One Family's Assessment
by Fred & Kim Zaspel, 1996
For several years our children have been receiving their education at home. The experience for us all has been a learning one, although puzzling to many who are not acquainted with the homeschooling alternative. Actually, however, homeschooling is not new. It is an old practice, most notably practiced very successfully among the ancient Jews who by it produced one of the most literate societies history has known. But it is an educational alternative which is unfamiliar to most modern Americans, and it is for this reason most homeschoolers receive regular inquiries about their practice. For us, the questions are welcome; we feel very strongly that homeschooling deserves much more consideration than it is normally given. And it is to assist in this investigation that we have provided here a reply to the most common questions about homeschooling.
Questions Commonly Asked
1. Can you be as effective teaching your children as the public school teachers?
We have a few distinct advantages. First, we have the advantage of one-on-one instruction. This allows us to tailor our children's education to their particular needs and abilities and interests. It also allows for a closer check on their progress. We do not have to bother with crowd control or disruptions from the class, and we don't have the discipline problems so problematic to modern education.
Second, our taking this responsibility with our children ensures that they will receive the most dedicated help they could ever have. Even the most enthusiastic school teacher will never have the personal interest in our children's progress that we have.
Third, we have every option available to us academically. We are able to choose the curriculum that is best suited to our children. Education is not "one size fits all." Our son, for example, excels particularly in math. He is doing work in this area well beyond his grade level. Our daughter is an avid reader. Homeschooling allows her to read far more literature than she was able before. She generally reads about 200 books a year; and in all this reading, her knowledge of history, for example, increases at a much more rapid pace. There's more. Even though our children are only in grade school, they have begun work in foreign language. We all decided to learn German together, and it becomes a very enjoyable daily exercise to see who remembers more. And then there is the matter of computers — their work with computers is much more easily advanced in a home setting.
Fourth, we can set our goals for our children's education ourselves. On the one hand, we want them to know as much as possible about all their fields of study. But more than that, we want them to develop a thirst for learning; and we want them to develop the ability to research areas of study themselves. These goals are much better served with individualized attention and direction.
Fifth, there are countless resources available to us. The annual state curriculum fair in Harrisburg alone provides outlets for hundreds of publishers and educational resource groups. There is everything from computer programs to videos to books and visual aids available to homeschoolers. There is virtually no end to the helps from which we may draw to better educate our children.
Finally, it's just fun. Both we and our children have profited immensely from the experience. We wouldn't trade it for anything.
2. Why did we choose to homeschool?
The advantages mentioned above pretty well say it. To give you a more personal look, when our son was about to enter Kindergarten, we discovered what all he would learn by the end of the school year. In his case, the year would have been almost entirely one of review of old and too easy material. The home alternative allowed him to progress at his own rate and to his own interests and needs.
3. How well do homeschooled children do academically?
Surfing the internet recently we found a number of colleges and universities which actively recruit homeschool graduates, some offering scholarships. Educators are recognizing the quality of education homeschooling affords. We've not seen statistics in the last year or so, but the last ones we saw indicated that homeschooled children average in the 80th percentile. That is to say, the advantages we just mentioned are not just theoretical; homeschooled children, on average, do better.
4. What about the children's socialization?
This is probably the most common question asked, and our children giggle when they hear it. Homeschool groups abound, and a homeschooled child's freedom to play with friends is only increased. Homeschooled children very often are more independent and better adjusted to real life situations. The 25 or so of their own age all day in a room is more artificial and, in our opinion, not as conducive to maturing in some very important ways.
The bottom line, here, is in the product. No one who knows our children would ever think that they are lacking in the area of social skills.
5. How will you teach your children in the more advanced academic fields?
We're not sure yet how we'll handle, say, advanced physics or chemistry when they reach high school. Not all children take these kinds of courses, but perhaps ours will. And if they do, we will still have every option available. If there is a teacher in the school noted for outstanding results, we can send them to that class. Or we can hire a tutor. Or we can choose from that limitless pool of resources which we spoke of earlier. This is the beauty of homeschooling; we can tailor the educational options to the child.
More Personal Notes
On a more personal note, we should say that there are more than academic reasons for our homeschooling. It was largely an educational consideration at the beginning but not entirely. And now with a few years of homeschooling behind us we have found the experience more rewarding and more valuable than we at first imagined it could be. Here's how.
We have always enjoyed a happy and a close family; God has been very good to us in this way. And this was one major complaint we had with the public school. Our child would leave home around 8:20 a.m. and return around 4 p.m. Then there was homework. Then supper and clean up and any chores that had to be done. Then piano lesson. And before any real family time was available, it was time for bed. Five days a week. We felt more and more that the best years of our children's lives would pass us by with too little involvement on our part and too little time together as a family. The "old days" with Mom and Pop and the kids on the porch for the evening became very coveted, and the present state of things began to seem very wrong. We determined together that we would not some day have to send our children off without having enjoyed the time getting to know them and having given them our best efforts and attention.
What we have found as a result is that our family has become all the closer and all the stronger. The richer relationship we enjoy together as a result of homeschooling is something we would never trade, not for the world.
Primary in our thinking has always been our children's spiritual well being; it would be torture to feel that we had failed them here. We decided that God's demand that we "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" was far better served giving them our direction each day rather than turning them over to someone else. We do not say that there is no one else out there who is good or concerned, but we do claim that there is no one anywhere who will take this concern to heart as we do.
Furthermore, to turn them over to the world for the major part of their developing years seemed to us to be potentially harmful, if not wrong. It is our responsibility to guide them in the ways of God and to protect them from any influence that would in any way distract them from the higher goals of serving Him more faithfully. Again, we concluded then and are convinced now that these goals are better served by us than anyone else.
Then there is the question of morals. It is no secret that the environment of the public school is becoming increasingly hostile to Christian ideals. Society has determined to accept and promote things which a generation ago were considered appalling, and it has chosen the public school as its platform. In the process the values which we treasure have been taken away. Christian values are scorned, and those who seek to preserve them find themselves under increasing criticism.
Eventually, Christian parents must decide how much of this their children should be forced — and can afford — to endure. For us, the answer became very obvious.
We've already mentioned these in a broad way. But we became concerned also about the academic integrity of the public school system. For example, it is no secret that the educational establishment is rewriting history. And in the process they are writing God out of the picture. It is not their failure to teach theology that is the issue here; it is their deliberate attempt to eliminate any memory of our Protestant Christian heritage. No mention is made of the Christian Church and its great role in the formation of our culture and heritage. No attention is given to the Reformation, yet modern Western civilization is unexplainable without it. Very little attention is given even to America's European heritage, and again the reason seems suspiciously to be an anti-religious one. Studies of unrelated pagan lands and cultures are extolled, while any Christian contribution to society is scorned, denied, or ignored altogether. The modern history textbook remakes history; and for all the claims to the contrary, this is not academic integrity.
There is more. Science also has sought to erase any evidence of God. The evolutionary theories are accepted as settled dogma, and all evidence of intelligent design is conveniently ignored. Again, we may be excused for suspecting the motives and academic integrity of those who write the textbooks.
And of course there is still more. America's public educational system is notorious for its failure to produce graduates who are able to compete in the modern world. Math, reading, grammar — these are essential skills which are being quickly lost, often displaced by instruction in more social concerns. And so we return to the place where we began: we feel that homeschool provides a better alternative for our children's education.
We do not say that God requires homeschooling of every family, or even of every Christian family. There are other alternatives to consider also. But what is very plainly true is that God does hold parents responsible for the decisions they make in regard to their children. Our children are given to us from God in trust, and that responsibility is a solemn one indeed. Our decisions for our children are decisions we will have to live with.
We would suggest that Christian parents consider very carefully the alternatives available for their children and not merely accept the status quo without due consideration. Homeschooling is the alternative which we feel serves our children best. We recommend it highly.