I have, in my house, a rising Tiger. Our second born, Seth, begins his college career at Clemson this fall. He has always been, and remains, an amazing young man.
He is filled with both passion and compassion, he loves learning, reads voraciously, is strong as a bear and is an outstanding musician. He makes our parental hearts swell with love and pride. Oh, and for the record, he looks like me and is thus incredibly handsome. What? His mother tells us that all the time so it has to be true!
Like a growing number of college students, Seth comes to the university from the homeschool world. From the time he was in 4th grade, he was educated by his awesome mother (with a little help from me), and over time by wonderful teachers in several co-op groups, culminating in a few semesters at Tri-County Tech, receiving college credit as a “dual-enrollment” student.
It appears to have been a good experience for him. His college acceptance letters came without a glitch, giving him several choices for his university education. And despite the constant protests to the contrary (by those outside the homeschool world), Seth does just fine in the mystical “socialization” arena.
I have always said that education can be accomplished with great success in any of several ways. Public school, private school and homeschool all work just fine. But they only succeed to the extent that parents care and are involved in the educational process. All can fail miserably if parents are dismissive and believe “that’s someone else’s job,” and particularly if moms and dads suggest that learning is drudgery, unnecessary, boring or somehow a form of oppression.
However, for anyone considering homeschooling, I would say that it is a fantastic way to spend time with, and really know, your children. Jan and I have emphasized learning from the beginning. But homeschooling allowed us to tailor the learning to the child. More than that, it allowed us that precious, ever dwindling commodity, time.
You see, our schedule was our own. Yes, the state mandates 180 days of school per year. But we could accomplish that in any way we desired. If we had a schedule conflict, learning could take place in the afternoon and evening. If we had the opportunity to take a trip during the “school year,” we took it and learned in the car, in the hotel or at the National Monument. If I was working evenings, we could play and visit during the day and they could finish up later; or I could help with school during the day while Jan took a welcome break for lunch with friends.
Furthermore, we could design curricula for the interests of the children, whether it was learning Biblical Greek or taking bagpipe lessons. BB-gun team was a credit towards PE. Jan once applied for, and received, a grant of beautiful copies of art from the National Endowment for the Arts. The entire process was, in a word, flexible.
The reason this matters to me, as a parent, is that the world grabs our kids so quickly these days. They have school, of course, but culture tells us that if we want our kids to succeed, they have to engage in a vast array of activities. Beyond academics, clubs, teams and the ubiquitous Internet conspire with parental work and home responsibilities and seem to drive us ever further apart.
This endless motion sometimes robs us of the simple joy of being together; of eating and laughing, telling stories and just sitting quietly, basking in the presence of those we love most. My schedule has always been pretty malleable. But I feel deeply for the loving mothers and fathers who work second and third shift, and for whom any time with their children is rare and precious. For them, in particular, online or homeschooling could offer unimagined opportunities to enjoy their children while they can.
I wouldn’t trade a day of it. And Jan and I would do it all over again; and hopefully do it even better. But as Seth goes off to Clemson, and my remaining two children likely transition to public school this fall, I just hope that parents keep their options open. Even a year or two of homeschooling, strategically placed, can offer opportunities, memories, and bonding that they’ll never regret.
And never forget.
Dr. Ed Leap is a physician and writer. He is serves on Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council.