Suzanne and Rachel brought up some excellent questions in the comments section yesterday, and I thought I'd go ahead and make my part of this discussion a separate post. In other words, I think this will get long! But, I'll go ahead and wade in with my thoughts on some of these questions and comments.
Suzanne commented that homeschooling must certainly take a lot of discipline and organization. Now, once we get beyond the fact that my husband would dissolve into hysterical laughter if anyone even used those words in the same sentence with my name, we can discuss this.
Here are my thoughts. Classroom education and homeschooling are extremely different enterprises, and I believe that teaching in a classroom requires these resources (especially organization) to a much higher degree than does homeschooling.
Consider the scenerio. Classroom teachers (and I have great respect for these folks) are vastly outnumbered by their students. Even a small classroom is likely to have many more students than there are children in my relatively large family. Just maintaining control of this many children is a huge endeavor, before any attempt is made to educate them.
Additionally, the children come into this classroom with baggage. One child's home life is difficult, and the student is distracted. Another child stayed up too late last night, and isn't going to be able to concentrate today. Some have fallen behind, and are struggling to learn what was already taught in the past, and are not prepared to learn what is being taught today. Other children are alert and ready to learn. Some are so far ahead of the rest of the class, that they are bored by the lessons being offered.
This isn't meant as an indictment of the classroom situation - ask most any teacher, and they will agree that this is a huge part of the challenge of teaching in a classroom. It's different in homeschooling. For the most part, the teaching is more like tutoring, with a one-to-one student/teacher ratio. It is relatively easy to tailor the lesson to the student, when there is only one student. You don't need to teach 20 lessons on subtraction, if the child has already caught on to this concept. You can jump ahead. Or, if the student is struggling with the lesson, there is no pressure to forge ahead - it makes perfect sense to repeat the lesson, until the child has mastered the material. In a classroom, the child who needed extra reinforcement might be pushed into a test before they had learned the material, and they would receive a failing grade, just because there is a schedule to be maintained. This student will also not be prepared for the next concept, if it builds on the one they just failed to master. But what can a classroom teacher do? They do have a schedule to maintain. If the teacher slows the pace of the teaching, to suit the slower students, the rest of the class suffers. Conversely, if the level of teaching is matched to the fastest and brightest students, others will be left in the dust. Most teachers I've asked about this have said that they try to teach "to the middle." Sadly, while this is necessary in a classroom, it does make learning more difficult and frustrating for the children whose skills fall outside of "the middle."
As the parent, I can teach my child from where they are right now. I am also aware of the child's daily "baggage" in a way that the classroom teacher will not be. I know the child isn't concentrating on math this morning because they were up too late last night, or had a fight with a friend, or just lost a beloved pet. I can let them sleep in and catch up later in the day, or have them work on something that involves less mental capacity (like, oh, handwriting, maybe, or doing some independent reading), or in some way match the lesson to the moment (perhaps writing a poem or creating a drawing to express their emotion is a better idea on this morning, than memorizing spelling words). There really is no need for me to maintain a schedule for the sake of the schedule, since there are no other students being hurt by my catering the lesson to the one.
There is a point to all of this rambling. Covering the same amount of lesson material, to a mastery level, can be achieved in much less time, and with less effort, when there isn't an entire classroom of students involved. So, although organization and discipline are certainly involved in the process of homeschooling, these skills are not required to a level that the average person can't achieve.
And now, that's all I'm going to say on homeschooling today. I know this isn't what my overall blog is really about, so I don't want to post on this topic to the exclusion of others - but I managed to write all of this, and only get to the first of the comments/questions. I'll try to post some more on this topic in the next couple of days, but not to the exclusion of pictures of and updates on chickens, scary roads, mountain scenery, and, oh yeah . . . the ministry work. ;-D