Except for the long days and the chance to sit on my porch swing, I'm not a big fan of summer. Fall, with its crisp, clear days, blue, blue skies and Trix-colored foliage, is my season. But this particular time of summer does have an appeal for me beyond the long days, porch swing and, oh yeah, the end of the summer semester at Virginia Western -- cheap school supplies.
Yes, I must admit, I'm a sucker for pens, pencils, highlighters, whiteboard markers, notebooks, sticky pads, Wite-Out (especially Wite-Out), and the sundry other paraphernalia on sale virtually everywhere right now. Guess it's the writer and teacher in me. Or maybe just the kid who always got excited at the start of each new school year.
If you have school-age kids, you're probably even now scouring Wal-Mart and the malls for good deals on school supplies, backpacks and back-to-school clothes. But you may be overlooking the best school deal of all -- the one right in your living room, or dining room, or family room -- anywhere you have space to teach your kids at home.
Don't look so surprised. It's not that odd anymore. Lots of people are doing it. Chances are you already know someone who's taken that step. Despite the work
involved, most home schooling parents love it. Chances are the kids do, too. That's been the case at least with the home schooled kids I've come in contact with both at Virginia Western and as an online writing coach for home schoolers.
And why not? Home schooling has loads of benefits -- many of which I described a few columns back -- for both parents and kids.
Probably the most significant benefit of home schooling, though, is one I didn't mention in my previous column. Home schooling puts parents back in control of their children's education. That's not to knock the legions of dedicated public school teachers who do their best to educate kids. But when someone else is educating your child, it's that person's philosophy of education and his or her ideas about what's important -- not yours -- that govern what's taught. That and the SOLs, of course.
True, you can try to influence what happens in your kids' schools and what's taught in their classrooms. But it's hard work; it doesn't always, or even often, work; you
run the risk of being labeled a censor or troublemaker; and in the meantime, your kids aren't being educated the way you'd like. Why put yourself or your kids through all that when you can educate them at home?
I can hear all the objections now. But I don't have a college degree. But we can't do
without the second income. But curriculum and materials cost too much. But my kids won't want to leave their friends.
Valid concerns, all.
But you don't need a college degree to teach your kids. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, "Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents' level of formal education." And no matter where you think your academic deficiencies lie, abundant resources are available to assist you.
As for doing without that second income, maybe you should take a close look at what it's costing you to bring in that extra money. After factoring in child care expenses, fast-food runs and transportation and clothing costs, you might find it doesn't make as big a contribution to the family coffers as you thought.
Curriculum doesn't have to be expensive either. A public library and the Internet can provide most of what you need. Anything else you can more than likely pick up used at a reasonable price. Besides, it's not as if there aren't any costs associated with sending kids to public schools.
Your kids might surprise you, too. It's just possible they'll leap at the chance to escape the public school rat race. OK, maybe not. But once they figure out the benefits of home schooling for themselves, they'll come around.
Education, the home school license plate says, begins at home. If you decide that's what you want for your kids, it will require sacrifices on the part of the whole family. But achieving a worthwhile goal always does require sacrifice. And that's not a bad lesson for any of us to learn.
I appreciate Ms. Whitlock's article in particular because as a college professor, she sees our homeschooled kids right after they graduate, as they are adjusting to the "real world." So many critics of homeschooling express concerns about how our kids will manage when they get to college - when they have to deal with other kids and with professors like Linda Whitlock. It's a tremendous encouragement to see one of these professors speak out in favor of homeschooling.