Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sacrificial Parents Equals Homeschooling Success

Following is a rough draft of a paper Christian wrote for his college composition class. The assignment is kind of vague -- the topic is family life, school, and diversity training (everything this instructor assigns has to do with diversity). It shouldn't be a straight narrative or purely descriptive and doesn't require footnotes.

Feel free to critique as he still has time for major edits.

Sacrificial Parents Equals Homeschooling Success

When people ask me where I go to school, I say, “I’m homeschooled.” Their reply is almost always, “Homeschool? Where’s that?” Homeschool is not a school at all, but a radical family lifestyle. Homeschooling used to be illegal in Michigan to all but those who were state-certified teachers, and whose homes followed the strict safety codes followed by public schools– such as emergency exit signs pointing to all ways out and sprinkler systems in case of fire. For homeschoolers, these were the Dark Ages of Michigan, where parents who weren’t satisfied with what schools had to offer had to teach their children in secret. Today, however, there are few laws governing homeschooling in Michigan, and homeschooling is growing at a rapid pace.

However, even in Michigan, with its lenient regulations, homeschooling can be a daunting challenge. Most homeschooling parents must support their families on a single income, and pay for all school expenses; these parents usually have large families, which demands even more financial and time resources. Homeschooling families must also deal with stereotypes and prejudices. Many homeschooling parents educate their children not only through middle school but through all four years of high school as well – most homeschooling parents do this without any kind of education degree, often teaching multiple grade levels ranging from preschool to high school seniors at the same time. For a large family of six or more children this can be overwhelming.

With so many obstacles, it would seem homeschooling is destined for failure. Yet, typical Homeschooled students receive above-average grades, are less rebellious, and possess better communication among family members. According to a study out of MSU, homeschool graduates vote at a higher rate, and are more involved in the community. Some colleges seek out homeschoolers to attend their universities. For something that is as challenging as homeschooling, this is all amazing. The big question is, how is this possible? I believe the answer lies with parents. It is through the tremendous sacrifice and love of these children’s parents that they find such success. For the average homeschool parent, it is love that motivates them to begin a child’s education at home, or to pull a child out of school to learn at home. Concern for their child’s well-being drives these parents to make incredible sacrifices, like giving up a career to teach and care for their children full-time at home.

To succeed in homeschooling, the demands on parents go beyond giving up a career and living off one income; many homeschooling families are also large, the average number of children probably about twice that of the average American family – that’s four or five children. Many homeschooling families have far more children. For example, the Smith [I've changed the name here -- MW] family of Sunfield, Michigan, homeschools, and has eleven children – ages ranging from the oldest in his late twenties to the youngest who is seven. Because of the devotion of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, their children enjoy a good education and a smooth running family life. While parents like Mr. and Mrs. Smith may not have much time to themselves, much money to spare, or much space, they are content and have well-rounded children.

The only common challenge these parents’ sacrificial love has not overcome is the many stereotypes surrounding homeschooling. Parents are often seen as rigid taskmasters who won’t allow their children to leave the house. Stereotypes surrounding their children are many and often conflicting. Homeschooled children are portrayed by these stereotypes as stupid, geniuses, shy, nerds, freaks, mindless drones, or victims of their inflexible parents. The most popular stereotype is that all homeschoolers are hyper-intelligent nerds; this is probably because most news coverage on homeschooling focuses on these few brainiacs.

While a nontraditional upbringing might be another obstacle for homeschool families to overcome, the parents who choose to homeschool are proactive to show the public what homeschooling is really about. Since many stereotypes surrounding homeschooling are beginning to fade, and homeschooling becomes less and less mysterious, it seems parents are doing a good job. So, maybe this is yet another obstacle homeschooling parents will overcome.

Homeschooling would not be a success, however, if parents simply stopped at overcoming the challenges. It is necessary for success to explore new territory as well. Parents are vigorous in their role of caregiver and educator, and expend a great deal of energy to help their child recognize his or her full potential. With a passion, these parents take steps to further their children’s education, social life, and overall well-being. Many families are part of a homeschool community, and they take the idea of community seriously. These groups are vibrant; children interact and parents share resources. Our local homeschool community hosts events such as back-to-school parties, ultimate Frisbee, and track. It also provides groups like Latin Club, Writers’ Club, Reader’s Anonymous (a reading group), and Socrates CafĂ© (a discussion group). Mid-Michigan even has a homeschool Science Olympiad team known as Creative Science Investigators (or CSI). Science Olympiad was originally a program for schools to encourage the sciences through competition, but when parents were willing to take the roles of professional teachers as coaches, CSI became possible.

Parents in general often make huge sacrifices for their children, so perhaps it’s not too surprising that so many couples in Michigan willfully, often joyfully, choose homeschooling for their children. The sacrifice is great, but so are the benefits; these parents realize this, and that is why most strive so hard to make homeschooling work for their children. Homeschooling allows parents to be involved in their children’s education to an extent beyond the capabilities of schools, giving them the opportunity to make any sacrifice they feel necessary for their children. Because homeschooling allows parents to express their love for their children through constructive means linked directly to education, homeschooling should always be an option for parents who want success for their children.


Simple Faith and Life said...

Fantastic! You must be very proud!

Shirley said...

awesome! Required reading for those thinking about homeschooling!