Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Comments to Ona, part 1

I've hinted here often of my online discussions with "Ona", my radically liberal friend (who wears that title as a badge of honor!). It's been a frustrating discussion for me, because some of what I want to say, I can't find words for. It's stuff I know in my gut, but can't articulate. But I always feel like, if I can't articulate it, I don't really know it yet.

Our central issue, as I've said, seems to boil down to how we know what is true -- or real -- or factual. (Defining those words itself often seems to get in the way of the discussion!) Anyway, I've decided I need to just start talking (writing) and maybe what I want to say will become clear to both of us as I go. And I also decided that this may be a discussion that some other of my friends might be interested in as well. (If I'm wrong in your particular case, do as I've advised before -- skim and move on!)

This will be in several parts, I imagine. And I think I have to start by explaining some past situations in my life (the relevance of which may become more clear later on).

OK, I'm going to start with our decision to homeschool. As you know, I used to teach in public schools, and I have always been big on education and at that time, a big supporter of public education. The only families I knew who sent their kids to private schools sent them there either because they'd gotten into the wrong crowds in the public schools and they wanted to get them away from that (but they failed), or because they wanted to avoid their kids getting into the wrong crowds to begin with (and they either failed again, or they ended up with wimpy kids who couldn't stand up to any significant challenge in their faith). I didn't know any homeschoolers, but what I heard of them, I thought they were wacko.

After meeting some homeschoolers in Springfield, I found out they could actually be very sincere and very called to do what they're doing -- and that they were often very successful. I had a lot more respect for them, and found the whole idea fascinating. But I still never considered the idea for myself.

When Leslie turned 5, I put her on the schoolbus to kindergarten -- because that's what you do. I didn't even really think about it. It wasn't until her 1st grade year, when I was feeling stressed out by the public school system in general and frustrated by specific issues with Leslie there, that I noticed that several of my good friends had their children in private Christian schools. It occurred to me that I never really considered that option. And I decided that my daughter's education was a big enough deal that I shouldn't just go with the default mode -- I should seriously examine all the options and make an objective decision.

So, being the thorough scholar that I am, I looked into homeschooling while I looked at the private schools in the area. And amazingly, I discovered that homeschooling was by far the best option for my kids. They got to learn at their own pace, in their own learning style, and from a Biblical point of view as I wanted. School could be adjusted around our family's schedule instead of vice versa. I could employ a lot of resources and techniques in their learning that the classroom teacher can't use. Etc. etc. etc. I began to wonder why in the world I hadn't seen all this before.

The fact was that I was biased against the idea before, and partly because, frankly, I wasn't really interested in doing what it would take to homeschool the girls -- too much work. Only when I humbled myself and became willing to do whatever God's will was for our family . . and only when I set homeschooling up beside the other options as an equally viable option to the rest . . did it become abundantly clear that this was exactly where we were supposed to be. As long as I came to the question with the pre-conceived notion (the "worldview") that real education had to happen in a classroom in a school building, the way I had been taught, it was impossible to see homeschooling as a reasonable possibility at all, much less as the best possibility.

(Now, some of you may be wondering why we're considering school for the girls next year if I'm so gung ho on homeschooling. What I'm gung ho on is good education, however it gets accomplished. Homeschooling is a great way to get a great education for a lot of kids in a lot of situations. But every child has different needs at different stages of their lives. Our girls have grown and changed and have different needs right now -- and their needs will change again in a year or two and we will consider the whole question again then.)

To be continued . . .

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