Names are funny things. Take the word “homeschooling.” What does that make you think of?
If you said, “School at home,” I’m not surprised. Home + school seems to equal school at home.
Only two things are wrong with this definition:
(1) Homeschooling isn’t “school.” It’s a whole different approach to education.
(2) Homeschooling does not have to all take place at home.
If Homeschooling is Not School, Then What Is It?
Homeschooling, properly understood, is education designed by parents. This automatically makes it a whole different animal from “public” education, which is education designed by government bureaucrats. It also differs sharply from “private” schooling. Regardless of their talk about parental authority, in practice private schools reserve curriculum design for teachers, administrators, and textbook designers.
Even those who think the child should direct his own education must admit this type of “un” schooling is only possible if the parent has the authority to let the child choose his own educational pursuits and projects.
So, homeschool is not “school” when it comes to who is in charge of curriculum design. Having parents choose or design the curriculum is radically different from what happens in any school.
Amazing as it may seem, parent-designed and parent-chosen curriculum yields better results than school-designed-and-chosen curriculum, as many research studies have shown. Then again, how amazing is it that curriculum chosen from the entire universe of options (rather than the small list “approved” by the state or school board) and targeted to the exact child for which it is intended, should result in more learning taking place faster? Especially when the parents in question have the ability to hobnob with other parents and find out what’s working for them . . . and when they can easily obtain detailed reviews of all their curriculum options through homeschool magazines and books.
Homeschool also is not “school” when it comes to scheduling and priorities. We do not have “announcements,” ringing bells to mark the end of a class period, football teams that soak up the budget that would otherwise go to art and music lessons, or endless classes geared to the latest politically correct fads. Unless we want to, that is!
This means that homeschooled children in general have a much greater attention span and ability to “focus” than children who attend school, where they are continually interrupted in the middle of their projects, math papers, writing assignments, and so forth.
Most Parents Homeschool
But man does not live by focusing power alone. This is why our neighbors keep asking us that old question, “What about socialization?” What they really mean is, “Can your child grow into a strong adult just sitting around your house doing lessons and projects?”
Alas for our poor neighbors. They are mistaking homeschooling for schooling that happens at home, when it’s really education under the authority of the home.
What a wild thought: all those parents who pay for art, music, and ballet lessons . . . who chauffeur their kids to soccer team and karate class . . . who sign them up for a YMCA course or who join the local Jewish community center . . . are homeschoolers, too! To the extent that they provide educational opportunities for their children solely because they want to, not because any authority “makes” them, these are homeschool parents.
All that we “real” homeschoolers do in addition to what most parents do, is add academic lessons at home. Or via a tutor. Or an online academy. We just exercise that additional dollop of choice.
Homeschool Away from Home
Since we now realize that homeschool is not “school at home,” this leaves us free to look for educational adventures anywhere in the real world that we can find them.
That’s why this issue’s special feature is our now-famous Annual Homeschool Vacations roundup. With summer just around the corner, now is the time to plan some out-of-the-ordinary family excursions and some independent learning adventures for your older children. Let us help you put some pizzazz into your summer!
As the mother of nine homeschooled children, I personally have found such vacations and adventures to be a wonderful way to energize and inspire my own kids. This summer and fall, for example, four of my children are attending Worldview Academy and two are heading to the Glorieta Homeschool Conference, where they will have a table offering our magazine and other products, as well as giving a talk or two. Joseph hopes to take an Outward Bound course this fall, and we’re already thinking about next summer’s Hocking College learn-to-sail course.
None of this is “school,” and none of it will be happening at home . . . but it still is homeschool. The world is our home. And class is in session.