No matter if your bend is secular or religious, our responsibility as parents is to grow and develop our kids’ character.
Now, someone is going to do this – do YOU want to have the governing voice or influence on who that someone is, or do you wan tot leave that decision to someone else? (the kids in the neighborhood, the teachers they’re assigned by the school district, even their Sunday school teachers?)
THAT is largely why my wife and I homeschool.
Now, don’t get me wrong, NOT ALL PUBLIC EDUCATORS ARE EVIL. (In fact, I’ve met a few Christian School Teachers who I wondered where they sat on the evil scale). But seriously, I have two sisters-in-law, a pair of cousins, and an aunt who are all teachers and I know for a fact that they are amazing people with their heads on straight. We have a family member who is a public school principal and he’s as great a man, leader and school administrator that anyone can ask for. Four of my oldest son’s teachers were also great people who I would love to have dinner with any night of the week. In fact, my wife’s grandfather was a superintendent at the district that she and I grew up in and has his name on a plaque and a room named after him. But they’re all individuals. They’re not the institution of our public school system.
One of my favorite writers, talk show hosts and thinkers, Dennis Prager put it this way, when he addressed a conference full of us homeschooling freaks. He said:
“You people here are the last and best hope for our country, because your goal of teaching the next generation values and truth is paramount.”
Now first of all, the “Prager fan-boy” in me, was hooked right then and there (Dennis just said I’m cool). But, the truth actually did resonate:
Today’s public school educators – no matter how wonderful of individuals they may be – have certain parameters and paradigms that they must work within. Whether it’s No Kid Left Behind, Common Core, or disciplining kids for biting their sandwiches into the shape of a gun, or cultural sensitivity lessons that have changed the way we discuss the history of our nation’s forefathers
They also now have certain models, tests, and other materials that are passed down to them, then to our kids, that even the teachers are not allowed to preview or filter ahead of time – much less us, the parents.
Now, when I was a boy, there were some things that my conservative parents could see ahead of time and then decide whether it was stuff that they wanted me to learn about. We had a pretty strict “no evil stuff” rule in my house – no Ouija boards, vampire stories, zombie stuff… so I very vividly remember several Octobers, sitting off to the side, reading something different than the rest of the class while they read Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy. I don’t even remember what it was I read, but I do remember what I was missing out on.
Now, by today’s standards, my parents would be ridiculed for ostracizing me. They may even be accused of bullying me because my self-esteem was damaged. Or maybe they would be accused of shoving their Christian views down the throats of my classmates by having me bring a Bible story into class instead of reading Dracula, and exposing the rest of the class to Christianity when they were supposed to be learning about vampires. Or worse, if this were happening in today’s classrooms, my parents might be rung up for teaching me prejudice or intolerance of non-Christians.
But the reality is that they taught me – and not just in October, but throughout ever month of every year of my childhood and beyond – that “it doesn’t matter what Johnny does or says, we have rules to live by under our roof. If Johnny jumped off a cliff would I?” (whenever they said something like that, I felt like I just might want to).
You see, they taught me that it’s okay to be different. It’s actually more than okay, but actually RIGHT to be different when the people around you are wrong. They also taught me to look around and be aware of my surroundings and recognize the direction that my surroundings are driving me towards.
So, now that I’m a parent, my wife and I took a close look at the “surroundings” of our public school system. I then looked at all the options that we had before us. Once upon a time there was basically three options: public school, outrageously priced private school, or crazy, hippy, neo-amish, goat-raising, unschooling homeschool.
But, the options today are different. Like I said before, our key goal was our responsibility to grow and develop our kids’ character… the education part (reading, writing and ‘rithmatic) was actually secondary.
Now, I’m not saying that homeschooling is for everyone. I understand that my wife and I have a unique set of circumstances – we both have pretty flexible work schedules, I’m fairly good with booting up a computer and my wife is super-smart. More than that, we have a great group of friends in our area who have turned us on to history and art co-ops, P.E. classes that have taught even my first graders how to pull off a five-step-drop and juke the other kids out of their shoes in flag football, and a charter school that offers classrooms that the kids attend twice a week and have 20 kids for their teachers to tend to compared to the 40 kids that we had experienced before.
But most valuable of all, we have the opportunity to pour our values, our truths, into them for more than just an hour or two between homework, dinner and bedtime. We have DAYS to spend with them every week to teach them not just how to read, but what to read. Not just how to do math and count buttons and coins, but actual family finances and economics. Not just what to think but HOW to think – and how to think for themselves in the face of a world that probably won’t agree with what they think.
THAT’S WHY WE HOMESCHOOL.
Now, don’t get me wrong, while my boys largely take after their mom when it comes to academics and earn (that’s right EARN) amazing grades – the kids are far from perfect. They’re goofy boys just like any other goofy boys you’d see rolling around on scooters or picking their noses while staring out the window of a minivan.
But they’re our boys. They’re the young men that God has given my wife and I and charged us with the task of growing and developing them. That’s why we parent like we mean it.
And I encourage you to do the same… no matter where your kids go to school.
For the E-Squared Media Network, I’m Jefferson Drexler