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The Benefits of Homeschooling

The Benefits of Homeschooling

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Published by Robert Colquhoun
The benefits of homeschooling.
The benefits of homeschooling.

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Published by: Robert Colquhoun on Jul 01, 2010
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I am very grateful to Dr Stephen Milne who has given me permission to promote his excellentwriting here to a wider audience through this publication. He has some excellent resources athttp://stephenmilne.wordpress.com/.
 When my wife and I decided to home-school our young children, many friends questioned what we wanted todo, as if education were the exclusive province of the state. In Britain where we live, this is a very commonattitude. As is the view that failing to send children to school is somehow bound to stunt their socialdevelopment and disadvantage them in later life. Well, although there are answers to these objections, there are many more good reasons to home-school yourchildren, especially in the younger years. The socialisation of children is accomplished in many ways and yet has become in many people's minds more important today than moral and spiritual development. It is a child'smoral and spiritual development, however, that is far more important for the simple reason that the person isfundamentally a moral and spiritual being. With young children, homeschooling provides lots of opportunities to develop an authentic family culture, aculture from which the child and later the adult person takes his or her "existential horizon" in the world. This isnowhere more important than in the formation of conscience, a point noted by John Paul II in his Letter toFamilies:"experience shows what an important role is played by the family in living in accordance with the moral norm, so that the individual born and raised in it will be able to set out without hesitation on the road of the good, which is always written in his heart." (Letter toFamilies, 5)The consequences for children in ignoring this or in attempting to normalize structures that contradict the truthand love that should guide the family are becoming increasingly apparent, as the recent Good ChildhoodReport demonstrates:"The moral conscience becomes darkened; what is true, good and beautiful is deformed;and freedom is replaced by what is actually enslavement." (LF, 5)If you are thinking of homeschooling your children, John Paul's words provide an excellent starting point for what might guide you in your efforts to remain the primary educators of your children.In our own home, we had our first three children focus mainly on catechesis, literacy, mathematics,science, music and history. These subjects provided enough breadth but plenty of possibilities for theinvolvement of each of us in teaching. I think most teachers know this, but if they could exchange threehours a week of literacy work with a class of thirty children for half an hour of intensive one-to-one work  with one child, they would chose the latter as a more effective way to teach.Homeschooling gives you just that opportunity with your children, even if you are not a trained teacher.One-to-one tutoring is so effective that many parents now pay for it outside of normal school hours toensure that their children pass important examinations, despite them receiving teaching at school. Andhome-schooled children do far better on average statistically in national tests than others as variouscomparative research studies have demonstrated (gohereandherefor examples).  What child would not want to get up late, do several hours of study with mum or dad, play or go out on afield trip collecting frogspawn and then come home to talk about it together? No bullying issues, nodisruption to learning issues, no sex education issues, no poor or erroneous catechesis issues and noparents' evenings or SAT tests. Of course, for some families, this is more difficult to arrange and childrenmay need to go to school in year 4, 5 or 6 as some of our children eventually did.But those early years from the ages of one to seven or eight are precious years - years of innocence thatpass so quickly. For me, as a father, one of the most important things about homeschooling was getting acloser look at their minds and hearts and knowing that the time spent with them on trips to naturereserves, swimming and making pie charts and nature collections was time with a difference.
It was time in which our family took root and in which we as parents could give our children the time they needed to begin to know and love the good, the true and the beautiful. Our children are not perfect, and neitherare we, but our society has many other messages to give its families and children - messages that go deeply against the grain of a life lived in love, conceived and born in love and discovered in love. As John Paul II put itso marvellously,"Only Love creates the good, and in the end it alone can be perceived in all its dimensionsand its contours in created things and, above all, in man." (Theology of the Body, 16:1)I think in the end, homeschooling in a Christian context comes down to this: the desire to communicate to yourchildren the love of God made manifest in the whole of the created universe - whether it is through the great artof the past, stories from ancient Greece or how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.It is also worth remembering that for children, love is spelled 't-i-m-e' and the time you spend together deepensthe love between you and allows the slow growth of your child's interior life space in which to happen. Childrenare amazingly open to the transcendent; our culture and our education system, by and large, are not.Perhaps no 'system' is perfect. But homeschooling is a way in which the family as a domestic church canflourish; even if only one other family you know has tried or is trying homeschooling (quite likely in the UK though not in America where millionshome-school), they will give you courage. And virtue, as Aristotle once said, helps us attain and live the Good.Read writer Rachel Starr Thomson's account of being homeschooled at boundless.org here.
Homeschooling gives families opportunities to grow together, parents and children. One of the most satisfyingand interesting aspects of this is the adventure of learning itself. The National Curriculum in schools in Englandand Wales is broad and prescriptive and although it provides a good basis for most children's development inmost areas, it suffers in many schools from being taught according to a set and pressured timetable.For homeschoolers, learning can take paths that in the ordinary classroom might just not be possible because of time. This means that although homeschooling parents have to have some idea of what they want to teach and what children need to learn, they can afford to be more selective about importance and about the use of time.Literacy and numeracy are fundamental to many other subject areas and without literacy skills, for example,children who arrive at secondary schools are severely disadvantaged across the whole curriculum not just inEnglish.In fact early literacy learning and development in the home is consistently the key indicator of children's futureacademic success according to International Reading Association (IRA) research. For homeschoolers, the time and more restricted focus available to their families potentially allows them to develop their children's readingskills earlier and better to prepare them for other subject learning.For boys this is especially important. Boys make up large numbers of the pupils who are behind in literacy inBritish schools and who are also behind with other subject areas. Boys' performance in SAT tests haveconsistently demonstrated this in the last ten years (National Literacy Trust). But with homeschooling, boyshave a better chance of making the crucial change between guided and independent reader - something that formany boys never happens as it should at around 7-9 years old.Reading, numeracy and science can become a way to school your children through the trials of learning suchindependence before they find it is too late. If handled with patience, plenty of practice and with the use of interesting projects and materials, it can become an adventure for both children and parents. And literacy learning opens up a whole world of imagination and fact to children, without which their lives remainimpoverished.Some of the most troubled children I have taught often suffer from what the Pulitzer prize-winningpsychiatrist Robert Coles called an undernourished moral imagination - a capacity to both wonder about the  world we live in, its inhabitants and meaning but also to "reflect upon what is right and wrong with all theintellectual resources of the human mind" (The Moral Intelligence of Children). Most importantly, they haveoften not developed much capacity for empathy with the suffering and circumstance of others.

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