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Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform
September 1, 1994
Vol. 52
No. 1

Perspectives from a Home-Schooling Educator

Parents who decide to school their children at home can find a way to make it work and, in doing so, can bring their families closer together.

The home-schooling movement has made strange bedfellows of religious conservatives and political libertarians. What they have in common, in particular, is the family-centered aspect of home schooling. Both find that home schooling offers an experience that strengthens families, and, despite what critics think, broadens children's horizons.
When conservatives set up a home-school plan, it is usually based on Christian ethics. The curriculum contains a core group of six subjects—reading, writing, mathematics, science, religion studies, and history, and in many ways the school day has a traditonal structure.
On the other hand, the libertarian home schooler might take a less structured approach and use children's natural ability to wonder to set the course for learning. For instance, a child's curiosity about dinosaurs actually can lead through all the major curriculum areas (measurement, math; habitat, geography; and so on). This approach encourages learner autonomy and de-emphasizes teacher pedagogic authority.

Our Approach

My wife, Dian, and I home school our children—Loren, 7, Caleb, 5, and Hannah, 3—because of our conservative religious beliefs, but we also believe we can do the best job of educating our children. The moral and ethical values of the Christian Bible are the foundation we build on, yet our children also study art, literature, mathematics, and science for the sake of enlightenment. We believe that God created in humans a sense of curiosity about the world. We seek to teach our children the precepts of our beliefs while simultaneously challenging them to explore the world and come to their own conclusions. While I recognize society's prerogative to influence and guide my child, parents are the essential influence in a child's life. I have always believed in being a lifelong learner and I would like to pass down this passion for learning to my children.
Our curriculum includes reading, writing, mathematics, science, geography, social studies, literature, Spanish, art, music, physical education, religious studies, and citizenship. My wife is primarily in charge of the schooling. I am also able to be a direct part of our children's education because of my flexible work schedule. In addition, Loren, our oldest daughter, spends one hour a week with a former elementary school teacher who provides her with an outside source of motivation, monitors our curriculum coverage, and suggests adjustments.
But what about socialization? My children regularly interact with their peers. Caleb plays on an ethnically diverse Pony League T-ball team. Both Loren and Caleb participate in gymnastics at a local gym. And we all attend church regularly where all three children participate in special programs. As a result of the respect we show our children in their home-school environment, they ask questions and are mentally engaged when they speak with adults.

Making It Work

Many people acknowledge that my wife and I are successful home schoolers because we are certified teachers with classroom experience and advanced degrees in education. But what about people without formal teacher training? We should remember that the certification process for teaching has been developed only in this century. For thousands of years adults without teaching certificates passed on information to children. A teacher exists in all of us. And if we are motivated to teach our children, resources are available to help.
Many of the home-school curriculums include teaching tips and lesson plans. Also, several communities around the United States have home-school support organizations that meet regularly. Other home-schooling parents can be a valuable resource for parents who doubt their ability to teach their own child. My wife and I belong to the local Christian Home Education Association, which publishes a newsletter and meets monthly. Meetings feature guest speakers and provide a library of curriculum materials and networking opportunities with other parents.
Critics claim that home schooling is not realistic because in our society both parents have to work full time. This is not necessarily so. For my family, the cost of child care and private school would gobble up a second full-time income. And I am not advocating that the mother always be the stay-home parent. My wife, for example, plays harp for weddings, receptions, and at a local restaurant on weekends to provide additional income. Home schooling is possible. Ours may be a novel situation, but each of us has marketable skills that can provide supplementary income.
Parents who decide to live by certain principles will find a way to make home schooling work, but they need to carefully examine their commitment to the idea. The cost and sacrifice must be measured against the benefit. I can assure those who make the choice to home school that it's worth it.

New Services for Schools at Home

New communication technologies make it possible for learners to study at home what previously required enrolling in a college course. America Online, for instance, currently features a home-schooling forum with lesson plan resources, tutoring, legislative updates, and networking with other home schoolers for group projects. The America Online home-school forum also features two “chat” rooms that become online classrooms with subject area experts.
New comprehensive curriculums also take advantage of multimedia computer technology, including software on CD-ROM. Traditional after-school services, such as gymnastics and art classes, are becoming available during the day at special rates for home schoolers.
The diversity of home schoolers is amazing, yet parents who are separated by politics and religion share a common ground—the joy and pleasure of teaching their children in their home. Perhaps some think that home schoolers turn inward toward their families and do not consider society as a whole. Not so. When society as a whole is unstable, strengthening families might be the answer. Home schooling helps build a stronger family and provides for the best educational achievement for the child.

Joel Riemer has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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