

Just a few weeks ago I had to listen to my neighbor explain to me that I can’t possibly teach my children math in the higher grades, so I’d better be ready to send them to school by eighth grade. (I’ve learned to just nod my head and pretend that I’m going to take that brand-new, brilliant idea into consideration. I really don’t care what the neighbors think.)

We homeschoolers love this kind of evidence that homeschooling “works” because pointing to other people’s results is a lot easier than explaining our core reasons for keeping our children at home. Our motives are good and wholesome and altogether defensible, but because we live in a society that scarcely even understands what education is for, those points also take longer to explain and upset people more often than the academic argument.

I have to wonder, though, if we’re not accidentally making the task of defending our choice harder by using these kinds of things to bolster our case. You see, our stellar statistics and outliers like the “Brainy Bunch” family set some unrealistic expectations for normal kids. The first generation of homeschoolers was almost certainly an unusual group of people. It seems to me that they required a unique set of characteristics–qualities that usually go hand-in-hand with high intelligence and academic achievement–to be able to boost the homeschooling movement from the gravitational pull  of traditional education. That first generation had, at the very least, enough imagination to dream it up, confidence to follow through, ingenuity to figure out how, resourcefulness to keep it going under pressure, and courage to fight the courts and social stigma.

As homeschooling becomes more mainstream, though, we are going to see some regression to the mean (though I doubt that we could ever regress to the abysmal performance of public schools). Because homeschooling really is a viable and superior alternative, and for reasons that have little to do with math, more and more parents who would never have considered such a thing before are going to jump on the bandwagon.

Those stellar statistics are going to level out, homeschoolers.  At some point, our neighbors are probably going to notice that some of us are pretty awful at math and science, and most of our children are going to trade schools or straight to the workforce instead of to Harvard. For that reason, it would be good if we kept our debating skills sharp, so that we can explain why homeschooling is well within our rights, regardless of our outcomes. If our best defense of home education is that other homeschoolers are really smart, we are sunk, because most of us are going to be graduating children who become ordinary people.

And that’s OK. Cashiers and plumbers, homemakers and factory workers are every bit as necessary to the functioning of society as engineers and political leaders. Homeschoolers, as much as we cheer for greatness and excellence, and hope to see our children attain the absolute pinnacle of their personal capabilities, we need to give ourselves permission to be  ordinary. The rightness of our choice to raise our own children isn’t predicated on our academic results or our children’s future earnings. It is based solely in our right and responsibility to raise our own children for the Glory of God. (Yes, I am aware that many people homeschool without any religious purpose, but they still have that right and responsibility, whether they know it or not.)

If we don’t keep our focus on that first principle, we’re going to make life mighty hard for our kids who are better at bricklaying than calculus. Not only that, but we might find our right to raise our own children, so hard won by the first generation of homeschoolers, diminished by our own focus on the wrong point. We need to speak the language of liberty when we defend our choices, rather than flashing the gaudy plumage of worldly success.

Test scores may temporarily dazzle our opponents into silence, but they will not stand the test of time like the simple truths of God-given rights and individual responsibility.