Are you making the right choice?
I have been a home educating parent for a number of years. We have only one child who is now a teenager. Except for a brief experience at public school in grades two and three, he has received the majority of his education here at home. I will admit that it has not always been easy and it has not always gone according to plan. I'm sure like every other home educating parent I have naturally asked whether we were doing the right thing. If the benefits did not outweigh the drawbacks I am certain my choice would have been different. Even with doubts at times, I have always had the feeling that this was the right course to take.
One of most important factors in succeeding with home education is to get support from others with similar interests. This is possible by joining an association and keeping in contact with other home educating parents. Having support from friends and family is a tremendous benefit, and lessens the burden of having to feel you must prove to them that you are making the right choice.
What does public education provide?
Public education over the years has become a source of learning that has become accepted as the norm. It certainly has served its purpose for countless families. Many children have benefited and become successful adults. It has functioned for years with very few people questioning its authority. Since I have been out of the public education system for close to thirty years, it would not be fair for me to say I could give a true evaluation of public schools. It does seem in my opinion though, that unfortunately not many changes have taken place.
Students must constantly compete against each other to be the top in their class. While this may be rewarding for a small percentage it obviously leaves the majority of students questioning their own ability. The smartest and brightest will benefit by being praised and increasing their chances of entering a better university. You might ask what is wrong with that, they certainly have worked hard to earn these rewards. I certainly would never want to discourage students from trying their best, but we can't blindly ignore the children that were not as successful.
What happens to those students, possibly even a majority who struggled with their education and did not find it rewarding? What would motivate them to continue on with school? Isn't perpetuating a system in which the smartest get the greatest rewards and the average or below average face the consequence of failure, and all of the stigma that goes with it, counterproductive? Isn't it more valuable to ensure that all students receive an education that allows them to make mistakes and rather than be punished, encourage them to learn from their errors? Keeping an interest in learning is a lot easier if you don't have to fear failure. This is one way that home education surpasses public education.
Is home educating working for me?
How do you want to measure your child's success? Is it necessary for your child to complete college or university for you to feel that home education has been successful? Must they also go on to have a high paying job and distinguished career before you feel that you have accomplished your goals, and if your child did not achieve your expectations, would you feel that you had failed? How will you know when you have succeeded?
Maybe there is a different way of looking at success. In school we are taught to gain and remember knowledge in hopes that it will be eventually useful. Learning on the other hand is different, because it means the way in which we gather knowledge. If the art of learning can be taught, then measuring our success as a teacher has a different meaning.
When you are learning, there is no need to ask the question--how much knowledge do I need? Learning and not knowledge then becomes the important factor in determining success.
Is there a way to know that as a home educating parent you have made the right choice and are being successful? Well certainly there isn't a test you can take to see if you passed, it isn't that easy. Each family may have different reasons for choosing home education and I think it is important to ask yourself some questions. Besides the most obvious questions related to learning skills such as reading and writing and gaining knowledge, there may be some basic, yet significant subjects that I feel most schools overlook.
When I was in school, we were never taught how to deal with life challenges even as simple as balancing a cheque book or as difficult as understanding prejudice. So as a parent, what do you want your child to know? Does your child have confidence and the skills to take on new challenges? Is your child comfortable talking to new people including friends of yours? Is your child learning how to look after things around the home, including cooking and cleaning? Does your child feel a responsibility for helping out around your home without expecting a payment in return? Do you feel that when your son or daughter is old enough, that they are included in some of the important decision making? A very important question is, does your child enjoy learning?
One of the most important aspects of home education is that it allows you the freedom to teach values that are important to your own family. Not every family will agree on the same method and teachings or philosophy, but there is a common bond among home educators, that being, the right to teach our own children what is important to us and them.
There are probably an endless number of questions you can ask yourself to determine how to measure your own success with home schooling. With the world changing, not always for the better, one thing is certain-that children will need more help and guidance in understanding the future. Teachers and schools will always be necessary in our society and we are fortunate to have free education. On the other hand, unfortunately, with so much diversity and so many subjects and so much technology to teach, this can also be a hindrance. The biggest influence on our youth in their earlier years will be their mothers, fathers and other family members. Parents who choose to educate their own children may feel they are making a sacrifice but more profoundly they are changing society and a way of life, as well as laying the foundation for another generation.
Should we leave it up to the public education system to determine the future of our children? We have for many years. Can we bridge the gap between educators and parents? Will it be easier or more difficult in the future to home educate our children? In a society that places so much emphasis on knowledge, is it possible for a young adult to be successful without a college or university degree? Of course time will reveal the answers, but I truly believe that educators, especially parents, can initiate the changes in our society. If you see the need to change society then you also realize you have the ability and responsibility to do so.
It is often said that our young people will be the leaders of the future. Realizing this, it is extremely important that they are given as much training and learn as many skills as possible so they can meet the challenges we now face and new ones to come. In summary, I feel that measuring the success of home education is not just how much knowledge a child possesses but the ability they have, in order to function in an ever changing world.
Karl Martin has been a homeschooling parent for about 10 years and has worked in the high tech field in Kanata, Ontario for over 17 years until recently being laid off. Karl states that: "This break from my normal routine has given me a chance to do some writing and spend much needed time with my family."