One time, a dear friend of mine was explaining to me how her worldly school experience was somehow better, and how her children were receiving the best education available. (Have you ever noticed how worldly school parents think they must educate us to this “fact” and we must bear it patiently, but the reverse seldom holds?) She was so striving to explain her children's bright future that perhaps she could not even hear herself speaking. As I began listening and trying to understand what she was saying, I was astonished at the obvious conclusion. I believe it would be very instructive to share it all with you.
We can grant her that her children were in the best worldly schools available in our small city. They were a wealthy family and had moved into a wealthy neighborhood for the expressed purpose of better worldly schooling. (That this fact was possible should be enough, alone, to terminate worldly education.) She wanted her children to be lawyers and she wanted them in the best colleges in the nation. I will also grant that she was a very dedicated mom, committed to performing whatever activity (except home schooling) was necessary to raising up successful children. She was misinformed, though, and not thinking about the entire scope of the picture.
To prove to me her commitment, she began to itemize the duties that she undertook for her children's education. This was a typical day:
- She drove her children to school, herself, to prevent any teen driving troubles in their lives. They did not like being the only ones who did not drive themselves, but she was dedicated enough to insist.
- She was careful to deposit them at the school early, to give them a little free time to form friendships of their own choosing, so that they would not be relying on whomever might sit nearby in class. This also gave them time to collect and compose themselves before having to face the day.
- She signed them up for sports, although they were not athletic types, to help them overcome all the sitting they must do on a daily basis, and to improve their chances for scholarships.
- After school, they had sports obligations, of course. She would go to every practice and to every game, with a video camera. She literally recorded every pertinent happening at these gatherings.
- During the day, she edited these videos, juxtaposing the skills of opponents and her child and his teammates, to show where a little more effort would benefit.
- After school, her children had oceans of homework. She was very strict about it. She allowed no play until all work was done. Since supper was prepared in advance, she worked with them on their homework, explaining things they could not get the teachers to answer adequately. She was like an old-fashioned cheerleader, greeting them with encouraging one-liners, such as, “You can do it; just about one more hour ought to get it!”
- She showed the sports videos to them and gave detailed explanations of her thinking, so they could discuss how more effort would cause more success. Again, she cheered them on. (I do not know where their coach was.)
- Since homework reigned supreme in their home, except for a break for supper, the children labored until midnight or beyond, at which point Mom simply conked out. (She did ask me if I thought she was wrong to require them to continue until two a.m. or later, when she, herself, was unable to do so!)
- The next day they began again.
It was true that her children were doing well in school. They did not have as many friends as they might have liked, but they were receiving high grades in difficult subjects, and they were often on the first sports teams.
They were tired. I always thought that they were shy children because they hardly said much when we saw them at church. I learned though, that if anyone spoke first, these children politely carried on an adequate conversation. Then they would fall back into their tired mode, like a trance. My friend, their mother, was tired, too. I began seeing signs of it - being late (or absent), hastily coifed, testy - all out of character for her and all beginning when school began each year. I understood it more after we had the above conversation.
I think she was just using me for a sounding board, not realizing that I have feelings, too. Most people in worldly school need to verbalize their convictions to home educators. They subconsciously need our quiet endurance of these conversations, I think, to help them go on. Since I believe that, I usually do not listen altogether mutely. Usually I say things like, “I am so sorry,” or “I know it must be a real burden,” or “Perhaps a different teacher (grade, school, district, etc.) would make a big difference?” I am not being sarcastic when I say these things, although the temptation is sometimes there. No, I truly am sorry to see my friends suffer so because of their worldly education choices, and, because of my own mistakes in the worldly systems, I truly know it is a burden. Of course, I know that a different spot within the worldly school system does not usually make much difference, but I also desire to help them see something: To me, their situation sounds burdensome. I hope to cause them to have second thoughts, if possible, within the context of friendship.
Therefore, I tried to listen gently to my friend's tiring tedium of tasks. I am sure my eyes widened.
As she was winding up with, “but I just don't see any other way to make sure they are doing well . . .” I said, “Sandra, I know you are tired; anyone could see it in your eyes. I don't know what to tell you. If the teachers and the coaches will not do it, I guess you must. Someone must.” I hesitated, then went on, “The reason you are tired is that you are homeschooling. For most home educators, it is not so tiring, though, because they homeschool from 8:00 a.m. until sometime in the afternoon. You are homeschooling a lot, during those hours, but also during the hours from 3:00 until midnight and beyond. Add to that the fact that you are worrying, and you could not HELP but be tired. You are working at the worldly schools, and then conducting your own homeschool afterwards.”
The things I said did not help her. She was convinced hers was the only way to send her children into law school. The entire conversation did help me, though. It gave me several more reasons that I will never go back into the worldly institutionalized education program. You can learn from it, too, perhaps. Perhaps you can see why people should stay out of that system.
Failing that, at least you will have a long and laborious list of things you must do (should you decide to quit home schooling) to cause success in worldly educated children!
Katharine Trauger has homeschooled her six children for over twenty years. She and her husband, Gerald, live in Arkansas, and enjoy gardening, reading, and Bible study.