Over my fifteen years as a home educating father I've come to see how home education is a great method for achieving key education goals. This list of goals comes from Colorado Home Education leader, Kevin Swanson in his book Upgrade: The 10 Secrets to the Best Education of Your Child. I will briefly list them and share quick personal examples of how home education has helped my family work towards achieving these goals. You will see how my wife and I, having been educated in public and private school respectively, strongly believe home education method is superior to the school model in achieving these goals.
Of course both traditional school, whether delivered by a teacher in a school or, now, by a parent at home, and home education have a shared goal of teaching our children how to read, write, do arithmetic as well as focus on the next key sets of subjects: geography, history and science. So this article is focused not so much on these shared academic goals. Instead, I'll focus on goals that both include the above academic goals but also include other items key to the holistic training of our children.
Prior to listing these goals, I will share a verse from the Old Testament of the Bible that helps motivate us to push ahead with home education through the occasional difficult periods we experience.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7: "5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
I will now list the ten secrets of education that Mr. Swanson covers in his book and provide quick points about how the "Tederoff" school has integrated these goals in our home.
- The pre-eminence of character - Some days it seems we spend as much time ensuring our children persevere with their learning as actually teaching our children. However, these efforts in character training progressively pay off. The better behaved our children are the better they will listen to our instructions and training. Home education gives ample time for parents to instill character in their children. For instance, getting our kids to accomplish a certain math technique results as much in character training as imparting math skills, a win-win result.
- Quality one-on-one instruction - Despite having seven children, we still have a fair bit of one-on-one time with each child. With all this time spent with our children, we learn better what their learning styles are, what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are. Home education lends itself to a low student to teacher ratio and thus each child gets more attention than in a typical school setting. There are many reasons that many kings in history have relied on a tutorial method to teach their offspring. The benefit of home education over this tutorial method is that parents get to spend both quality and quantity time with their kids rather than a stranger.
- The principle of protection - As parents we are concerned about our children getting emotionally bullied, physically hurt as well as being introduced to certain topics before they are mature enough to deal with them. With home education we have more control about who our children are with, as well as what topics we teach them at what age, and into what details we delve. Being with them for so many hours each day we also get a good feel for when they can start to spread their wings.
- The principle of individuality - I'm still surprised how my seven children, from the same parents and same home environment are in some ways so different. Thus as we train our children and test them we don't go to the same efforts as a school to "standardize" and "centralize" our learning environment. We are not in the process of producing interchangeable widgets. Rather we are raising unique individuals made in the image of God. Home education is well suited to deal with children who come in all shapes and sizes, thinking methods, learning styles, intellectual abilities and growth patterns.
- The principle of rooting in relationships - Although we are not the perfect family, have squabbles at times, and need regular times of seeking forgiveness, we are so thankful for the strong relations we have as parents and with our children. Home education lets parents confidently answer "us" to the following questions. Who knows your child the best? Who loves your child the most? Who is in the best position to teach them not just in their toddler years but also into adulthood?
- The principle of doing the basics well - I suspect that many people who are involved in traditional school are coming to agree with the typical home educator that mastering the "Three Rs," reading, writing and arithmetic, are the place to start with educating our children. The better these basics are mastered the better other subjects can be mastered. In a home education environment, the parents can choose quality curriculum, which best matches their children's' learning aptitudes. This generally leads to our students becoming, in their own time (see the above principle of individuality) strong readers, writers and mathematicians. And a home environment is more nimble to realize when a particular curriculum is not the best and switch to a better option. We are able to use this same flexibility to use different curriculum resources for one child compared to another child.
- The principle of life integration - We hear more and more of the need for mentorship in our culture, not just for adults, but youth. We should not just strive to teach our children facts but to integrate what's been learned in the past to what is needed in a current situation. Home education, with involved parents, often provides opportunities, for example through family friends, for children to apply what they are learning by helping others. And sometimes we have to have an open mind to our children stepping outside of the bounds of an assignment. Perhaps when your daughter is not writing that assigned essay but rather writing her cousin, stop and think. Isn't the reason you want your daughter to be able to write an arbitrary assigned essay so that she can do the practical task of writing her cousin?
- Maintain the honour and mystique of learning - I currently have an office next to a library. Although the library is not huge, it still has more books, even in one section of it, than I would likely be able to read in a lifetime. I feel a sense of awe on how much of the world I have yet to discover through books. This is part of the mystique of learning we hope to instill in our children. With home education, as your children's' teachers, you can work to teach your children in such an engaging way that they want to keep coming back for more.
- Build on the right foundation - As parents we should realize that educating our children does not just fill them with facts but we are training their minds and discipling their souls. All education is built on a worldview, even the state's approved curriculum: the philosophy behind it is not some neutral set of ideas from a vacuum. With home education you can aim to have a seamless fit between your worldview and the nuts and bolts of what you teach your children. Sure, you will likely cover many of the same topics and theories taught in public school but you are in a position to instill your religious, political and school-of-hard-knocks values into what you teach your children.
- The principle of wise, sequential progress - The idea here is to start training your children with material that is basic and simple, and work into more complex material. This is both during a given school year and from year to year. It is frustrating to children when the learning goes too fast or too slow. With home education you get personal, daily feedback on whether the pace you've set for educating your children needs adjustment. At least in the early grades it is not unusual for a home educating parent, in answer to what grade their child is in, to reply with grade 4 for math, grade 3 for English, and grade 5 for arts or science. For who is to say that each child should progress at exactly the same rate, and in all subjects, as other children?
With the above in mind you can see why my wife suggested the following title for this article: "Never underestimate the power of a loving teacher - You!" Moreover, I hope that you can see that in many respects a home teaching environment, where you choose the material you teach your children, the pace at which you teach it, and the one-on-one time you spend with your children is a great way to achieve many of the outlined goals. If so, I strongly challenge you to embark on your home education journey.