Yesterday I ran into a friend from high school. She and I are one of the few that are still here in town, and we see each other in passing, usually at Chik-Fil-A. We were catching up on what was going on in each other’s lives, and she announced that she had gone back to work after a six-year hiatus. I have Swiss Cheese for a memory these days, so I asked her what it was she did again. She is a public school teacher, and in literally the same conversation thread where she lamented the economic necessities that drove her to re-enter the work force, she lamented the fact that her children would be public school students.
This was not somebody justifying turning their dearest possessions over to the state to be educated. This was not somebody turning a blind eye to the evils of Leviathan. This was a mother, broken hearted on what the hardships of life had pushed her into doing. The whole incident caused me to reflect on our homeschooling venture, and what it has cost us, and what we’ve gotten out of it.
To start with, we are both a product of the government school system, although we have gone to great lengths to re-educate ourselves since then. I knew no one who was home-schooled coming up, only the kids from the nearby Christian school that we made fun of. But when I got saved in 1995 while in the military, there was a family at the church that took me in, and they homeschooled all 6 ( at the time) of their children. I got to see this subculture up close and personal, and fell in love with the results. I purposed in my heart that this would be what we would do if God ever gave me a wife.
My wife ended her illustrious career as a real-estate appraiser in 2002 while several months pregnant, and we left the Left Coast and headed for Georgia. The lower cost of living enabled us to live on one income, and we consigned ourselves to a couple of crucial economic steps. One was a commitment to get out of debt, which we now are except for our house. We drive 2 used cars, and live below our means. We save up, and I work overtime to afford the things we buy above the necessities. I delivered pizzas 3 and 4 nights a week for a couple of years. We have an emergency fund. All of these things would have been a good idea anyway, but for us to do this grand homeschooling adventure there were a necessity. We don’t have all the toys of some of our peers, but we also don’t have student loans and car payments and credit card bills. After all the Bible says “The borrower is servant to the lender”.
We also had to make a commitment to our children. The pressure came in from all sides as relatives who were not asked their opinion offered it anyway. We were ridiculed and the butt of some family jokes. All of this was less important to me than our children. We changed our ideas of what ‘normal’ was. Normal is not turning your children over to the state to be programmed, and the fact that most people do doesn’t make it any less psychotic. Our commitment was this; no matter what happens, even if poor old dad has to work 4 or 5 jobs, we commit to you that we care enough about you to shield you from Leviathan. God has blessed that in that I now only have one job, and I write and draw a bit on the side for extra money.
We committed to decide for ourselves what education was, and was not. They are after all, our children, and not the state’s, and though we do comply with the requirements for the state of Georgia, we are not doing that because we feel we need their permission or approval for what we’re doing. We had to find what worked for our family, for our kids, and that process is still going on. We got around people that were homeschooling for all sorts of reasons, with all sorts of approaches. We have over the years taken what works, and ditched what doesn’t work. We’ve changed curriculums, and supplemented curriculums. We received great encouragement from the work of people like John Taylor Gatto, Charlotte Mason, No Greater Joy Ministries, Vision Forum and even my new favorite movie ,Indoctrination.
We committed ourselves to spending the money. Homeschooling is not cheap in that you pay for the education at least twice. The state confiscates our money to feed it’s wicked system (the facilities of which we cannot use) and I have to take what they leave me with and buy my own supplies. We have probably spent $1000 a year on curriculum and supplies per child for every year we’ve done this. We also take field trips and have zoo passes because after all, education is not defined by sitting in a room all day and reading stuff out of a book. For science class one day , rather than read what the science book said about leaves and chlorophyll and photosynthesis, we went outside and found real leaves and I explained it using real life as opposed to a diagram. Rocket science? Hardly. But try doing that in a government school.
We commited ourselves to our own personal education. My wife and I are voracious readers, and we are constantly looking for a new perspective, and a way to break our own programming. Let me take a moment to give recognition to the Mises Instittute and their role in my re-education. I ask the question often “WHY are we doing it this way?” The why is way more important than the how.
We commited ourselves to educating the whole child. A few years back someone gave me a large quantity of comic books and I set my two oldest up in business. They negotiated with the buyers, and they kept the money. A year or so later, they started a slingshot making business, and we handled that a bit differently because of their ages. I cut down a tree and gathered them the necessary materials, which I charged them for out of their profits. They set up a little booth at a craft fair and the most amazing thing happened. They sold none of them. As the day went on, my oldest decided to drop the price. That sold a few and all day long I watched my two sons try to find the balance in the price. If they offered them to high the item wouldn’t move. If they offered it too low, the items would move but they couldn’t cover the cost of production. Now what, pray tell, is an education like that worth?
These are just some things that we’ve done, and some commitments we’ve made, in no particular order other than the order they popped into my head. I would like to encourage those of you with young children to do the right thing. Do the work, make the commitments, pay the price. Do not offer your wife to the highest bidder (by employment) and your children to the lowest bidder (government schools). This is literally too important. Your toys and your lifestyle is less important than your children. If you are in a bad spot, and you cannot do this right now, do all you can and more to get this done. I do hope my high school friend can fix her situation, because I know she wants to, and anybody that is trying to do right, I am in favor of, no matter how long it takes them. I will support, and pray for them, and try to be an encouragement. This can be done. It must be.