Perfect Homeschooling and Other Great Myths
by Carol Barnier
Do you have an image of the perfect homeschool? (Think Norman Rockwell). Do you find it eats away at you on those days when your homeschool falls far short of the mark? (Think piranha). Do you picture those darling, inquisitive, obedient, washed and grateful children? (Think Sound of Music). The perfect mother? (Think Walton’s Mountain). Surely, such a mom has daily meals planned and prepared in advance. (Think your mom...come to think of it...think of mine, too).
The floors seem to clean themselves...so consistent is the chores routine. (Think Mayberry and Aunt Bee) And the lesson plans, while written out in triplicate for a full year in advance, (Don’t think of me) are actually hardly needed at all because Mom has the ability to take any of life’s many events and turn them into teaching moments. (Think Sheriff Andy Taylor)...or so I often dream.
I will admit, I do at least try to find learning moments in everyday situations. But things seem to have a way of...I don’t know...getting away from me? Like election day last November.
As I was taking my girls with me to the polls to cast my vote in the presidential election, I wanted to drive home the point of the privilege, not only of voting, but of doing so without threat to life. As I pulled into the parking area I pointed at some trees that lined the far side of the lot. I explained that if we were in Haiti, there might well be people hiding in those trees with guns, ready to shoot us if we got into a line to vote. I wanted them to understand what an amazing accomplishment it is that every four years there is this massive transfer of power and that it is peaceful.
Power transfers regularly all over the globe, but our forefathers put into place some amazing checks and balances creating a dynamic process that, in the end, has resulted in regular, peaceful transfers of power. It is a remarkable thing to be a part of a government that even cares what the populace thinks, let alone takes in the consensus of the populace, uses it to transfer power, and does it all without one shot being fired.
I think my 11-year-old “got it” but it is possible that my four-year-old has come away from the experience damaged. She believed I was saying that there were, in those trees, men prepared to shoot at us. I quickly explained that I was speaking of Haiti, another country, far, far away...not here, in which we would have such fears. But by then she was scanning the trees, looking for the glint of some hidden rifle. She continued to emit concerns about whether or not we should dare to go in. Even as we walked by the laughing and unconcerned fellow voters scarfing up goodies from the bake sale table we passed, she didn’t let go of the concept.
It is clear my little attempt at a civics lesson did not hit a home run with her. Indeed, I suspect now that she may never vote, unless we are fortunate enough to move to Haiti where she is certain that life is much less dangerous. After all, she deduces, at least there will NOT be any men with guns lurking behind trees in Haiti, because all such men are currently hiding in the woods of a little middle school in Connecticut.
Such unplanned turns in our well-planned paths are in fact the actual stuff that a homeschool day is made of. There was a time that I agonized over this fact. I feared that the lack of a traditional flow to my children’s schooling routine would somehow damage them. Or worse yet, they would miss something vital, something that is accomplished through tradition, through uninterrupted lessons, through a day without one drop of mashed beans being spit up on their homework. I have learned that I am not alone in my fears or my experiences. But there is an amazing fact that has begun to permeate the deep recesses of my brain.
Homeschooling works! The socialization fears turned out to be laughable. The children perform well, even exceptionally, by every measurable gauge of success. Each new piece of research confirms it over and over again. It just can’t be denied, even in the secular media. No, I don’t have the perfect homeschool. But without a doubt, God knew that homeschooling would be perfect for me and my family, because through it He has had so very many opportunities to work at perfecting us.
Copyright 2004 Carol Barnier. Reprinted by permission.
Carol Barnier is a speaker, radio guest and the author of If I’m Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where’d I Leave the Baby? Carol is wife to Brian, mother to three homeschooled children, and poster child for God’s abundant grace.