This is the title of an excellent article directed towards homeschoolers. First, before I share it, I wanted to pen some thoughts of my own.
In answer to the question in the title of this post, of course we are. But there is SO much more to learn besides academics. If all that was taught was academics, then all we would have are a bunch of computers with legs. One needs to build the child's character too. Who do you want to build your child's character? Yourself? Or ninety-one other people? (That would include the teacher, the thirty students, and the student's parents who have an influence on the students.) We all hear the news; we all have seen ill behaved children; we have all met rude teens (one only needs to look behind the counter at a fast food establishment). Are those the type of people you want teaching your child? Yes, I have heard the argument “they will get exposed to those people sooner or later.” My reply is, why not wait until the child has proper discernment? Why not build a strong foundation first? Why not expose the child little by little, and be by his/her side to help, to explain it all?
I need to be clear here – my children are not saints, not yet anyway. Are they ever ill behaved? Of course. Are they ever rude? Yes. The difference is that I am there to correct them. A teacher in an over-crowded classroom cannot do that. She/he doesn’t even have the time to teach all the academics that are needed.
Academically, my children are strong. It is their characters that impress people the most. They love spending time with their grandparents and great grandmother, helping them and not expecting or wanting anything in return. This carries over in how they treat other adults, like offering to help an elderly woman put her groceries into her car. Recently, my children saved their money for quite awhile. They each had a special thing in mind to purchase. Adults frequently commented on how impressed they were about this, as they are so used to children expecting things to be given to them. (As I write this, I had to stop to correct one of my children for slamming a door in anger. See? No saints here….. not yet. But I am working on it diligently.)
Let us not forget the old, tired argument of “but they need to learn social skills”. Go back to the middle of my second paragraph – are those really the social skills you want your child to learn? Besides, it’s not as if we live in a cave. We go to Mass, get together with other homeschool families, go on frequent field trips, etc.
Ok, enough of my ramblings. Here is the article by Amy Pak of Home School in the Woods. She was kind enough to give me special permission to post it here. Please read the article, she expresses it all much better than I can. Thank you Amy!
Are We Raising "Academic" Kids?
I remember when we first began homeschooling our children in the mid 90s. The key question every relative, neighbor, and even church-going friend was concerned about was, "Can you really educate your children? Will they have all the academics that they need to enter the world?" Of course, we would proceed to give a blow-by-blow of the language and math that we were teaching in whatever grade they were in (to see how it compared with what was being taught to their public school peers) and I began to notice a "testing" of sorts when they were with my children. They would ask academic questions of them to see what they knew and what they didn't know--questions you just didn't ask children in everyday conversation...and usually when they thought I was out of earshot. As the years progressed, I found that yes, the "reading, writing, and 'rithmetic" were an important part of our day, but being with my children 24/7 was giving me much more exposure to their attitudes, their mannerisms, and a front seat to how they dealt with each other as siblings and made choices and decisions in many situations. There were many opportunities to not only correct a selfish gesture or a mean-spirited remark, but several conversations arose regarding how to prepare oneself for the world, for being a respecter of persons, for choosing the right path, and most of all, for molding one's character to be more Christ-like. From the smallest thing as a person's attitude we'd see on T.V. to how we saw another child conduct himself in a store, everything became a topic for discussion to learn about what we, together, observed. THESE were crucial learning times! And had my husband and I not been with my children as much as we were, teaching them from the home, we would not only have missed all the golden moments of opportunity, but I have no doubt we would have lost them daily to the values and influences of their peers and others of whom I know nothing about.
My daughter just approached me the other day with a serious revelation that had dawned on her. Among the many friends she has at church, some are homeschooled, but several are not and it is obvious in their choices and comments. Thoughtfully, she told me, "Mom, I fight myself not to conform to the "popular" friends in the group. I am so glad that among them I have great role models who hold to a higher calling. If I had not been homeschooled, I know for a fact I'd be in trouble... I know I'd have been listening to them rather than to you, but I can see where they are headed! And I know that they should be making wiser choices and it's frustrating to watch...and that could've been me.
"Wow! This took a lot for her to say, as not only was it a reality check for herself (and a confession of sorts), but for her dad and me as parents! And to know that all those moments we had spent sculpting and polishing her character all those years are now reaping a reward. She has eyes to see and ears to hear. All of a sudden, the academics don't seem to have the weight they carried before. Yes, they have their place, but there is a bigger lesson to be taught here... Foundation of character and moral values, the life-long striving to be Christ-like. As John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." As I pondered what my daughter told me as she left the room, one comment hung like a warm ember in my heart: "All I know is, I'm so glad I've been home with you!"
With two more rowdy boys with years still ahead of them until manhood, I thanked God for that inspiring word from my "could-have-been-prodigal" daughter. And with that, I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and turn to take the next step on the path He has set before me.
By Amy Pak