September is the month of new beginnings for children across Canada who are going to public or private schools as well as the 100,000 students who, according to a recent issue of Time, will be staying home to school.
The idea of educating children at home raises familiar questions such as, “Why would a person want to homeschool? What are the reasons for families choosing to homeschool? How do I start to teach my own at home? Am I qualified?”
I understand the sea of questions because I asked them of myself 18 years ago when answers were difficult to find from a movement relatively young in British Columbia. Those who were homeschooling tended to do so behind closed doors because the unsupportive legislation at the time threatened to remove children not attending school, and considered homeschooling a form of abuse. We changed the homeschooling laws in B.C. in 1989, allowing parents the right to choose.
Eighteen years ago I was a young mother committed to my family, enjoying the freedom that I had to travel with my husband who was at the time involved in the movie industry. Together, we delighted in being the ones to share life with our children and in a sense we believed that we were our children’s educators from the time they were still in my womb.
The thought of de-attaching from our firstborn at age five to enter an environment that was less nurturing than the one we provided began to stir deep feelings within me. I wanted to be the one to see my son’s eyes light up when he learned to read his first words, see a snake slither out of it’s skin or a hundred more firsts that he would experience at this curious age.
His younger brother of three years was his best friend. How could I separate them to send him away to school? Cautiously, I suggested to my husband that I could teach him all that a first-grader needed to know, and his initial response was not the one I wanted but expected.
The concept of teaching one’s own children was unheard of at the time and although he respected my decisions in other areas, this was an idea on the wild side. However, after a few months he had become my personal cheerleader and witnessed the benefits of schooling at home.
The heart of homeschooling, I believe, begins in the heart of a mother. There is a stirring in her heart, mind and even in the pit of her stomach that challenges her to know her child and decide who would be the best educator for him or her. Some parents may choose to teach their own at home for the reasons that I mentioned for our family. However, as I counsel hundreds of families each year it is becoming more and more apparent that parents are forced to choose homeschooling because the public system that they once trusted and pay taxes to support, has so miserably failed their child. Public schools have blurred the line between providing academics and a social agenda. They have become a melting pot of ideas and lifestyles that dedicate thousands of hours and dollars to social issues rather than academics.
The parent who views her child as a God-given gift has a deep sense of responsibility to see her child is educated in a nurturing environment that feeds her mind as well as her body and soul. Choosing to homeschool is a courageous act.
It takes courage to believe that mom and/or dad are qualified to teach their own at home when professional teachers who have years of education with degrees to back them are often quick to remind the parent that they should leave the educating of their children to “the professionals.” Sometimes it is necessary to remove a child from the classroom in order to rebuild the self-esteem that has been destroyed by bullying or perhaps because the child is a learner who has been labeled unjustly. Educating our children at home provides time with them, time to know them and time to train both their hearts and their minds. If your child is falling through the cracks or is not being challenged to reach his full potential, then perhaps it is time to take a closer look at the option of bringing him home to school.
Homeschooling is a selfless act of love that gives the child’s fleeting formative years priority over second incomes, materialism, exotic vacations and time alone. The benefits are worth it.
Homeschooling allows for focused time on the academics in a loving environment. However, I am convinced that the greater advantage is the opportunity to build and nurture life-lasting character and a value system that will sustain them as adults, as well as the skills and values that will equip them to contribute to society and to the next generation.
The family is under assault in this country and a morally bankrupt society would like to undermine parents choosing to do whatever it takes to build a strong family. For God’s sake and the sake of a healthier nation, let us hold strong to our children and provide an education that will produce whole-hearted people.Grace Jorgensen is the executive director of the B.C. Home School Association. She has four children, ages 13-23, who have been homeschooled their entire lives, and is a consultant assisting families in their decision to homeschool and setting up individual learning programs for each child.