Posted by: chrisdavis | February 3, 2011

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children! – Part 7


CHANGING THE EMPHASIS

[This is Part 7 of the Article, “Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children!”]

I ended my last entry by saying…

If I could do it all over again, I would not call ourselves “homeschoolers.” I have actually come to dislike the term because I think it creates significant internal problems for the family. If I were starting over again, when the lady at the store asked, “You boys aren’t in school today?” I would have taught the boys to say, simply, “No ma’am,” and let it go at that.

If you are homeschooling and your emphasis is on the school part of home-schooling, it is my guess that your homeschooling is driven by an ongoing feeling of insecurity; perhaps even fear.

Over the years I have noticed a real distinction between children who are home and those who are schooled-at-home. The difference between the two is one of emphasis.

How can you tell if your child is being schooled at home?

The most obvious way you can tell is if you believe that public schools actually know what they are doing. This is important because to accept that any part of the public school model is correct will cause you to mimic what they do.

What do public schools do? They faithfully follow their paradigm of what it means to educate a child and how that task should be accomplished. Read the list, below, and see how much of it you believe in. You can easily tell what you believe by how much your homeschool tracks with the following public school model:

  1. The emphasis is mainly on learning information. More time is spent learning information than learning all other forms of knowledge: reason, wisdom, judgment, relationships, practical skills, what the child wants to know, etc. How much of your child’s time is spent learning information, especially information he could easily find if he actually needed (or wanted) to know it?
  2. There is an agree-upon amount of information a child needs to know in order to be considered “educated”. In educational terms, this is called “The Scope” (of information).
  3. Because the amount of information needed for a child to be considered “educated” is so large, the Scope is separated into common Subjects. Then each Subject is arranged from its simplest form to its most complex. In educational terms, this is called “The Sequence”. Every school (and textbook) displays a “Scope & Sequence” Chart showing the progression through which the child will move as he learns each Subject.
  4. The name given to each Sequence is “grade”. A child is commonly assigned the sequence level (grade level) in which are other children his same age.
  5. Testing determines if the child has learned enough of the information to continue to the next sequence, or grade.
  6. Children are provided with letters so they will know how well, or poorly, they scored on tests (how much of the information they remember and can retrieve).
  7. It takes the average person most of his childhood to accomplish the task of becoming educated at the basic level—usually about 12 years, or approximately 15,000 hours.
  8. Children should learn information simply because it is supposed to be learned. The information does not need to have any personal value to the child nor does the information need to be taught in a way that demonstrates that it has (or will have) practical value to the child, either currently, or in the future.
  9. A room devoted exclusively (or almost exclusively) to learning helps the child become educated.
  10. The use of grade-level curricula—that can be used by all children in the same sequence (grade)—is the most efficient way to school children.
  11. Everyone understands that education is a competitive undertaking. Students compete with one another for their personal evaluation. There are winners and losers. Failure is to be avoided and just about any means one needs to employ to avoid a negative evaluation is worth considering.
  12. An individual’s evaluation depends on his own, individual, effort. Cooperative effort is called “cheating” and is punished.

If you were institutionally schooled, you may have internalized some, if not all, of the above.

In the next installment, I will offer some alternative emphases that might be considered as we raise our children in our own homes

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Responses

  1. I am so loving this series! It puts into words what I have spent years figuring out myself (and often failing at). Will there be a way to link to these articles in order so I can send others here? Maybe a link to the next part at the bottom of each one and then I can just send them to part one.

    Thank you for doing this!

  2. Never mind the links! I just found that they are already there. Thanks!

  3. You’re right. When I plunge back into the “we have to’s”, it’s driven out of insecurity and fear. My older children were taught in a relaxed atmosphere, but some subjects were “have to’s”. I was actually more relaxed with them in high school than earlier years. I guess I was finally starting to learn. Now, my 3rd child is so HOMEschooled, that sometimes I panic, because I’ve not seen this played out for myself. I get afraid that we are failing her, even though I know all of that information is not a real education. My biggest fears, though, come from writing and math, which, at age 13, she has very little interest in.
    Thank you for your writing that continues to encourage us on this path that we believe God has called us on.

  4. In many ways I know that a lot of what you are saying is true. One hard thing is that what is “best” is not always easy to do in the “real” world. In my heart I dream of a day when we could all gently teach our kids history and expose them to science as we experience the world around us and teach only the math that they personally need to do what they are called to do in the world. I could go on with different subjects, but you see my point. This “dream” of mine would include-conversations about the world around us, with no grading or predetermined responses.
    Now the hard part, our world is not what I want it to be. I want my son to be prepared for what God has called him to do. I also don’t want to overload my son. I want to be his encourager, not his task-master (except for chores, lol). I just can’t wrap my head around how to work all this out without having a plan and structure.
    I remember speaking to you at the Arlington, Texas Homeschool Convention last year and everything seemed to make sense. I do remember that one of your son’s did not do math for about a year while you found the program that worked best for him. Did you have baseline standards for your children? Did you require that they did x,y, and z–then let them concentrate on their interests or did you just help them figure out what they needed for what they wanted in the future?

    • re: your question about what we required…We gave thought to several issues and tried to objectify them: 1) what were we required to learn in school that we were glad we learned? 2) what were we required to learn in school that was information only, meaning we could have skipped that stuff and learned it only if it turned out we needed it? Informational learning can often rob a child of time spent on more important things. 3) what did we never learn during those years that would have been really helpful had we been required to learn them?

      Obviously, what I am suggesting is that parents create their own Scope & Sequence for each child. Some things will be required of all children; other things only for certain children.

      A lot of work? Not sure I will know what I’m doing? The answer is “Yes”! But, these children would have been given to someone else to raise if the Lord really believed you couldn’t do what was best for each of them.

  5. Just wanted to add a little and ask a couple of questions. I love your way of explaining things. I have seen this article in your book, “I Saw the Angel in the Marble”, but now you are expanding on it. I am glad you still are out there helping us find more freedom in homeschooling.
    If I want to document my son’s learning and I give him a lot of freedom, how can I document things and be honest at the same time?
    Did you make transcripts for your sons?

    • Cindy: Thanks for your questions. I am not a proponent of simply letting children do “whatever they feel like doing” during the day. There is reason children have parents. There are some pretty obvious things a child must know just to live in a 21st Century world. A lot of this is ignored by public education which is still in the “informational mode”.

      The other side of raising children is what I am advocating: that parents listen to the child’s Father who is eager to tell them when He intends for this child’s future (most parents never grasp this concept).

      Once our sons became the age that is normally considered “high school”, we began documenting what they did. Instead of high school “requirements” driving our child’s upbringing, we tried our best to put what they were doing under one of the “subject” categories. Sometimes it worked, at other times we simply had to call them “electives”. Our sons had a zillion electives. So many, in fact, that it became laughable and we didn’t even include everything for this reason. One of my sons asked if, instead of taking a foreign language, he could simply learn all the computer languages that existed at the time. I didn’t see why not since most foreign language courses are a waste of time and he was interested enough in computer languages to actually learn them.

      One summer we traveled the Oregon Trail, stopping at every historical point and doing some reading. We created our own course and called it “American History: Westward Expansion on the Oregon Trail”. It went on the transcript. Since we didn’t do “high school”, even the boys who weren’t technically high school age were give credit (we called it Advanced Placement). When families travel with me to Israel, we urge them to create a course around this trip and call it whatever they want to call it, i.e. “Archaeology & History of the Middle East” or whatever…

      Does this help to answer your question?

  6. Yes, that helps some. I know you are not advocating unschooling to the extent of hands-off parenting (which is NOT parenting). I guess I am just trying to figure out where that hard to place line should be.
    I am glad I live in Texas, where it is easy to follow the rules and be creative, because there are no class requirements for homeschool graduates. I feel I can be creative with what “classes” he takes. For example-I plan on letting him do a “outdoor living” class (not sure I will call it that). I also plan on letting him pick something to study for history. I will help him find books/documentaries/movies/internet articles and let him explore also and if he chooses to study WWII for a semester-then he will get a credit for WWII studies.
    He loves to work with his hands, so I want to check out some classes he can take at a community college-maybe mechanics or something.
    I will most likely keep a baseline of math and English. Although, I am not too concerned with the level of math he finishes. He is starting algebra right now (10th grade). For English, I am not going to push a lot of the classics for reading. I figure reading is reading (unless it is useless drivel). I may have him do a couple, who knows?
    Thank you for you answers. This helps us still on the journey to figure it all out.

    • It sounds as if you have a real handle on your son. He is a fortunate young man! Thanks for sharing…

  7. I really needed to read what you wrote in this section. What a relief! I was wondering how I was going to do those very same things. I was overwhelming myself before I even got started. That feeling is just “GONE”. I am getting my family back and we are going to have fun doing it. I am letting my 2nd grader finish this year at school, but I have decided to pull my pre-school age child out now. Thank you so much for blessing us with your experience.

    • Wendy: I assume you are “letting my 2nd grader finish this year at school….” because she loves it there. If she doesn’t love it, why “let her finish”?

  8. Hi, I just found your article yesterday, its taken me 2 days to read all 10 parts. I completely identify with it! I AM one of those fearful parents. I am stuck between the “unschoolers” letting their children dictate what they want to do and between the school-at-home-ers that buy a box, open it up and go with it. I think my inner rebel has never wanted to buy and box and do what it tells me, I don’t like being told every little thing to them tell my child- I might as well take out the middle man (me) and put them in school! So I struggle, I don’t want to just shove a bunch a stuff down their throats like my school experience. I remember the teacher actually posting on the overhead project the list of what the district needs the students to know to pass the test. The teacher had to use whatever means necessary to cram that stuff in our brains and he even made reference that if we would just co-operate with this cramming that we could then move on to the more fun stuff. So I did my best for my teachers sake to cram all that list down my head so we could move onto his more enriching activities. I don’t want that for my kids and love the way you put it into words about looking up what you don’t know later on. I remember once having a conversation about “what if there are holes” in the our children’s education. The thought came to me–you better believe it! I can’t teach them EVERYTHING! I have long wanted to be taught the way I learned during the summers growing up in my “poor” home. My mom always complained that it was too hot to stay home so she would take us to the mall or the library virtually all summer. So I remember spending A LOT of time at the library. I would just wander around and look at books, I could find the answers to whatever I wanted to know–even the birds and the bees (blush)! I wish I could raise my children in a library and I wish I could blow life into them to get them pouring over the shelves looking for answers to life questions. But there is always that fear from friends and family… “can your kids read yet?… mine are reading chapter books!” “Well homeschooling is fine, but they’ll never go to college!” Pressure to perform is everywhere! And if the pressure is not enough there are more distractions that I know how to deal with. What do you do when your child would rather be a Jedi and defeat the evil Sith empire by means of video game, live action in the back yard or Lego toys? Or watch dinosaur train on TV and them come and tell you all about dinosaur discoveries. Part of me thinks that perhaps these things are fine, but then the other part of me thinks… what about math and reading? How do you know you’re doing things right? How do you balance video games, TV, and all around playing? Can children really play their way to an education? So far they know the names of every Jedi in the Star Wars movies better then anything else. The would eat, drink and live all Star Wars all the time if I let them. I take them to the library but all they do is look at Star War books! They could build Star Wars ships out of legos, go fight each other with light sabers and then play the video game all day every day… but is that really what they should be doing? I like baking, canning reading, and learning new things… I could let them live in Star Wars world while I spend my days baking and reading… and I could tell my friends that we are “unschooling” but where we would end up in 5 or 10 years? They like dinosaurs too which I think is better than all the Star Wars influence. Star Wars seems to be winning out over dinosaurs. A lot of it comes from their dad who plays Star War video game as his hobby. I want my kids to be like I was, I want them to question things, I want them to be self directed, learn what interests them. I want them to love learning. When they are faced with something they don’t know I want them to go out and learn it. How do you balance what you like to do, what they like to do and what you really should be doing? Where does curriculum fit into the HOMEschooling picture? I wish I had a fairy godmother to come and touch my heart with her magic wand and give me a vision of what its all suppose to look like. Thanks for the article, I feel closer to getting some answers.

  9. Jen, what a great post! Pardon me for taking so long to respond, but I’ve been overseas.

    It would help to know your child’s age.Did I overlook it or you just didn’t say?

    I love your contrast between “school in a box” and unschooling. I don’t believe in Unschooling as a method because it assumes the child doesn’t really need parental guidance. Yet, humans have parents longer than just about any animal. There is a reason for that.

    Nevertheless, there are giftings & callings in your child that you must nurture and the child is showing you these all the time. It’s a way for his Father to “clue you in”.

    If you let anything go, let go fear. Fear will take you down roads you don’t want to go and that will waste precious time.

    Let me know how things progress as you do what’s in your heart to do. CD

  10. Chris, Thanks for responding. My children are 9, 7, 5, 3, and 1 year old baby, as I mentioned we really struggle with distractions. Like yesterday when I introduced cursive and the 5 year old wanted to know how to write his name in cursive right then, I showed him what it looked like and then he screamed when he tried and it didn’t look right, then the baby heard all the noise, can in and started getting out all the math blocks and puzzles. Some days its enough to pull your hair out!

    My oldest son is in physical therapy right now, which is also a huge distraction, we work on strengthening his legs every day–we’ve made progress. Him and I have been working hard all summer. He has gone from being completely unable to jump on his left foot to being able to jump 6 times.

    I think you are right–through prayer you’ll know what to do. I have decided that some days I’ll focus on the kids and try and balance what I think will help them and what they want to know. Then other days I will focus on me and what I like–baking, cooking, sewing– and invite the kids to learn what I like. I have thought about the best way to eliminate fear in my life and my thoughts are–if I just step back and not focus so much on the fact that they are children and I have duty to teach them– but step away from the dutiful feeling and try and see them as people. I like with 5 little people after all and relationships are give and take. I will give on some days and they will give on some days. I’ll step into their world and they can step into mine. It sounds lovely, I hope it works 🙂

    Its hard to know if I am doing everything right, but if God is pleased with my efforts, what more can I ask for? I am glad to have found your blog, I am grateful for modern technology that allows people to buoy each other up.

    • Jen: your comment, “…but if God is pleased with my efforts, what more can I ask for?” is so true!

      People who don’t see distractions as the norm are too wedded to formality and rigidity. Expectations are the variables in life; distractions are the constant because distractions mean “life is happening here”.

      I am intrigued that your son is able to do cursive at age 5. Two of my sons didn’t READ until they were almost 10! (They were too distracted by more important things, so I just read to them).

      Thanks for the post and these children’s Father WILL raise them with your help.


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