I had never even heard of someone getting their education at home until I had graduated high school. I was attending a Christ In Youth conference and the girl sitting in front of me mentioned this during our get-to-know-your-neighbor exercise. I had the same reaction most people did at the time “You can do that?” I assumed everyone went to public school or private Catholic school. Looking back now I realize that her parents must have been some of those brave pioneers that literally had to wonder if the sheriff was going to come knocking at their home school door during its rebirth in the 1980’s.
Fast forward nearly ten years---I was working for a non-profit agency that works with school-age girls. In keeping up with events that might have that demography in attendance I discovered a Home Schooling conference was scheduled at the local convention center. For curiosity's sake more than anything I decided to attend. It was 1990’s now. Home schooling was a little more accepted and there were over 2000 in attendance—most in denim jumpers and matching outfits and having arrived in a mini or regular-sized van. Being an “only” myself, I could not get over the sizes of some of the families I met. The curriculum hall and speakers introduced me to several new concepts in education. Diana Waring spoke about making history come alive with original source texts, living books, and adding hands on activities or historical meals to the learning process---what a vast improvement to the dull textbooks I had to read. I found some vendors with old favorites of mine like flannel board Bible characters and Cuisenaire rods. Still others were explaining how their products could help kids that tended to take in information auditorily or kinesthetically. Until that moment I didn’t know anyone learned differently that the visual way I took in information (and the method public schools tend to use). However , the one thing that made the most lasting impact that day was when I left the closing ceremony to find a restroom. In the hallway were nearly 200 children waiting to enter the convention hall to sing for the parents. They vastly outnumbered the older teens assigned to watching them and yet I saw no one bickering, teasing, fighting, or seeing how far they could step out of line without being reprimanded (all things I’d experience in countless lines in my school days). It hit me that home-schooling was about more than just where learning takes place but about character building as well. I attended several more home school conferences in the following years. I’d be embarrassed to answer the “How many kids do you have?” question from fellow attendees because I had none…I wasn’t even married yet. Generally though their response was that it was good for me to educate myself beforehand. When I did marry, my husband knew that I wanted to home-school any children God would bless us with.
Three years ago we moved to Missouri for my husband’s new job. Although it would mean the loss of almost a third of our family income, we agreed that I would not look for a new job but stay home to teach our son who just turned six. Some family members questioned why I didn’t find work and send Schnickelfritz to the private Baptist school just down the road from our new home as this would provide the Christian worldview we desired. I knew I had to come up with personal reasons why home-schooling was right for us—something beyond the desire to avoid the risk of violence, the low standards, and the anti-Christian environment of public school. I ended up with three key points.
First, I would be able to customize Fritz’s education to his speed of learning. I had been one of the fast learners in school—in fact I seldom had any homework. If a teacher were foolish enough to post the homework assignment on the board at the beginning of class, I would have it completed before class was over. I was usually bored in school because teachers have to teach to the average of the class—leaving some bored and others still in a puzzle. Currently Fritz is the age of a third grader but he’s doing fifth grade math. On the other hand he struggles with writing and penmanship (don’t most boys) and he’s probably a grade or so behind there. Since he’s not feeling the frustration of being pushed too fast though, we have a shot of keeping him interested enough that he’ll catch up some day as his motor skills grow.
Second, I can also use techniques and curriculum that use Fritz’s style of taking in information. He’s an auditory/kinesthetic learner. He usually has to talk to himself during math or while writing, but he’s not disturbing other students (okay this might be an issue if he weren’t an only child). Sometimes while I read to him he is bouncing on our mini-tramp. He used to do math problems while standing on a rocking chair in front of a chalkboard. I just knew that if I sent him to a classroom of kids he’d be the one the teacher was constantly reminding to sit still and be quiet. Either he would comply, and not be able to learn because all his concentration would be going to not fidgeting or the teacher would send home a note about looking into Ritelin.
Third, Schnickelfritz used to have a terrible stutter. It developed when we sent him to day care. My own familiarity with school taught me that when the teacher wasn’t around kids will often seek out what makes one of their own “different” and then tease them mercilessly about it. I didn’t want that for my son. The amazing thing was that when Fritz was with us 24/7 for a week, even in a sensory overload environment like Disney World, his stuttering would decrease. Having him home with me has nearly eliminated the problem.