Thursday, July 27, 2006

Putting Your Fears to Rest

As a new homeschooler, Betsy listed her 13 worries about homeschooling her two girls this fall. Her list of fears echo those of many beginning homeschoolers. Her number one fear,
that she won't do any better than the public schools.
She's looking for some "veterans" to help calm her nerves. This actually ties in with my previous question in Train Up a Child which asked "Can a conscientious parent fail at homeschooling? I'll try to calm Betsy down and answer that question at the same time.

The short answer to the question is no, I don't believe a conscientious parent can fail at homeschooling. Why do I think that? Because most parents love their children too much to neglect them and just watch them waste away. That doesn't mean the parent won't make mistakes and their children won't have gaps in their learning, but neither of those outcomes constitutes failure in my book. All educational environments and methods have gaps and all teachers make mistakes. When new homeschoolers worry about their ability to homeschool, it is because the total responsibility has shifted to them. That's a scary thought. The public schools can blame the parents (and do) if the children turn out poorly. Public school parents can blame the schools (and do) if their children turn out poorly. But who does the homeschool parent blame? Themselves. That's a heavy load. Thankfully, the weight of the responsibility forces us to act responsibly. God has given us this responsiblity, He will equip us for the task.

I have written two posts that I recommend to new homeschoolers that helps people understand homeschooling from my perspective.

Why We Homeschool

Successful Bloggers and Homeschoolers

Betsy was also looking for some first year stories to put her mind at ease. You can't find a better story than Frank's. Frank was an unemployed, homeless man. His wife had just been insitutionalized. He had a young daughter, Ruth, to care for. But Frank loved his daughter and took his responsiblities seriously. Here's what he did.

Rather than live on the streets and expose Ruth to alcohol and drugs, Frank said, they hiked deep into Forest Park and built a lean-to. The pair went into the city twice a week to stop by the bank, attend church, buy groceries and clothes from Goodwill. Frank, a devout Christian, said he taught his daughter using the old encyclopedias.

They grew vegetables and used the nearby creek to keep clean. They stored perishable foods in a small pool of water at the creek's edge. The man and girl told police that the runner was the first person to find their camp in four years. Even though the child and father lived for such a long time disconnected from society, the girl had been home schooled and was in good physical shape. In fact, the girl received a very good education from her father while living among the trees.

Officials said the girl, who would be normally in 7th grade, is at a 12th grade equivalency. The officer in charge of the case was amazed at the strong relationship between the father and the daughter. "The amazing part of this was the fact that Sergeant Barkley really evaluated what was best for these people," North Precinct Cmdr. Scott Anderson said. "Sometimes police would be a little quicker to hand things off to state workers. But instead ... he saw this through to the end."

The fact that this father kept his daughter healthy, fed, and well-educated in the woods for four years is impressive. (The fact that the police didn't find him criminally negligent and turn her over to the state is a down-right miracle.) Clearly, there is no better motivator than taking personal responsibility for one's own affairs. And Frank's story should make us all feel confident that we can indeed homeschool our children.

In the realm of education, parents are often like some police officers, they are too quick to hand things off to the state workers, and not see things through to the end. That's too bad, because as I am just finding out, the end is far better than the beginning.

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