Despite the incredible growth in homeschooling and the development of excellent tools to serve those growing numbers of students, homeschooling is still subject to astonishing popular misunderstanding. Note how often concerned citizens still go straight to the “S” word when they hear your family engages in this strange and perplexing practice. You know what the “S” word is: “socialization.” I feel like I need my mouth washed out with soap for saying it. We all know what kind of misunderstandings and hostilities homeschooling families face. But here are five reasons I’m looking on the bright side when it comes to homeschoolers and success.
We live in an age of marvels. We really do live in a fantasy world. Barriers to seeing and experiencing it are more penetrable than ever. Stout gatekeepers are being bested at every shrine. It has never been easier to access history’s greatest minds and join the “Great Conversation” than now. There are more ways to mine the rich vein of discovery running under every sphere of life than ever before. Sure, the many options can be overwhelming. But we will always have problems. The problem facing homeschooling families today is not one of scarcity, but of abundance in an age of distraction.
The Best-Motivated Teachers
Homeschool parents (mostly moms, am I right?) are the most heroic people I know. They teach better because they are the only ones who care so much that they will do anything to succeed. They are not in it for the glory or money. (If they are: bad decision!) They are motivated by a kind of love for the student that it is not possible to achieve outside of the home. The very best traditional school teachers (and there are many great ones) still cannot love the way a mother can. In most areas of life, passion trumps knowledge. So when the most passionate people, the most highly-motivated people, live in an era of unparalleled access to great material, the combination can be explosive.
Yes, this is going in the pro column! Homeschooling can afford kids an unbelievably positive experience of socialization. Being sheltered is a positive thing when it comes to storms and bombs and the often-toxic environments kids are routinely subjected to. But the best homeschoolers I know don’t live in fear and reactionary paralysis. They are actively walking their children through the minefields of life (to misquote Andrew Peterson—one of my favorite things to do) and some are even learning to “dance.” Homeschool children are blessed and will be a blessing to society.
This is a big one for me. I’m in the imagination business. I believe stories shape our affections in a way that nothing else can. The best homeschoolers I know are people immersed in books. But more than merely textbooks, these children are imbibing imaginative stories in great, sloppy gulps. This will change their world. They are reading MacDonald, Lewis, Montgomery, Austen, and Tolkien, along with modern myth-makers like N. D. Wilson, and are reaping the immeasurable benefits of a life teeming with great tales. Homeschoolers have more time and energy to take in and act out the life of the holy imagination than anyone else. And the “acting out” is key, for children must be allowed to play. The over-structured and achievement-at-all-costs mindset is destructive to children. Give them fuel for their imaginations, and let them play!
In an era of declining liberties in many areas—including religion—homeschoolers still have a unique freedom to bring the Word of God to every subject. Andrew Kern has said that education “exists to teach children how to love God.” Of course this doesn’t mean shying away from controversial subjects in fear, but it does mean that we can meet any subject and walk through it, confident in the reality that God is good, that “this is my father’s world,” and “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” The “knowledge is power” approach, the Cartesian idea that “we are what we think,” is insufficient. Passing on information can often simply be a way to, as Lewis said, “create a more clever devil.” If our education isn’t doxological, it may easily be diabolical. Education should be a gift, an inheritance, a handing-down of all that it means to be made in the image of God. It should help us love what we ought and, most importantly, Whom we ought.
Meet S.D. Smith in person at the 2017 Great Homeschool Convention events!
Are there challenges to homeschooling? Yes, just as with every area of human freedom. We can really mess this up—big time. And many do. That’s not necessarily a good argument for turning the project of educating our children over to the government. They have—um—on occasion, demonstrated an—er— inability to ensure high standards. (Not always, of course!)
Putting challenges aside for a moment and concentrating on the strengths and possibilities, we see that homeschooling is a revolutionary movement that can set up these beautiful young image-bearers to humbly fulfill the various vocations to which they are called. That is a reason to be hopeful and happy, even if shoppers don’t understand why your kids are walking around the store dressed like pirates and ninjas at 11:00 AM on a Tuesday.