What I Get From Home Schooling
When you are homeschooling your children, you just aren't going to make it through the school year without having to field some questions. I've gotten them from grocery store clerks, strangers in line at the post office, librarians, friends, family members....the list is extensive. I believe that usually the questions are asked out of genuine curiosity. People really want to understand how it's done, especially the legal aspects. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt (which is really unlike me when you think about it) that they aren't questioning from a place of criticism.
But sometimes people cross the line. I had some very casual acquaintances drill me about homeschooling recently. Their inhibitions had been loosened with alcohol and they seemed fascinated that I was homeschooling FOUR children (The emphasis was theirs. For honesty's sake, I must point out that my eldest daughter is no longer being homeschooled as of the beginning of this school year.) They asked all sorts of questions about everything from annual testing, to curriculum, to what time my kids get up to "do school". But the one that irritated me most was, "What makes you think you are qualified to teach your children?"
Now I've had many forms of this question asked, but it's usually inquiring about what the state regulates. "Do you have to have a teaching degree to homeschool your kids?" You know, that sort of thing.
I've never been so blatantly questioned.
I had a witty comeback, of course. I keep a list of witty comebacks for such times.
"Well....I helped teach them to walk, and talk, and use the toilet, to eat from a fork, those sorts of things.....I figured that was a lot harder than teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic."
And I walked away. I'm sure they chattered on after my departure, but I really don't care. If you know me at all, you know I'm an intelligent, well-spoken individual. And if you've met my children for more than half a second, you know that they are also intelligent and well-spoken (probably much more so than I). So, I don't feel the need to validate my ability to educate my children.
The thought that some "expert" with a degree is considered more qualified to teach my children infuriates me. But that's not why I'm writing this particular blog entry.
There's something that the casual onlooker is just going to miss when they observe my homeschooling family; The gifts I've received from putting so much time and energy into the education of my children.
You see, it's really not so much me teaching them, but us learning from each other.
I'm much better at math than I would be otherwise. I've gone over the rules of long division and algebras order of operations so many times that I'm quite the expert. I've been forced to use math skills that would have degraded over time. So I can figure percent-off sale prices and price per ounce at the grocery store in my head on the fly. (It's kind of like a super power.) I'm also much better at grammar and spelling because I've had to explain the basics repeatedly. (I also consider excellent grammar to be one of my super powers.)
But sometimes they are the teachers and I am the student. My children have opened up completely new worlds of information. Their personal interests have led me to subjects I never would have explored, like ancient Egyptian technology, rain water collection and filtration, special effects make-up, canning and preserving garden vegetables, and zombie apocalypse survival strategies. I recently listened to my 17 year-old son discuss in detail the Chernobyl disaster and it's long term effects. (I'm sad to say that before this discussion I didn't know more than roughly where or when this incident occurred. But Daniel went into elaborate details, complete with facts and figures. It was the caliber of a good college lecture on the subject.) My daughter, a voracious reader (She read 86 books last school year), has led me to some of the best literature I've ever read.
But even more than this are the deeper questions my children ask. They see things in ways my adult mind just skims over. Their questions challenge the way I think about humanity, and societal structures, and the universe in general.
"Do trees think?" "What exactly is 'evil'?" "When do you become a human being?" "What happens to your thoughts when you die?" "Why do people even want to BE politicians?" These are the questions that have stretched me to look for my own answers.
And sometimes the most profound statements spill so casually from their lips. "When you're wet, you don't worry about getting wet anymore." "If we do it now, we'll never run out of time." I swear children are like little Zen masters.
If I had chosen to trust the "experts" to educate my children, I would have missed out on extensive personal growth. I am the one who has benefited the most. Because of homeschooling my kids I've grown intellectually. I'm a veritable trivia genius. But even more valuable are the ways I've grown spiritually. Educating my children has brought me waves of Grace. I am a person of stronger character and deeper humility than when I started this journey.
So the real question is: Who is teaching whom?
(And I got the grammar right in that statement thanks to homeschooling my kids, too!)