I thought I would take a few posts in the coming days and explain about our family. Most folks that know us know that I am the pastor of a small-town Baptist church (empirically small), and that I am married with three kids who take after their mother in all the good ways. We choose that our kids do their education, right now Kindergarten, 3rd grade, and 5th grade, here at home instead of going down the road to the county school system.
I wanted to give a little bit of perspective on reasons that we made the decision to do it this way. Some of these are fact-based reasons, some faith-based, and some emotion-based. And since none of the rest of you are the Hibbards, you've got to make your own choices anyway, but in case you're pondering what to do, here's part of how we made our decision.
First, let's hit some basics:
1. Homeschooling can be done very, very badly. In some cases, parents use homeschooling as cover for educational neglect and let their kids do nothing all the time. Some parents use it for social neglect and never let their kids interact with anybody ever.
We strive not to be that type of family. It is true that our kids don't have huge peer groups to interact with. They do, however, interact with a diverse range of people. Is it as diverse as it should be? No. We're working on that.
2. Most homeschoolers are well aware of the need to put positive effort into helping their kids overcome the drawbacks in homeschooling. That's why we get a little exasperated the fiftieth time we're asked by someone about our children's needs for "socialization." Because the question is often being asked by someone at a social event, where our children are interacting with people of a variety of ages and backgrounds, and doing so quite well. Then, we get asked "How will they learn to interact with people?" Really? Why do you think we bring them out in public at all hours of the day?
Trust me, most of us know our shortcomings and don't need your help seeing them.
3.Homeschooling should never be used to fake academic achievement. That's one problem I have with some of these "equal-access" pushes to allow homeschool participation in school extra-curricular activities. I know what my kids have done, but I don't know quite how it grades. Would they get a good enough GPA to be eligible? Well, they ought to, but is it fair?
Our version of homeschooling does have requirements and prescribed assignments and subjects. Not everyone homeschools that way, but we do.
4. This is also not about pure religious indoctrination. Yes, we blend Bible and our Christian faith into our schoolwork. It's not impossible, though, to teach your faith to your children without taking them out of school.
Homeschooling is not about building a wall that keeps the world out or blocking all alternative views. It does allow for blending more aspects into education: no one is going to sue us for our kids singing Christmas songs about Jesus in school. That has happened in public schools, and it's sad, because that's putting up a wall and blocking alternative views.
5. Most homeschoolers are not in it for the money. Truth is, we spend as little as possible but as much as necessary, and it runs about $1000 a year so far for books and materials. We could spend less if we wanted to go the library every week and more if we wanted to blow cash on more fun things. That's a cost we're wiling to pay. Most of us wouldn't mind if we got to count our education expenses as a tax deduction like college expenses are, but we can live with what we've got.
And, no, it doesn't bother me that "we pay for a school system we don't use." My parents pay taxes for the Ouachita Parish School System in Louisiana, and they don't use it. Lots of taxpayers pay for schools because of the societal benefit from them, not because of personal use. Now, am I concerned that greater dollar amounts go into schools now than did 20 years ago but we have worse results? Everybody should be concerned with that, and the solution is more complex than adjusting the dollar amount (up or down). But I don't think we're entitled to a refund just because our kids don't use the local school. (But, an income tax deduction would be nice. At the state level, since that's where most of my state income taxes go.)
That's just a few random thoughts on this. More to come later.