Education of Children otherwise than at a School (2)
Kevin & Sharon Shantz, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
As parents, one of our greatest concerns is the development of our children. Every parent desires to see their little ones grow into mature, balanced and ‘successful’ adults. Hopefully, we are seeking primarily for their spiritual success, taking their place in the local assembly and with a burden for evangelism and ministering to those in need. How our children are educated will have a major impact on their development and the life choices they make.
We have chosen to home-school our five children for the early years of their education. In this article we explain a little about how home schooling works and give the rationale for our decision to educate our children in this way.
The modern home-schooling movement began in earnest in the late 1980’s, however missionaries and others living in foreign countries have been doing it for much longer. There are now least 1.1 million children (possibly as many as 2 million) being home-schooled in the United States representing over 2% of school-aged children. In Canada the percentage is somewhat lower and in the UK best estimates place the number of homeschooled children between 20,000 and 100,000.
Some parents choose to home-school their children right through secondary school while others only for a few years, perhaps to get their child through a rough patch. Still others may choose to home-school some but not all of their children. In some areas the option exists to home-school part-time and spend the rest of the time in regular school.
In our case, we felt the maximum benefit from home-schooling was in the early grades. Our three oldest children entered the public system in their early teens. We have not yet decided whether we will do the same with our youngest two.
General information on homeschooling
How does home-schooling work?
Home education in the early grades concentrates mostly on learning to read, numeracy and early arithmetic skills and learning about life in general. At the earliest stages, these things tend to be covered or at least augmented in all caring homes even when children are in regular school. They can usually be easily taught with the help of the many resources that are available.
In the higher elementary levels, we have tended to use set curriculum for maths and science as we appreciate knowing that we’ve covered all the key aspects that are normal for that level. However, many children are very successful with a more interest-directed course of study. A variety of online, satellite, correspondence and CD-ROM programs are also available for all age groups.
In recent years, a vast array of resources has become available to home-schoolers. There are printed and internet helps to enable parents with any questions and problems that may come up before or while home-schooling. Also many companies now publish a complete curriculum from elementary through to high school, whereas others only publish certain courses of study such as writing or maths. Many home-schoolers determine how to meet the criteria set out by their local authorities, by using resources that fit with their own philosophy of education and meet their own children’s needs. The amount of resources available on the internet alone now greatly exceeds what was available to us in the entire school system 30 years ago. UK and Canadian readers should be aware that there are fewer country specific resources available to them due to the relatively smaller size of the home-school population in those countries.
How much time does it take each day?
Due to the tutorial approach used in home education, the hours of instruction per child are often less than are required in the regular school system, allowing time for Bible instruction, interest-directed learning and social interaction with other families. However, preparation can take many hours outside of teaching time; the number of hours being dependent on the curriculum used.
What are the basic requirements for the teacher?
In many countries anyone can home-school without a teacher’s certificate or even any post-secondary education. All parents teach their children to walk then talk, sort socks by colour and size, tidy their toys and many other things. Home-schooling, in the early stages, is just a continuation of the teaching that the good parents have already been giving to their child.
Many parents feel they are inadequate to teach particular subjects at the higher levels. In that case self-study curricula are available with the option of paying an experienced teacher to support your child. Alternatively, arrangements can be made with other home-schooling families where parents with different expertise will assist or teach particular subjects for each other. It is also vital that both parents are convinced that this is God’s will for their family and committed to making the necessary sacrifices. If the mother, as is usually the case, is the one doing most or all of the teaching, her husband needs to actively encourage and support her and recognize that she has a ‘full-time’ job by doing this.
Is home-schooling legal?
Home-schooling is legal in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and most other countries. In Germany it is presently illegal, although a number of families have chosen to continue while a battle is fought in the courts.
There are varying requirements on notification of authorities, and for establishing acceptable curricula and testing. There is no requirement in the UK that a child attend a government school, but the authorities require to be notified if a child is taken out of school. In Canada and the USA the HSLDA website is the best place to find out about local requirements.
What about socialization?
We have never found our children to have a problem interacting with peers or adults. We do have a large extended family and have been blessed to be part of local assemblies where there were a significant number of children. Team sports and children’s clubs at other churches also provide opportunity for interaction with peers. Home-schoolers will need to take every opportunity to interact with people of all ages at home and in other places.
How do home-schoolers cope with more specialist subjects?
Children can and should be kept physically active in the home environment. Basic skills and activities can be taught at home if you have room or there are local sports clubs offering recreational programs through the summer months. Homeschool support groups often make programmes available or put on sports events. Music can be taught in general terms by parents even if they don’t have a musical background. More in-depth music instruction can be done in private lessons anyway.
Will my child be able to go to college or university?
Many universities in the USA actively court home-schooled students and have special application procedures for them. In Canada, the universities are beginning to realize that home-schooling is valid and is here to stay and are making adjustments to their application procedures. In the UK the situation is still to develop.
Why should parents consider homeschooling?
Many people, even non-Christians, homeschool and for a variety of reasons. So why do people invest the incredible amount of time and energy to home-school their children? In our case, the motivation is three-fold.
1) A better quality education
The single biggest factor in improving the quality of education is individual attention. The home-schooling parent has only a few pupils to deal with and can more specifically tailor the material to their pupils’ particular strengths and weaknesses. Also in a home-school environment the child learns at a pace appropriate to his abilities. Various studies have shown that homeschooled children score significantly higher on standardized tests than their government-schooled peers. These studies show that home-schooled children are also often studying at grade levels above their peers, particularly in reading and mathematics. We have found this to be true with our children as well.
2) Protecting our children
Emotionally. Home-schooling we believe provides a more nurturing/supportive environment for children. We feel that by shielding our children from the more destructive influences of peer pressure for as long as possible, they grow in their own selfconfidence and develop their own independent identities more fully.
Physically. There are huge safety issues today with government schools in many places. Even teachers often feel threatened by students. Drugs, violence and other vices have become commonplace. Homeschooling avoids this risk.
Mentally. Today in government schools children are required to read or watch, as part of their ‘education’, books and videos that we as Christians feel strongly are unacceptable. The scriptures remind us that ‘the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one’, 1 John. 5. 19 NKJV. Satan will use every opportunity available to him to corrupt the minds of children and schools are places where he works hard to influence the young. That is not to say that there are not Christian influences in the government school system and we thank God for every Christian teacher and principal and for the influence they have.
3) Raising our children in the nurture and fear of the Lord
Ultimately, as Christians, this is our main motivation for home-schooling our children. While any education is critical, our greatest responsibility as Christian parents is to teach our children the truths of the scriptures and point them to the Saviour. Once our children accept Christ as their Saviour, they need to be taught to live for God.
As part of our home-school curriculum we have included regular daily instruction in the Bible and biblical principles of living. At the same time we have been able to shield our children from the false teachings of the world until they reach an age when they are better able to deal with them.
In conclusion Every parent has to make choices regarding the education of their children. Whether it is a government school, private school or home-school will depend on the needs of the child and the abilities and resources of the parents. Regardless of which alternative is chosen, we cannot duck away from responsibility for our children. If a more formal school setting is the choice, parents need to be actively involved in the education process, aware of what your children are being taught, and stepping in to protect them where necessary. Be confident that if you do choose to homeschool, the resources and support to do so are readily available and the rewards are well worth the effort.
Legal guidance: www.hslda.org (for non-USA information, click on ‘International’ menu).
- The European Academy for Christian Home-schooling (TEACH), Unit 5, Northfold Close, Shrivenham, Swindon SN6 8HL. Provides support and assistance, as well as access to the International Certificate of Christian Education for home educators in the UK and mainland Europe. Training is given in using the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, access to the European Student Convention, and national and local meetings. Website www.christian-education.org.htm
- Home Service, 48 Heaton Moor Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport SK4 4NX. A support organization for Christians, with a contact list and local and national meetings. Website www.home-service.org
- Education Otherwise, PO BOX 325, King’s Lynn PE34 3XW. Largest organization but not Christian - includes a huge variety of positions! Has much useful information, including legal advice. Website www.education-otherwise.org
- Schoolhouse, PO Box 18044, Glenrothes, Fife KY7 9AD. Provides information about home education in Scotland. Website www.schoolhouse.org.uk
- World-Wide Education Services, Waverley House, Penton, Carlisle CA6 5QU. Not a Christian organization. Provides curriculum for ages 4-13. Website www.weshome.demon.co.uk
- It is recommended that home-schoolers advise the LEA of their decision and this may make resources available. Responses may vary for different authorities.
- Home Education Advisory Service, PO Box 98, Welwyn Garden City, Herts AL8 6AN. Telephone: 01707 371854.