Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Home Cookin'?

I had a friend lately ask me about homeschooling a preschooler.  She has two lovely children, the oldest is almost 3, and all of his friends from playgroup are gearing up for "Preschool!"  Should she be doing something?  Something more than reading and talking and playing and loving?  I mostly encouraged her that God puts babies in families for a reason.  Little ones need their mamas!  I referred to some studies and articles I've read about Head Start doing worse than Head Start at home (where the 'teacher' comes occasionally to train Mama to interact with the youngster), and gave her some ideas for "preschool" if she wanted to do something.

But, as always, it got me thinking.  :)  'Tis the season for homeschooling posts.  Many are about the curriculum choices for the family, or planning/organizing tips.  There are also the "Why we homeschool" posts.  All of which I love to read.  :)  It never fails, though, for the "top 10 reasons" posts to garner plenty of comments that basically follow a particular format:  how much they love/admire/respect homeschooling and those who do, followed by any and all reasons it can't/won't work for them or their children, and how they just haven't felt God's leading there.  It also seems like they think those reasons have never been overcome by any who ARE homeschooling (i.e. 'don't have the patience').  Some are followed up by references to "those" judgmental types.

One question occurred to me, after I wrote back my friend.  Why do we need to "be called" or "feel led" to choose something like homeschooling?  Do we wait for the calling, the leading, to cook dinner every night?  No?  Well, why do we do it?

What if everyone around us ate dinner at restaurants every single night.  What if that was the norm?  "Yes, it's fine to use your toaster at home at breakfast, and maybe the microwave at lunch, but cook your own dinner?  In your house?  WHY would anyone do that?"

Well, because we want to be sure of what we're eating.  What's going into it (or not going into it), how it's prepared and handled before it gets to our table.  It's also often tastier!  We can choose to eat anything we want, with a little planning.  We can tailor portions according to appetites, eat earlier or later.  It's also a lot more economical, because we're not hiring someone to cook and wash and paint lines in the parking lot. We kindof even like it, breaking bread together and sharing fellowship within the walls of our own kitchen, like families of yesteryear.

"Oh, but I don't have the patience to cook a full meal like that.  Especially every night!  Our house just isn't equipped.  We don't have an oven, you know, and our kitchen is small.  Besides, what if I mess it up?!?  I might burn it, or worse, contaminate it somehow.  Shouldn't we just leave that to the experts?  They know what they're doing, right?  Restaurants never make anyone sick, or have throwaway food.  And think of all the time it would take!  No, that would never work for our family.  We like different foods.  Have 'special needs' diets.  We have little kids underfoot, a new baby on the way..."

Shouldn't cooking at home be a valid choice?  Does it really even need a defense???  Yet homeschooling is bizarre...  It's really hard to wrap my mind around it when I look at it this way.  :)  Cooking at home is not some strange, fringe phenomenon, and neither should home education be.  We are not the freaks.

I'm not trying to say that institutional education is inherently sinful, or wrong, mind you.  Most all my nearest and dearest have their children in an institutional setting for education, and I'm not faulting them for that.  I'm just trying to challenge our idea of "normal" -- normal is really not the standard we should measure against, or the method we should employ without question.  Today's "normal" - eating learning "out" every day -  is ... well, ... weird. :)


annie said...

(i wrote a HUGE comment and blogger wouldn't let me post it, so i had to break it up into two chunks. i hope the first part went through...)

But what parents don't understand is that they've ALREADY been their child's teacher. Who taught the child to walk? Talk? Say mama and daddy, please and thank you (i hope...)? Who taught the child to brush their teeth and change their underwear and drink through a straw? Parents don't think of themselves in this capacity, so they don't realize they are already an excellent teacher for their children. Parents also don't realize it doesn't require more patience to teach a child to count than to do everything else in daily home life. It's not a question of more patience or less patience or more skill or expertise, it's a question of being confident in your role as a parent and realizing teaching extends to far more than you realize. Having patience is kind of like loving your children: you don't realize how much love you have for them until they're here, in your arms. And you never, ever think you'll have enough love for a second or third child until that sibling arrives and you realize your loves grows by exponents. Patience does, too.

I just realized the point of your post was to challenge the idea of homeschooling as abnormal. I don't really think it's as abnormal as it may seem. There are way more homeschoolers in my little podunk town than I thought there were families actually in residence here. Nearly everyone I know knows someone else who homeschools. And, honestly, schools aren't weird. We've been sending male and female students to school for at least a century, males for much longer than that.

You're right, normal isn't the standard we should employ without question, but that doesn't mean homeschooling is. There are plenty of parents who would (and who do) homeschool because that's what is expected of them, that's their normal, and it turns out not to be the best idea for their family.

Both options should be a valid choice, neither condemning nor 'weird'. And, really, maybe I live in a bubble, but it seems like that's how it's becoming.

Did I write a long enough comment? :) I hope nothing is offensive....I'm just talking.

EllaJac said...

So far this is the only comment I'm seeing...

You make a great point. Another thought I had is "yes, you're called to homeschool. Whether or not you send your kids to "school" somewhere. :) Exactly as you said, parents DO teach - all these little things that (so far) our culture hasn't decided it's "normal" for someone else to teach them. And (at least as Christians), we're STILL called to teach and train and raise them - and we may in addition to that send them to school on the weekdays. that does not, in itself, constitute fulfillment of what is required of us as parents. I'm guessing many home schoolers do it this way because it's a little easier to fulfill that calling withOUT sending them away... at least that could describe me.

"Schools" may not be weird in and of themselves, but I think the current mindset leans that way. Some cultures in history separated children from parents in order to mold them for the benefit of the state, but those cultures reaped a sorry harvest. Today's idea of "p-16" is not what I would call close to God's plan for families. Yes, there have always been centers to teach (sometimes to children) skills and knowledge unavailable at home, but I don't think parents just assumed they were not responsible for their child's education. Maybe they did, but there are so many stories of learning to read at the kitchen table, etc. To say nothing of Biblical tradition...

I hope your earlier comment comes through! No offense, by any means.

annie said...

Hm....I mostly said I haven't visited in over a year, though I read in google reader, and I like your new-to-me blog look. :) And, I disagreed with your homeschooling = home cooking analogy, since homeschooling is a choice families make for themselves based on their own convictions and home cooking is kind of a necessity or you will starve. I disagree because I think homeschooling is something a family is called to, or led to, mostly because I think every decision for a Christ following family should be Spirit-led. I don't question those who choose to put their children in school, and I don't expect them to question me for homeschooling. Our families are different and our needs and convictions are different. Homebirthing is something families should pray over and be 'called to', just as hospital birthing. How to spend money, where to spend money, schooling, what to eat and how to prepare it, all those things are decisions that should be made through discerning the Spirit, not because they are normal or not normal.

I said it a whole lot better than that, but in a nutshell, that's what it was....

Yes, there are some cultures (Nazis, etc.) that separate children from the parents for purposes of the state. And some centers, as you say, to sometimes teach children. I was thinking more of Greek tutoring, in the days of the philosophers. Or apprenticeships in Renaissance and Colonial times. Children started very young, sometimes as young as 7 or 8, beginning their education away from home. One-room schoolhouses were common in late Colonial times, up until the 1920s and 30s. There is actually still a one-room schoolhouse here in Florida that fights every year for the privilege of staying alive. Boys and girls went to college at age 16 in the late 1800s. Schooling away from home isn't such a new idea.

annie said...

There was a second part to my last comment...did that not go through, either? Grr....I'm starting to think Blogger is out to get me!