Why We Homeschool - My journey to understanding By Ana Barrett
My wife, Ana, gave me a wonderful article she had written about homeschooling. I decided to feature her article because she has done a great job of articulating the benefits of homeschooling. Many parents who would love to homeschool cannot do so for various reasons. But for those who are considering starting this journey, Ana's article will give you a great foundation. By the way, Sarah has just completed kindergarten with Ana as her teacher. I am proud to report that she is reading at a second grade level.
When my daughter Sarah was born, I was overwhelmed. Here was a little person who needed me 24 hours a day for everything. I had to teach her to hold things, to roll over, to eat. I even had to teach her how to sit down after she learned to stand up and got stuck. Through this process I discovered it was exciting to teach my baby!
As Sarah grew older my dear husband Tom said "We need to homeschool Sarah." I said "What!? I can't do that! I can't teach her how to read! Why are you asking me to do something so hard? I'm a product of the public school system, and I turned out fine. Why can't she go to school just like I did?" At this point Tom left me to myself so that I could mull over why he wanted this for Sarah. I on the other hand needed to know what this would mean for me.
I started exploring homeschooling. I took this as a challenge. I had to investigate schools. If I wasn't going to send her to the type of school I had gone to, then I had to know why. Tom had some ideas but I had to find out for myself. This investigation took several years. It meant that I had to listen and look for articles that were pertinent to public and private schools. I also had to do some soul searching, and go back to my school experiences to compare what is going on today and what went on when I was of school age. She would be attending today's school, not the schools of my day. As my journey began I saw the hand of God on my entire life. I saw His heart when I could not see His will. God has always had a plan for my life, but I discovered it only in my adult years.
My earliest exposure to education was in Cuba. I attended school there from 1st to 6th grade. My parents kept me home from kindergarten; my cousin taught me at home that year.
School in Cuba was tough. If a child did not pass the final exams for their grade level they were held back. I knew one boy who was held back; he was very embarrassed about it. I know why they did what they did. They wanted to weed people out. They wanted the best students to reach secondary and college level. I know what their agenda was and is. Even as a child in the middle of it I knew what they were trying to do.
How did I know? Because my parents constantly contradicted their propaganda. They reminded us that what the school taught were lies and that we were not to believe them. They told us stories of how things were in Cuba before Castro took over. They continually stressed to us that our conversations at home were not to be repeated in school or we would all be in trouble. My sister and I never did find out what that trouble would be; we just kept quiet.
We came to the U.S. and went straight to public school. My parents were not religious, so Catholic school was not important to them. They had three children, so it was cost prohibitive. Therefore I am a product of the public school system of Dade County, Florida. At the time I thought that the education I was getting in this country was good. Although the level of education was not as advanced as in Cuba, we were free. I didn't have to worry about saying something that could get my parents in trouble. A great weight was off my shoulders.
Back then it didn't bother me that God was not mentioned in school, nor that evolution was taught as hard fact. I was an agnostic anyway. I thought that most of my teachers were nice and I progressed well. I knew what I wanted to study in college by the time I was in the eleventh grade, although most of my friends did not. They were honor students, too, but they didn't know what they wanted to do.
A life-changing event happened during my junior year at the University of Miami. I became a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. My new faith changed my way of thinking. Some of the ideas I had always accepted as truth were now in doubt.
I graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering and started my career. As I grew in my faith I talked to people at work and started comparing different world views. After a few years I realized that the public school system does have an agenda, and that is humanism. They don't seem to care about the individual, they are interested in the collective and how they respond to their agenda. I didn't know anyone personally that didn't know how to read when they graduated from High School. But I knew they existed. And they had a diploma that looked just like mine.
As my career progressed I recognized that my education lacked good books. Of course the Bible was kept out, but also most of the classics were totally omitted from my honors English classes. I discovered this when I decided that I should read some classics. I was shocked to find out how many I had never even been introduced to. A whole new world opened up to me. I had visited the library quite often as a child, but now as an adult I was hungry for more literature. Since I was single and had the time, I started taking classes in Astronomy and Bible because I love those two subjects.
During my journey I realized that as a product of the public school system I am one of the exceptions. So many stop learning because they don't have anyone telling them to read a book or go to class or practice an instrument. I do admire those who go back to school to get ahead in their careers. I on the other hand went back to college for fun and audited classes. I didn't want the pressure of the tests. I wanted to learn because I loved the subjects I took.
As I continued exploring all these options for my daughter I looked back and tried to think who taught me to love learning and to be curious about things. Some would say that my schooling helped me. I believe that I love learning in spite of my schooling. I have learned the Bible in spite of Sunday school classes. I learned more history on my own than I learned in my four years of High School. My mother had a lot to do with it. She devoured books whenever she had time. That encouraged me and was an example to me. I inherited my love of books from her.
My mother taught herself to read and write because she was a sickly child and could not attend school much. My grandmother taught herself, too, because her father thought it would be a shame to waste education on a girl. Grandmother loved to learn, and no one could stop her. She had bad handwriting, but she had an incredible imagination. The stories she told her grandchildren were wonderful.
School did nothing for the most important women in my life. I don't think it did much for me either, except cram my head with knowledge. The school system, being the institution that it is, had to rely on tests to know whether I knew a subject properly. My junior high school was overcrowded and dangerous. I was attacked several times on the school grounds, but the person responsible was never punished. The teachers never made an attempt to find her. I know that these skirmishes are now an accepted part of the educational experience. But should they be? Have parents relinquished such control over their children's lives that they accept whatever happens short of an actual bloody battle?
I learned one thing very well in school and that was that my friends' opinions were more important than my parents'. As I got older I didn't want to go out or be seen with my parents anymore. I was ashamed of them! Some would argue that that is only normal. Does God consider that normal? No, He says, "Honor your father and your mother." Is that what I want for my daughter?
Because of the influence of my school friends, I didn't respect my parents' views on issues either. I thought they were totally uninformed. I found out later that they weren't. I never really rebelled in outward ways, though. Neither drugs nor alcohol were ever a part of my life. As a matter of fact I thank God to this day that He protected me from many things.
I am the analytical type so I also did a lot of Bible reading on the subject of teaching during this journey. I found that no matter what we do, God wants us to teach our children. We are all homeschooling parents. The only difference is that some do it more than others.
So why do we homeschool our daughter? I have left the most important reason for last. It is because God wants us to teach Sarah. When we were blessed with her she became our responsibility. God will not ask the school system, whether public or private or Christian, why my daughter doesn't know Him. He holds Tom and me accountable for her well being and for her love for Him. As I get to know my daughter, with God's help I see what she really needs, and I can do something about it. No teacher has time for that.
How could I say no to His call? What better way to teach her what I know than by having a set time when it's just Sarah and me? How better could we prepare her for the world than by teaching her that God and her parents love her more than she knows or will ever know?
God is all about relationships. Our relationships with God, each other, and with Sarah are the most important of our lives. How can we get that across to her if we are constantly sending her off to school? She would come to believe that exactly the opposite must be true.
God wants her to be a light in this world. She can't be a light unless she is taught what a light is and what it does. How can she? How can anyone? A generation of Christian leaders is going home. Bill Bright recently left this world, as did Larry Burkett, Derek Prince and Kenneth E. Hagin. We need new leaders to step up. The children being homeschooled now will be the future spiritual and political leaders who will make a difference. They will be less influenced by humanism than the ones that attend school.
I will close with a few quotes that I love.
"Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire." William Butler Yeats.
"I am always ready to learn but not always ready to be taught." Winston Churchill.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstein.
"I believe in teaching, but I don't believe in going to school." Robert Frost.
"Posterity: You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it." John Quincy Adams.
"The one real goal of education is to leave a person asking questions." Max Beerhohm.
Notes: This article was first published in 2004. Considering the terrible state of our public schools, it is even more timely today than when it was written.
Biography - Dr. Tom Barrett
Dr. Tom Barrett has been an ordained minister for 30 years. He has written for local and national publications for most of his life, and has authored several non-fiction books. He has been interviewed on many TV and radio programs, and speaks at seminars nationwide. Tom is the editor and publisher of Conservative Truth, an email newsletter read by over fifty thousand weekly which focuses on moral and political issues from a Biblical viewpoint.