Slowing Down

 
 

                 As we became a homeschooling family we dove headfirst and completely submerged ourselves in our new lifestyle.  We joined all kinds of groups and signed up for extracurricular activities.  I didn’t want my children to miss the social aspects of public school or be left out of opportunities to develop their talents.  We soon found ourselves involved in dance lessons, play groups, book club, science classes, art classes, sports teams, guitar lessons, and the like.  Just typing this list makes my head spin.  Somehow we managed to keep our heads just above water.

                 One night my husband made a startling comment as we sat down to family dinner, “This is a novelty,” he remarked.  I quickly realized that he was right.  Family dinners had become few and far between, family home evening was even going by the wayside as I made justifications that we were getting plenty of family time, after all, we homeschool!  Our weekends were filled with all kinds of activities and I was really starting to wear out. 

                My littlest kids were spending hours in the car each week as we sat in traffic to drop kids of at their “enriching” activities.  After the third or fourth week in a row of relentless activity I had finally had enough.  I now longer cared about looking like a flake or a quitter.  I started weeding things out left and right to clear some space into our schedule.  One by one I cancelled activities and I began to feel lighter.  That next week, I had carved four free days into our schedule. 

              Suddenly, we had the gift of time!  I made a point to have family dinner.  I read an article posted recently on The Sentinel about making family home evening a priority.  We held family home evening that week.  Guess what?  I was starting to find my center.  I was amazed at how many enriching activities we could actually do at home when we were not sitting in traffic trying to get from one activity to another.  I can’t believe I was almost robbed of one of the most precious gifts of homeschooling, simplicity. 

                The adversary wants us to be completely distracted.  He wants us to be rushing from one activity to another so that we cannot hear the one resounding truth that we are enough.   Our young children especially need their Mothers and they need family time at home to learn and to play and explore.  Our children need us to really SEE and HEAR them.  While I believe that it is important for kids to be involved in extracurricular activities so that they can socialize and develop their talents, these activities cannot replace that crucial time spent in the home.  As homeschoolers, we are blessed to create our own schedules and choose our priorities for the most part.  I am grateful for the wise counsel of former General Relief Society President, Julie B. Beck in the following quote:

Mothers Who Know Do Less

                "Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power."

                  I hope to be able to guard and protect our most precious commodity – time.  I hope to have the discipline to choose only the best things and the confidence that I am making the right decision not to choose it all.   

Why Homeschool?

 
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     Every parent can home school.  There is no special requirement of the patience of Job or intellect of Einstein or tenacity of Wilbur and Orville Wright to qualify one as a home schooling parent.   Regardless if the child is enrolled in public, private or home school, every parent who has a child aged 5-18 does indeed home school in some way.  From helping with after school projects and homework, to finding tutors or mentors, to leading 100% of the child's studies at home, all of this parent-led, parent- assisted learning and instruction is home education in some way.

     If this concept is understood, then the focus of choosing the learning environment for the child becomes more about the child and less about the parent. 

 

So the question is more about – If every parent can home school, why should they? 

 

     Home schooling parents can tailor the educational instruction for each child to best meet that child's need including the need of identity and value.  A child's self-esteem need not be valued on how quickly they recite the times tables or how well they memorized the state capitals.  A child's self-esteem can be enhanced by those abilities, but not defined by them.  The only qualification is for the parents to dedicate themselves to finding mentors, groups, individuals, and experiences that meet the needs of their child's education as well as dedicating time themselves in the pursuit of knowledge.  If you need to hear it, I'll say - “You don't have to teach your child Algebra!”  There!  Feel better?  But, the parents need to find the resources, tools, and mentors that will.

     Home schooling parents can provide life skills and real life experiences.  When has any adult ever been in a work environment where everyone else was their same age and lived in the same area of town?  The public school model is not realistic in that way, nor does it provide the best avenue for social skills.  Social skills are created and enhanced by meeting, working and conversing with people of varied ages, skills and backgrounds.  Home educated children are constantly exposed to a variety of people with whom they are taught to respect and to converse.  The majority of social interaction for home school students is with adults (librarian, store clerk, repairmen, museum docent, art teacher, field trip tour guide...).  When adults have conversations with children, they patiently guide the child to proper manners, etiquette, expectations, and also reward children who speak clearly, intelligently and with interest of learning.  Compare this instruction on socialization with the socialization that occurs in a class of twenty-seven 3rd graders.

     Home schooling parents can allow the child to progress as fast and far as they desire or as slow as needed.   There is a difference between education and knowledge; education is obtained through a formal study process from institutions and set curriculum, and knowledge is obtained through experience and knows no bounds regarding age, required curriculum or institutions.  Knowledge is not taught, but acquired through self efforts.  In this regard, home educated children begin their life of learning in the realm of knowledge, not merely education.

     Home schooling parents offer their children the gift of time.  Time to learn to do chores and contribute to the family as well as time to learn an art or sport.  Time to be involved with the family and create working relationships with siblings learning to compromise, cooperate and care (amid the usual chaos :o).   Time to completely satiate their thirst for knowledge because they can dive as deep into subjects for as long as they desire.  The home educated child is placed in a position of quicker maturity by learning to manage their time and resources at an earlier age.  By managing time, these students are able to complete their daily studies and household chores, and also have time to enjoy recreational interests and community service.  Family vacations can occur anytime during the year and can last for the amount of time determined by the family, not by the school schedule.

     Home schooling parents create an environment of desiring wisdom not only for their children but for themselves.   Leading by example, these parents enjoy enhancing their own knowledge by reading aloud classics to the family, by discussing religion and beliefs, with exercise and play, with working side-by-side in the home and in the community, and with the sharing of their hobbies and interests.  Inspiring a desire for wisdom is not as challenging as one may think.  Consider this quote:  “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.  The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”  (President Boyd K. Packer, April 2004, Do Not Fear).  When the home schooling family places a “study of the doctrines of the gospel” as the main part of their curriculum, the natural outcomes can include desires for wisdom, increased obedience, philanthropy, and self-mastery to name a few.  A philosophy of life-time learning negates the popular thought, “I'm in school, so I'm learning” verses “I'm not in school, please don't make me think!”

     Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart.  It may require the home school parent to grow and develop parts of their character as well as enable their child's growth.  However, whatever path led the parents to consider homeschooling, they will be blessed for spending time with their children.  Focusing on the child's needs, considering that to some degree each parent already home schools and remembering the thrill of seeing a child learn are the foundational ways to make the journey to home education a successful and enjoyable one.

Written by: Tami Maloney

 
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