Friday, January 31, 2014

Homeschooling Arguments We Should Retire

I have been homeschooling for a decade now. In that time I've rarely been challenged about my decision in real life, but have battled with some people online about our homeschooling. I've morphed from the eager mom who wants to convince everyone to the brilliant wonderfullness of home education to the seasoned homeschooler who feels comfortable simply shrugging her shoulders and saying, "it's what we do. Pass the bean dip please." In that time I've seen a lot of arguments from fellow homeschoolers about why homeschooling is a good thing and honestly, even though I used to put forth some of them myself, I think a lot of them stink.

Like, really stink. Like really, really stink.

I'm sort of hoping to go through some of the worst offenders in a series of blog posts (we'll see, you all know how consistent I am with posting these days). On to the post.

"But no one can teach my kids as well as I do because no one loves my kids as much as I do."

I was at a meeting last year when this one came up. A lovely woman with younger kids said that and went on to explain why homeschooling is superior because we simply love our kids more then any teacher could. I stayed quiet. It was hard.

One, love is no guarantee of anything aside from warm feelings when you look at or hold your kids. There are parents who love their kids who also beat their kids. Their are parents who love their kids who, between work and other activities, barely see their kids. Love, modern love at least, in and of itself can mean very little.

Two, love does not mean the magical acquisition of skills. I loved my kids from the moment they were born, but I was not a very consistent or attentive parent for the first few years of my first-born's life, and there have been many times (many, many times) when I've realized how little I knew about parenting, healthcare, nutrition, homeschooling, etc. Although love was definitely a factor in why I learned more about some of those things, it also never interfered with me coming up with some pat justification for why I didn't need to learn more. Maturity and experience was much more useful in that regard.

Three, love of a child is not a necessary prerequisite to being an effective teacher of that child. I have no doubt that, although most of my teachers liked me in my school years, none of them loved me. The things the most effective had in common were a) subject knowledge, b) teaching skills and c) some concern for my success. Indeed, had Mr. Garden or Mr. Whidden loved me, that would have been quite a problem. Parents tend to frown on that sort of thing.

Four, love can often get in the way. Since most of us feel and express love as something squishy and rainbowy these days and don't really submit it to a hard examination, it tends to get away with all kinds of crap. It can distract us from the fact that our joy with a certain math program and our dreams for how it will turn our daughter into the next Einstien doesn't match the reality of what that daughter really needs in a math program. It can cause us to dramatically change course in our homeschooling when things seem too difficult for our little darlings when the truth might be that they need that struggle to get to the next step in understanding. It can cause us to be too timid, too restrained, too over reaching, too demanding...

Love, in the context of homeschooling, is a start. It's a hint, an intuition, a timid guide. Just a drop is sufficient and only then when paired with patience, discipline, creativity, skill and so on. And maybe that's how we should talk about love when we're discussing homeschooling with others. Otherwise to the outsider it's, "love is all we need," and it sounds like we don't even understand what goes into helping a child learn let alone have any of the skills and knowledge that are required. So, I propose we ditch that argument. Let it be a given that we love our kids and then move the discussion on to something else.

As long as it's not long lists of famous dead people who we claim were homeschooled. But that's the next post.

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