by Mike McHugh
One of the most common assumptions that undermines the success of home educators is that every parent is well-suited to home school without outside support or accountability. While it is certainly true that some parents have the capability to home school on an independent basis, my own experiences in the home school movement have taught me that most home educators are not best served by approaching their task as the lone ranger. In my perspective, the home school community has been receiving a rather one-sided and artificially rosy picture of independent home schooling for many years. As one who frequently attends home school conventions and book fairs across the country, I have never noted one person to be given the opportunity to explain why they failed in their experiment of independent home education. On the other hand, I have heard numerous convention speakers extol the virtues of home schooling without outside support or accountability. Seldom, if ever, are parents given any warnings about the pitfalls of independent home education.
I firmly believe that any parents who are seriously considering an independent approach to home schooling should begin by asking themselves several practical questions:
- Do I, by nature, tend to take the easy way around teaching academic material that is extra challenging?
- Am I a self-starter who needs little outside accountability to stay on schedule and meet deadlines? Do I, as a teacher, tolerate mediocre performance when my student expresses frustration?
- Can I objectively evaluate my own children’s progress or do I tend to be too easy or too hard on my children?
- Am I skilled at not only buying curriculum materials but also planning course objectives? Can I afford the time to do both jobs well? How do I know that my plan will work at all?
- In addition to doing all of the equipping, teaching, and evaluating of my students, can I also keep the type of permanent records that will be recognized by colleges?
As I hope each reader will realize, these vital and practical questions must be dealt with by parents before they set sail on the sea of independent home education. If more parents carefully and prayerfully examined their readiness to home school without outside support, we would see less families running back to public or private schools. Home educators need to remember that they are not obliged to experiment with their children’s education if and when they do not feel confident doing everything on their own. There are, after all, several excellent Christian schools that provide full service home school programs to families regardless of where they live. Parents who elect to partner with a proven, Christ-honoring school should not feel embarrassed as they reach out for help and support, for as the Bible puts it " two are better than one ". (Ecclesiastes 4 : 9a)
As a home school dad, I know firsthand how easy it is for busy home school parents to unintentionally let things slide. I can’t help but think that some of you who are reading this message can relate to this fact as well. Although it is humbling, and even slightly embarrassing, more parents would do well to strip off their pride and admit that they need the help and accountability of other educators within the body of Christ. It is my sincere belief that God will bless those who have the humility to admit that they can’t do a difficult task without the help of others. Pride indeed does come before a fall, and the primary purpose of this message is to keep home school parents from falling victim to the assumption that they can do it all before they have carefully examined their own qualifications.
When parents enter the deep waters of home education, they should remember the rule that every scuba diver learns ---- never dive alone. This rule or concept is known as the "buddy system". It is my prayer that more parents will begin to ask themselves: "Who is my buddy?" After all is said and done, home school parents must decide for themselves when they need to reach out for support and if they need accountability. In each case where parents do determine that they need help and oversight, they must then resolve to partner with educators that can enable them to reach their educational goals. To do anything less, would cause such parents to presume upon the grace of God.
Copyright 2006 Michael J. McHugh
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