My son and I are currently studying a 50-lecture course from The Teaching Company entitled The Great Ideas of Philosophy, with the very excellent Professor Daniel N. Robinson, of Oxford University and Georgetown University. Soon we will begin the course, Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning. Last year, the guys did a lengthy, 84 lecture course, with all of the assigned readings, in Classics of American Literature. The year before that they studied The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Classical Mythology using video courses taught by their favorite teacher, Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver of Whitman College. When David took the ACT as a 10th grader, he scored at the 99th percentile in the literary area.
To those who wish to homeschool but are not making the decision; nor devising a plan; nor taking action to do so — all because you feel that you are not up to the job; that you lack knowledge and instruction in certain subjects; please carefully note my wording: “My son and I are currently studying…The Great Ideas of Philosophy.”
I did not say, “I am teaching my son the great ideas of philosophy.”
In our homeschool we study with our son so that his education will not be restricted or delayed due to our inadequacies, or the inadequacies of our public school educations. If we do not know something, we say, “I don’t know. Let’s read further; let’s seek other books on the topic.”
We have spent the years at the table with David, heads together as we share one book. We have made time for the many interruptions that occur when one or the other of us wishes to comment upon, or question statements made by authors and textbook writers. We have paused so that David could teach us a concept that he was able to understand before we could get it. In all ways, this confidence in the ability of at least one of the three of us to — discover a truth, see a concept, learn a procedure, then proceed to teach it to the other two persons, has made our homeschooling experience more valuable with each passing year. David has become a stronger thinker and scholar for having had the opportunities to teach others, even if those others have been Mom and Dad. I love to hear him…”Well, you see Mom, it’s like this… What the guy is trying to say is… If you try the problem this way it will help you understand the process…”
Are we fully knowledgeable in all of the subjects that we have wanted this child to study? Of course not! Are we able to serve as team leaders in the seeking of knowledge? Of course! In the early grades, we were several steps ahead of our pupil. In middle school we managed to stay a couple steps ahead in most classes. In high school, as his knowledge and skills developed to such extraordinary levels, he “left us in his dust.”
We have applauded this outcome and have never felt that we should stop homeschooling simply because we were not able to teach certain lessons or subjects. Some classes helped us recall information that we had once learned in school. In other classes we learned information that we had known about, but did not actually know. In classes like calculus and physics, we had to stay totally out of the loop. We bought the D.I.V.E. CDs to go with his Saxon Math books, led our son to the computer, and said, “Meet your new math instructor, Dr. David Shormann.” We bought wonderful video sets with great instructors and joined him on the couch for classes. We joined him in gaining new knowledge and so David is not the only recipient of the benefits of the years spent at our homeschooling table. We are better-educated parents for having brought him home to learn from us.
Ignore the individuals who claim that parents need to be certified in order to teach their children at home. What arrogance on the part of any schoolteachers and administrators who speak such nonsense. Are any of those people certified to teach every subject, K-12? How many of them are even certified and qualified to teach the classes to which they are assigned? That last question is the only part of the No Child Left Behind legislation that I find interesting, even comical. Schools are having to report how many teachers are, and have been, teaching classes in subjects they have never studied; never attended training; hold no certification. Sur-prise, Sur-prise!
Then there are teachers like myself: I completed an undergraduate minor in English; an M.A. in English; and have been teaching English in one form or the other, for most of every day, for twenty-five years working in special education classes. Yet, I have been denied, by a state teacher certification agency, certification to teach English, simply because I do not have an undergraduate major in English. I have never not been certified to teach English — until I came here. Three other states have deemed me certifiable, but not this one. The ludicrousness of such decisions is astounding. The fact that such thinking is paid for by our tax monies is offensive to the nth degree.
If you have the desire to homeschool, do it! Parents, you have the responsibility for educating your children, not the State. If you even suspect that the public education system is short-changing your child (which in all probability, it is), act to change that! Every day of your child’s life is of vital importance, and you will never be able to call back lost hours; lost days; lost years. Act now to provide an excellent education for your children. The odds are extremely high that loving, nurturing parents will be wise enough to homeschool: intelligent enough to discover which subjects they can teach; astute enough to realize for which subjects they may need help; and motivated enough to find such help.
If you don’t know, ASK! Ask neighbors who homeschool. Seek a homeschooling support group in your community. Contact the Home School Legal Defense Association. Do a search on the Internet and you will find that there is help for homeschooling parents everywhere. Seek and you will find, thus serving as a fine role model for your children. Seek information is step one. Make a decision is step two. Take action is step three. Ready…Set…Homeschool!
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.