I spoke with a friend last night who also home schools. She was sharing with me that she has a number of home schooling friends who very much believe in and support ‘child-led learning’. Apparently these home schoolers believe that a child should be allowed to lead in all ways of their upbringing. All ways. My friend posed the question to me, ‘If that were true then what do our children need us for? What purpose do we serve beyond providing food, shelter, and clothing?” My friend and I both agreed that we are to provide them with guidance (based on the wisdom we have acquired from experience and education) and limitations to keep them physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe. I think that to allow the child to lead in all the matters of his or her upbringing is risky. To be child focused is only one half of the parental contract. The other half of the contract involves setting limits, enforcing limits, and meting out consequences that should be the result of violations of those limits.
After being in the home schooling community for a while now, a few things have come to my attention. As home schoolers we spend so much time ‘defending’ our choice to home school that we often do not want to face some of the issues of home schooling that may not paint home schooling in the best light. I can certainly understand why. However, amongst home schoolers, outside of the ear shot of traditional educating families, should we not be able to be open and honest about not just the benefits of home schooling, but some of the challenges as well?
The reasons one has for home schooling are personal and they vary from family to family. No matter why a family chooses the home school route there can exist certain challenges. Ensuring that our children are learning a few ‘life’ truths are among those challenges. Those truths include:
- Our children need to learn how to operate within the defined, acceptable standards of our society.
- Our children need to learn how to meet deadlines, finish assignments, and have accountability.
- Our children need to be allowed to experience the consequences of their choices, even if those consequences are unpleasant.
- Our children need to learn self-control and self-discipline.
- Our children need to learn to treat their fellow human beings with respect.
As home schoolers, we know the advantages of letting our children work at their own pace, choose many of their educational paths according to their interests, and live in their own self-created world. However, we should never negate the fact that our children are going to grow up to work and play in the outside world one day. In that world, they will need the ability to have self-control, act respectfully, meet deadlines, complete tasks, and bear the consequences of their own choices. Regardless of where a child is educated, teaching these life skills should be a parental job.
However, as home schooling parents we must accept this responsibility because our children do not contend with many of the influences that can be found in the public schools. I struggle with some of these truths myself in regards to home schooling my child; especially meeting deadlines, finishing assignments, and having accountability. No matter how challenging it may be, certainly these lessons factor into the success our children will achieve as adults as much, or more so, than how well they can perform on a standardized test, recite the Gettysburg address, or explain the periodic table.