March 29, 2010

Homeschool- What About the Scoffers?

"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.  For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:"  2 Peter 3:3-6

So the fact of the matter is, when you make the decision to home school, you will most likely encounter strangers, family and well-meaning friends who think they know better than you.  In the best interests of your children they will question your motives, intentions, reasons, strategy, curriculum, schedule, you name it.  Even though, the home school movement is far larger and far more widely accepted than when I set out, I still hear more than anything else, "How do I get my family on board?"

The best answer is much easier said than done.  Of course, that would be to do what you know is right for your children and let the rest work itself out.  When we started home schooling we didn't have much contact with our extended family on my side or my husband's so we were spared a lot of input.

The biggest objection came from my parents.  Education is very highly valued in my family.  My mother, an elementary school teacher,  was substitute teaching when we started formal schooling.  She was openly skeptical that Kaitlin had any chance of growing up healthy and well adjusted without public school socialization.  Mom has never been one to keep her opinions to herself, either.  When it comes to my children, though, I have the tenacity not to pay much attention to what others have to say.   It didn't hurt that she lived four hours away and rarely visited.  I politely listened to her objections during our weekly phone calls and then asked her about work to change the subject.

As part of Kaitlin's lessons in learning to read and write, I had her draft letters to relatives out of state each week.  She loved getting mail and would eagerly do her assignment knowing she would get something back in return, unlike tedious copy work in a tablet.  My mom would carefully write her a reply each time.    Somewhere around third grade, my years of patiently listening to complaints and objections paid off.  I was moved to tears, when in one of those weekly letters, mom wrote to Kaitlin about how blessed she was to have her mama home schooling her.  How she was learning so much more than kids her age and what a good job I was doing and what a nice young lady she was becoming.

Now, for those who don't know my mother, it is hard to appreciate that compliments are few and far between to begin with.  To admit that she might have been wrong is nothing short of a miracle.  I felt like I had arrived.

My father and step-mother's objections were a little different.  They wondered how I could adequately teach without a teaching degree.  How could I teach things like higher math and sciences when I was just a nursing major?  What about college?  How would she ever get into college?  I took the same approach with Pops as I took with Mom.  We're Italian and we can argue and debate for hours and get no where.  I knew the best defense was to avoid discussions of school. 

And it worked.  KK was somewhere around fourth grade when people started calling and emailing me saying things like, "I know we've never met but I ran into your dad and he told me I should call you for some advice about how to teach my son to read.  He's been in school and he hasn't learned yet and he is already in third grade."  It was very gratifying to hear my parents tell me that I should give so and so some advice because their children needed some help.

I say this, not because I was doing a particularly good job.  Not to tell you how great I am at this whole deal.  Because, I am not.  But to tell you that maybe the best defense is no defense at all.  Staying pretty, keep smiling and in time your schooling will speak for itself in volumes.  My parents were won over, not by anything I said, but because they saw a difference in my children both in scholastics and in their character and virtue.  Maybe your family is different from mine, but I am guessing not.  If I had debated with my relatives it never would have convinced them that we had made the right choice.  They had to see it for themselves.

In the meantime, I prayed.  In the meantime, I taught.  In the meantime, I tried to keep a good sense of humor. Most of all, I tried to remember, even if they never came to agree with our choice, this was not about them.  It wasn't about me.  Ultimately, it wasn't even about Kaitlin.  It was about a call from the Lord and obeying what He would have me to do.

Does that mean all was okie dokie?  No, siree!  As a matter of fact, just about the time my folks came around, we were slapped with a legal battle threatening the custody of our daughter, grounded primarily in our decision to homeschool.  I had to sit in the witness stand as the state's attorney accused me of being a radical.  We were isolating our daughter.  They implied that we were members of some cult and that she was not receiving an education equal to her peers.

I am not going to say it was easy.  Quite the opposite.  It tore my soul apart at times, threatened to ruin us financially and often sucked the energy from my body and spirit.  Am I glad we went through it?  I suppose I could have lived without the years of torment.  (Chuckling here) but I gained much from the whole experience.  Not the least being a deeper trust and reliance on the Lord than I ever thought possible.  After years of legal battle, multiple lawyers and several children later, I came out on the other side with a stronger conviction than ever that there was no other option but home school for our family.

We faced social services.  We were sent to psychologists, counselors and psychiatrists,  for which we paid thousands upon thousands of dollars.  We were required to take Kaitlin for scholastic evaluations.  They tested and questioned us about our political views, our moral stand point, our religious beliefs.  They told me I was a bigot because of my opposition to homosexuality.  I was a religious fanatic because I sighted God as my main reason for home schooling.  I was an unfit mother because we were vegetarians.  They asked Kaitlin questions implying she was abused and neglected.   

Guess what they found out?  In fourth grade Kaitlin tested on a college level for her language and reading skills.  She was far above her grade level in everything but math.  And in math?  She was equal to her peers.  She was declared well adjusted, socialized and perfectly normal.  It was indeed a satisfying day when the very state's attorney who had so vehemently accused me, looked me in the eye and said she couldn't imagine ever meeting a nicer family and what an honour it had been!  The judge who had ordered all the tests, counseling and evaluation smiled and nodded in agreement as if none of their words had ever been spoken and the last four years had just been a walk in the park.

Guess what else?  All current research says exactly the same thing!  Children who are home educated are well beyond their peers not just academically but also socially.  There was a time when home school parents were concerned about their children getting into college.  Especially, because they do not necessarily receive a diploma.  (That depends much on your curriculum and the state in which you live.)  Quite the opposite is true today.  At least in our region, colleges are now recruiting home school graduates and giving preference to home schoolers for acceptance into their programs. 

When we go into a public place, we can never get away without someone approaching me and asking if I home school.  When I answer in the affirmative they always reply, "I knew it!  Homeschool students stand out about the rest." 

I do not mean to imply that those who do not choose to home school are inadequate, it is not for every parent, every student or every family.  I am merely sharing my personal experience and stating the findings of studies, that began largely to discredit home schoolers.  For those who have made this choice and are facing opposition, I hope you will take away from here encouragement to stand in your decision, a resolve to rely on the Lord through the trials, strategy to face family and friends with the scientific evidence to support your beliefs and the confidence that if you remain steadfast and move forward in educating your children at home that one day their light and accomplishments will shine forth as your best defense for the decision you have made.

If all else fails, remember the most important thing in facing scoffers is to remember that you will have to one day answer to your children, your self and your God as to how you chose to raise your family.  All the rest really doesn't matter after that.   


1 comment :

  1. very, very well put post. thanks a million for it!
    I'm blown away at what they legal system put you thru. unbelievable.
    Your right.. "the best defense is no defense" My family (and many friends) are all for public schools/learning. While my parents don't necessiarly agree/like our choice, they respect our decisions.

    It's my hope also that people will realize the good in homeschooling, our chilren, our lives by what they SEE, not what I tell them.
    thanks again for all the advice! :)
    Happy Monday!