Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Homeschooling is School

Wow. So I lasted a whole year in homeschooling without acquiring my very own Homeschooling Pet Peeve. 

No longer! I now have one. And here it is: Homeschooling is School. 

At least, it is for our family. And I'm writing this partly so that I can understand the opposite point of view, because, well, it's always good to understand folks you disagree with, especially when they're obviously well-intentioned.

So, here it is: I've run into some other homeschooling moms whose big reason for homeschooling is so that they can develop the Christian character of their children. And here's my problem with that: that's not school; that's just parenting.

Character issues are not school. School is academic. I am not homeschooling in order to make my first-grader a Christian. By God’s grace, she is, and Adam and I are working hard to teach her and disciple her. But that’s PARENTING. That is not SCHOOLING.

Am I just compartmentalizing more than most people do? That's entirely possible. It's not that I see character growth and academics as totally divorced. Rather the opposite. First, what you study and learn can (and should) directly impact your actions. That's why Christians study the Bible and meditate on it. Secondly, all of our life - schooling included - can be dedicated to the Lord's service. All of it can be undertaken in such a way that it makes us more (or less) like Christ. In those two ways, I can clearly see how schooling and character issues are connected.

But neither of those are things that I'd write down in our lesson plan book, other than to mark off which chapters and verses of the Bible we've been studying. (The Bible is certainly a valid academic subject, and we study it more than secular folks would because we believe it's more important than they do. Fair enough.)  And I certainly wouldn't mark down character issues I'm working on with my daughter. Why? Because that's not schooling. That's parenting.  It's what we'd be doing if we were public schooling

I suppose that's part of the problem: framing character issues as part of homeschooling seems to imply that raising Christian children is the job of homeschooling mothers. But it's not. It's the job of Christian parents (and note the plural*).

I just . . . I just clearly have all kinds of problems with this. I think it’s silly. Moreover, I think it’s mistaken. I agree with the basic premise that Character Is More Important Than Academics. Sure. Who would disagree with that? But school IS about academics. Character Is Also More Important Than Cooking Skills. But when I’m making dinner I should focus a little more on the rice and a little less on my honesty, yes? My honesty will bide while I make the curry. I don’t get points off my Good Christian Chart for thinking a bit more about the garam masala than about the gospels during the short time I’m toasting the spices. Same with school. During science, I don’t want my daughter pondering the Golden Rule. I want her thinking about the characteristics of a cat.


I just . . . I just . . . I just am discovering that this issue makes me stutter "I just" a lot. Heh. I just have huge issues with this. Workable issues, because I can just not pick that fight. (And in real life - not blog life, I'm not arguing.**) But issues. Huge.

Anyone else? Or am I missing something huge here? Is this one I can simply look at from another point of view and understand? Or am I just going to get a swollen tongue from all the biting it I'm going to have to do? ;)

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*This is not to say single Christian parents have not the same vocation. Just that if both parents are present, it is then a shared responsibility.

**Explaining my POV, maybe, but not arguing. :D 


Ma Torg said...

I think homeschooling is both and that the argument for the development of Christian character (especially in the early years) is a valid reason. Why? Because who do you spend the most day time with during your early years? Your teacher. Wherever you are the most (timewise) is who will influence you the strongest (most likely.) Given this, I think to keep your children at home to help form a Christian character is a valid reason for homeschooling.

I also think that education is not just about the mind but about character too. Schooling does develop character because you are teaching your children how to view things. Yes, that is parenting, but I also think it is schooling as well.

Chavaleh Forgey said...


Chavaleh Forgey said...

(Let me be clear, that was to the original post -- I'm on my eighth year of homeschooling and on the same page -- thanks for expressing it so well!)

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

They're intertwined, certainly, because character is intertwined with everything. And because when mom is teacher, parenting is intertwined with schooling. But I have the same concerns as you do, Jess, with the Character Above All Else kind of homeschooling. Largely because when I was a child, I watched my best friend being "schooled" in such a manner. The result was NOT pretty - she couldn't do math, couldn't write coherently, AND ended up with the wrong crowd, doing drugs. (This wasn't a snapshot - we were good friends from about age 8 to age 16.)

We're *schooling* Jonathan at home. In some ways I think it will be easier to develop his character if he isn't at school right now. But overall, I'm putting in this effort because I think I can do *academics* better than the school can. And still give him lots of room to play.

My other pet peeve is "my child is better than yours because he's homeschooled and yours isn't." Maybe you can write on that one, next!

So sorry, Jess, I just wrote a blog post in your comment section. ;)

melanie said...

I agree with you Jessica.. that every parent has the vocation to form their children in Christian character and it's not just the hs moms who should be taking the time to do it.

I don't think the difference is who the teacher is, per say.. I believe the difference is where and with who your child is spending the majority of their days. In school, they gradually shift their attention and attachments from you to their peers. When homeschooling, they spend so much more time with you, and often stay more attached to their parents and siblings. You don't have homework and a million activities after supper to eat into your time with your own children. Does that make sense?

Elena said...

I think a lot of people choose to homeschool so as to actually have time to parent.

The kids in our neighborhood hop on the bus at 6:30am and hop off around 5:30pm. I'd been assuming that this was due to after school programs, but I just found out that this is not the case, while talking with a very frustrated friend who feels like she hardly ever sees her daughter. We're getting together this afternoon to talk about homeschooling options for this very reason.

So I'm homeschooling my kids because I think I can give them better academics that way. But I'm also homeschooling them because I think I can give them those academics much more efficiently, leaving more time for other stuff. Like parenting. =)

Amie said...

Intentional parenting in all aspects of your child's life is the role of the parent...this character building can happen in a traditional public school or private or home school as you articulated. But I think an argument could be made that by nature Christian's can "school" better then non-Christians because we have one key advantage, the Truth. It makes sense that we can learn much more effectively school issues when we are coming from a viewpoint that is, by it's very nature true, and when we have the illumination of such truth given to us by the Holy Spirit. In this way I think an argument could be made that at least in theory Christian's can "school" better then non=Christians in all academic subjects not just "bible"...
I think most home-schooling parents who focus on character are just recognizing the influence that teachers have on a child and desiring to be the main character influence, most moms I talk to do not homeschooling just for character (though they may unwittingly say such a comment) they home school for school sake and character sake they just happen to verbalize the character one more often because it is easier to articulate. I think challenging each other is so important so if I hear a mom articulte it in such a way I wouldn't be afriad to ask them to flesh out their ideas more, they may realize they haven't thought through why they homeschool or you may be pleasantly surprised to hear them articulate the "school" reasons behind homeschool. Either way you are doing them a service by desiring to hear more of their viewpoint, and challenging them in their parenting and teaching roles by sharing with them yours, and this is a very biblical thing to do. DON'T BE SILENT lovingly listen and speak the truth :-)

Glad that "bess" is enjoying her schooling in all the subjects and that you and Adam have an opportunity as parents to build into her character.

Amy said...

Fun post Jessica! After years of tutoring homeschooled students, my husband and I have seen so many families try to hide the fact that they are doing a poor job schooling their children by falling back on the idea that what they are trying to do is to build character and so it's okay that there 15 yr old can't spell or read or write, etc. b/c character training is primary.
BUT!!!! I do think it is dangerous to try to separate the purpose from education from the actual subjects. I want to always hold onto those "first things" as why I educate my children or in the classroom. Isn't the point of education habits of mind and body and virtue of soul? And so some days that means slugging away at yet another math problem or requiring my child to redo careless work, even though I know her answer is correct. When I taught in a secular setting, I often felt that my hands were bound when it came to integrating virtue into our discussions and work.
And perhaps this has had effects in many fields. We have friends who develop pharmecuetical drugs and never consider first or last principles of virtue because that is a different subject...they are doing science or math, it is not there place to question the ethics of their work.
Anyway, maybe this is a bit off-topic and I know you probably don't disagree with this, but I had fun thinking about it. I just can see in homeschooling my own daughter all these little ways we've been able to integrate an understanding of excellence and virtue, right in the middle of math or handwriting, that I think would be missed in a classroom experience or wouldn't hit home if it was thought of as a separate subject, and I am grateful!

Sylvia said...

I'm coming a little late to the discussion (having not read my blog subscriptions for awhile), but I have to agree with you, Jessica. I'm a "graduated" home school mom (my last student graduated in May 2005). I probably could have spent more time on character development, because I was almost too focused on academics, but character development definitely shouldn't preclude academics. There might be a time to put more focus on character, but discipline in learning can help character development. There's a balance, as in everything!

I heartily agree with Amy that some parents try to hide the fact that their doing a poor job with academics under the "umbrella" of character development -- they need some balance. Elena also has a valid point in that homeschooling can be necessary to have the time for parenting, but that doesn't mean we should neglect the studies -- again, the work of studying enhances the character.

Jessica, I appreciate your skill with words, and the way you illuminate your thinking! Thanks for opening the discussion.