In 1981, in his book Teach Your Own, John Holt enumerated the institutions on which parents rely for their children’s education: schools, libraries, museums, etc. He added that one day parents may opt for or be forced to live without some or all of those institutions.1 Well, because of COVID-19, for at least a few months of 2020, his prediction has become a reality and not for just a family, a community, state, or country. The plague has introduced many to homeschooling through forced immersion. Parents informed about the strengths and drawbacks of homeschooling can better shoulder the responsibility.
Veteran homeschoolers will say they spread their protective wings over the heads and hearts of their offspring for several reasons. Dissatisfaction with the local school’s environment and/or academic program, the desire to teach religious instruction, or the special needs of their child are a few.2
Additional concerns spurred Christian parents into homeschooling. Across the country departments of education require schools to teach concepts that conflict with a parent’s Christian beliefs. One parent in a bible study group, was concerned about the school taking Christ out of Christmas and replacing his name with an X. Another was concerned about the school teaching sex education or making condoms available at school. Perhaps a school’s reading list includes topics around gender and marriage that parents wish to handle themselves.
The onset of COVID-19 and subsequent call for remote leaning for all have transformed every family into a homeschooling site. Homeschooling parents have quite a bit to learn from their veteran homeschooling parents.
Regardless of the road that led parents/guardians to homeschooling, the goal is the same: to provide the best education for children. Understanding the homeschooling landscape will help recent inductees to better shoulder their responsibility. Five months into homeschooling (April-June; September-October), remote learning has brought parents face-to-face with both the benefits and challenges.
On numerous Facebook posts, parents share how they gained a new respect for their child’s teacher because they experience firsthand the challenges their child presents in a classroom setting. The exposure to the teacher-student dynamic via Zoom or other learning platforms affords parents the opportunity to determine or affirm their child’s learning style. Parents get to see their child’s focus, understanding, and challenges.
They get to see which strategies engage their child and which do not. Howard Gardner identifies multiple learning styles in his book, Frames of Mind. With the awareness of their child’s learning, parents can customize their child’s curriculum by adding topics, skills, and knowledge to bridge gaps, extend learning or deepen understanding which students can complete after the virtual experience.
Homeschooling also provides the opportunity for parents to teach their own Christian values with programs that filter out the attitudes and values which conflict with their faith. In fact, religious beliefs can become a critical lens around which to structure the curriculum. The Imago Dei curriculum does just that with its classical design based on the premise that mankind is made in the image of God.
Homeschooling parents have hard questions to answer, however, not necessarily for outsiders but for themselves. The Bible does say, Christians should be “in the world but not of it.” If parents home-school their children from kindergarten to high school, how can they ever teach their children how to live in the world without being of it.
How will their children ever learn to share the gospel if they haven’t waded in the shallow waters of secular junior high and high schools, or have never encountered one of another faith or no faith at all? Another critical question is: Are parents equipped to handle the responsibility of designing sequential and comprehensive learning experiences for their children? Is access to the appropriate supports and resources available? Can they afford the investment? It does cost. For one course alone, one program charges one hundred dollars.
Finding the programs, worksheets, and general learning experiences is an on-going activity. of searching, collaborating, and purchasing to complement a child’s learning style and needs. But Sheila Dallas of Jamaica, Queens counters that “Education is the parent’s responsibility anyway, whether they are homeschooled or not.”
Christian Homeschoolers, a public Facebook group, allows parents to obtain “advice, tips, updates and connect [with] other homeschooling families.” When asked to recommend the best home-schooling curriculum, parents on this website provided a variety of responses. Suzanne Brown of New Hampshire posted, “How you value curriculum depends on the needs of your family, your beliefs, what you want your children to learn or not learn.”
Sallie Franchuk of Baltic, Dakota added, “There is a LOT out there! It’s very overwhelming!” To make the wisest curriculum decisions, she consults other homeschooling moms for recommendations echoing the proverb “Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22 NIV).
For parents who wish to include a more Afro-centric thrust, the “Brown Mama” website, offers a list of resources and learning experiences parents can integrate into their child’s curriculum. (https://brownmamas.com/african-centered-curriculum/)
Additional Homeschooling Curriculum Programs with Reviews
1. Horizons:. “The price was in our budget, and I liked that it all worked together for the most part and seemed easy to follow, which is what I wanted for our first year.”(Samantha Brown (New Hampshire) https://www.christianbook.com/page/homeschool?catid=1014667&cat=Homeschool.
2. The Good and The Beautiful, “I was very happy with how the levels are advanced, and the curriculum incorporates art, geography and beautiful literature throughout the core subjects. Cost was not an immediate concern since we were saving on private school tuition. However, TGATB is very cost effective. They offer numerous samples of their textbooks for you to sample to see what works for your family. They also provide the option to purchase pdf’s which can be helpful for cost-conscious families. (Allison Mitchell, Silver New Jersey). https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/.
3. Classical Conversations: “It introduces so much information without caring about grades.” (Harris, Washington, D.C.) https://classicalconversations.com/challenge/.
4. Imago Dei: From a Latin term which means “made in the image of God,” this curriculum can offer ideas and suggestions for any homeschooler. Freely access their K-8 curriculum at https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5273f5dee4b0e7c988ff84a8/t/52c0e3d7e4b0ef0e5ef3afa9/1388372951715/Imago_School-master_curriculum.pdf.
An array of choices exists for parents to decide how best to educate their children. Homeschooling is one choice among many (public, private, parochial). For this year, the willing, unwilling, equipped and not-so-equipped parent has been immersed into the world of home schooling. In the months ahead, some may decide to continue; most will not. The reality is that some form of homeschooling belongs in every household (afterschool, Saturdays, summers) because education does not begin nor end at the school house door.
1John Holt, “Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling,” John Holt GWS, https://www.johnholtgws.com/teach-your-own-the-john-holt-book-of-homeschooling.
2Jeremy Redford, Danielle Battle, Stacey Bielick and Sarah Grady Homeschooling in the United States: 2012 (NCES 2001–033), Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2017), p. 12. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016096rev.pdf.
Margo McKenzie is a writer living in New York City