The Freedom to Homeschool — Don’t Lose It

As we sail through each day, there’s always a moment, sometime, that looks like this — golden, warm, perfect. Golden Sea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson and licensed art print at Great Big Canvas.

The funny thing about words is that they’re elastic, and they can mean more than one thing. Take gentleman, for example: years ago it was a specific term to describe a landed member of the gentry. Whether he was polite or not had nothing to do with the matter.

Gradually, however, we added to the meaning by describing a gentleman as someone who is polite, noble, and heroic, regardless of his socioeconomic status. The word is further evolving into describing a male, period, whether or not he is polite, and with no concern as to whether he owns land. The original meaning of the word is pretty much lost.

So we are finding with the word homeschooling, which at first glance, seems pretty self-descriptive: homeschooling means to teach, or school, your children at home, as opposed to an outside location. The strong impression is that parents are primarily involved in the teaching.

But as time goes on, the meaning of the word stretches to include people who homeschool, sort of, through the public school system: in our own state there is a program that encourages parents to drop off their kids, several times a week for several hours, at the local homeschool center, where they can receive instruction in the subjects that so many parents are scared that they can’t properly teach: art, science, math, reading, writing, foreign language, and just about any subject that you want to slip in there.

“I’m not qualified to teach these,” parents worry, “So I’ll participate in this program and let an expert take over.”

First of all, let me address this concept of the term, “expert,” and I’ll do it in relation to the subject of art:

Many professional fine artists, whose work reflects their skill, do not have the official teaching credentials demanded by the state to pass on this knowledge and skill to others. Beachside Diversions by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art

Public schools have no advantage over you when it comes to teaching art. The Norwegian Artist, who is not qualified to teach at a public school because he doesn’t have the paperwork, does know art. And unlike many graduates of universities with the proper paperwork, he knows how to draw. I’m not kidding — this isn’t a skill that is necessarily taught to the people that you’re thinking will be teaching it to your own little flock.

By virtue of choosing to homeschool in the first place, you took on the challenge of figuring out ways to teach your kids the things you do not know, and there are many resources out there these days to help you do so: trouble with math? There are great textbooks out there that walk you, and your child, through the tough stuff. Science? We always enjoyed the Apologia series, in conjunction with a lot of reading from the library.

If you’re not confident in your own writing abilities, a workbook won’t help. Read this, start writing, and move forward in your life.

Writing? Why are you worrying about this when you’ve got me around? My book, Grammar Despair, incorporates what I taught my own four children, and regular writing was a regular part of their day. They’re all articulate adults. Good writing is a combination of good reading, lots of writing, and communication with other people.

As far as art goes, if you don’t know how to draw yourself, and you want to go beyond making coasters out of popsicle sticks, look around for an artist in your area whose work you like and approach him or her about lessons. This is what you do with music lessons, isn’t it?

While the easy solution to the dilemma of not knowing everything seems to be handing the project over to someone else — in this case, public school programs that gently assure timid parents that this is a win/win scenario — it’s good to remember that nothing in life, ever, is free.

These programs are not being set up out of the goodness of the establishment’s hearts, and if you take something from someone — specifically something involving money — that someone is going to expect something in return. People I have known who have participated in these homeschool/public school marriages find themselves filling out paperwork, attending meetings, and being dinged when their children’s mandatory attendance is compromised.

In other words, the exchange for “peace of mind” and possibly some monetary incentives — is freedom.

If your kids are older than 13, or if you’re willing to work alongside your younger ones, take a look at this promotional YouTube video of Steve Henderson’s Step by Step Watercolor Success DVD. Accompanying your purchase — which you can make at Steve Henderson Fine Art — you will receive reference drawings of Purple Iris and Lonesome Barn, the two paintings the digital workshop addresses, so you don’t even need drawing ability to get started.

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