Homeschooling. Where to begin? As I prepare to write this I realize that the subject itself cannot be confined to one paragraph, let alone one blog entry. Though I am naturally a cautious and slightly pessimistic person I tend to make an effort to focus on the positive, especially when communicating publicly. With that said I can honestly say that our family initially began homeschooling in an effort to remove our children from the perceived negatives of institutionalized schooling. Now we homeschool for the numerous positives associated with providing an education at home.
As any parent who educates their own children knows there are a number of stereotypes and myths that surround our chosen lifestyle. With most things in life that are misunderstood it usually comes down to education on any particular subject, ironically enough. In regards to homeschooling there are a couple of common questions that seem to come my way. Now of course there are the common “socialization” questions and such but the two I want to focus on for this particular piece are in response to when we homeschool. People seem to want to know if we take a summer vacation and how long our days are. These questions upon first glance seem harmless enough. Usually I respond rather briefly that we enjoy our summers or something along those lines. But as the years pass and I gain more experience in this particular lifestyle I realize the root of the question is buried well below the surface.
Simply put if one is properly homeschooling it forces you to redefine your concept of education. Education is not something that takes place between the morning and afternoon bell. Education is existence. Knowledge, regardless of how subtle or profound, is gathered every moment of our life. Initially I wanted to say every waking moment but dreams are a whole other avenue worth exploring at a later date. Homeschooling shatters the rigid constraints presented by government run education. Which is nothing more than an “education” that prefers conformity, consumerism and competition.
When someone ask these seemingly harmless questions in essence they are asking you when your children stops learning. At what point during the day or season do they just float through life? It is kind of frightening to think that some people see learning as being so laborious. Something in which they simply ignore for hours or months at a time. If one takes a moment to think about it that is not case. Humans , especially children, are sponges. Information is constantly being presented and digested in a number of different ways. Filtering that information through specific time periods and seasons obviously creates more harm than good if ones goal is indeed education..
Once the process of redefining education takes place the world suddenly becomes your classroom. Libraries, grocery stores, fire departments and nature trails become your place of study. Socialization is conversation with the elderly gardener down the street, the other kids in your dance class, the chance meeting of a like mind at a local museum. It suddenly becomes obvious that you are not an isolated individual walking single file down a hallway from class to class but rather a vital part of your community. A community that is alive and breathing and can only function with the constant interaction of its members regardless of age. Barriers of fear and prejudice are taken down. Hands on education allows a level of learning to take place that could never be reproduced in the sterile petri dish of public education. Suddenly learning , education, wisdom, knowledge has no limits. No imaginary boundaries presented to create the illusion of control. Education is then a gift born of curiosity. Homeschooling, if done properly, places that seed of curiosity in fertile soil and allows the childs mind to bloom and stretch toward the heavens unknown.
The true beauty of homeschooling may be hidden in the fact that it is not only the child who receives an education. Suddenly the parent is face to face with the boundaries presented by their own education as a youth and they must then make the choice of hiding in the shadows or redefining their own concept of education and stepping into the sun light for the benefit of those they love most.
Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .