Thanksgiving got me thinking about all the reasons I am so grateful to be able to homeschool, and I listed a bunch of them in my recent post Thank You, Homeschooling. But now that Thanksgiving is over and we’re almost to Christmas, I’ve discovered that I’m still not done with the thankfulness. Nope — there is another reason that I am thankful for homeschooling that I neglected to address, and it’s a big one. In fact, it’s difficult for me to go a week without reminding me just how important this aspect of home education really is…
The ability to exercise my rights as a parent.
It is something that should, in my opinion, be a foregone conclusion – that parents have the right to determine what is best for their children – is no longer assumed. From parents not being allowed to pick up their children on foot from public school to losing custody over their kids’ medical decisions to being fined for sending an “unbalanced” homemade lunch of roast beef, potatoes, carrots, oranges and milk (which was then supplemented by the school with Ritz crackers, to make up for the missing grain), increasingly the “parents know best” philosophy is being replaced by “others know best”. The traditional understanding that responsible parents love their children and have their best interests at heart more than anyone else is increasingly being challenged by the idea that “experts” are more equipped to look out for children (and, as an outgrowth of that – for the best interests of society).
Correlatively, in countries around the world where individual freedom is suppressed, homeschooling is always illegal. This shouldn’t be a surprise; home education gives unprecedented authority to parents to direct the upbringing of their children – to influence their thoughts, values, sense of self, and outlook on the world. Homeschooling is the opposite of conformity and uniformity, affording each family the opportunity to raise their offspring in ways consistent with their own individual beliefs, morals, and worldview. Well-educated, informed, principled and free-thinking people are a tremendous threat to those who seek to control; dictatorial regimes rely upon the populace unquestioningly accepting the values and dictates of the state. Hitler, for example, used mandatory schooling (which had long been in place under Prussian and German compulsory schooling laws) in his efforts to indoctrinate all children with Nazi philosophy:
This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.
Homeschooling gives parents rights, over the state, to be the primary influencers of whom children become.
I am so thankful for the freedom to bring my children up in the way that I feel is best, and I seek to never take for granted the ways that home education safeguards parental rights:
1. Homeschooling reduces the amount of contact children have with those who might seek to override parental authority.
Simply by virtue of the fact that children are with parents more than with anyone else, particularly in the early years of homeschooling, home education limits the opportunities for government, bureaucracies, or other entities of power to supersede parental authority. Challenges to parental rights occur most often in situations when the child is under the jurisdiction of someone other than the parent – public schools, hospitals, daycares, camp, etc. Though each of these entities certainly provide many beneficial things for children and society, the reality is that the more limited the child’s contact is with authoritative entities, the less likely parental rights conflicts will arise.
Even further, homeschooling often breeds a tendency toward doing things in non-traditional, more family-based ways that rely less on accepted cultural means and more on parents becoming informed and taking control of areas normally abdicated to others. Home births, delayed or refusal of vaccination, growing one’s own food, and involvement in family-and-church-based extra-curricular activities are all examples of ways that, for some families, the culture of homeschooling reduces the amount of contact children have with extra-parental entities that could potentially interfere with the aims and authority of the family.
2. Homeschooling allows parents to make educational decisions for their children.
There is no doubt that home education dramatically increases the rights of parents to make academic determinations for their kids. While children in government schools are required to learn according to the established guidelines and curriculum standards, homeschooling parents have tremendous freedom to set the bar for education as they choose. There is no “one size fits all” approach for homeschooling, no single standard that every child must meet to be deemed “successful”. Homeschooled students do not have to learn a concept by a pre-determined time; they are free to learn according to whatever timeline works best for them. Parents retain the right to develop the unique talents, interests, and abilities of each child individually, and to meet their educational needs in ways and using resources specifically tailored just to them.
In addition, home education allows parents to emphasize those aspects of education that they believe are most important, and to prepare students for using that education to successfully interact with and influence the world around them, according to the individual student’s goals for him or herself. By making learning part of the flow of everyday life, homeschooling helps children integrate facts with problem solving – encouraging them to think critically. Parents have a unique authority, within home education, to help kids’ education be specific to each student’s needs, desires, and abilities.
3. Homeschooling allows parents to make nutritional decisions for children.
This may seem like a small thing, but nutrition has tremendous impact on every part of our lives – energy, concentration, memory, weight, and overall health, just to name a few. Simply by ensuring that children eat balanced, healthy foods and get plenty of daily exercise, parents can positively influence kids’ growth, development, and academic performance. Homeschooling gives parents the ability to be in charge of their children’s nutrition, and to optimize that nutrition for the child’s greatest benefit. Growing gardens, eating foods that are produced as close to nature as possible, cooking balanced meals from scratch, and using nutritional supplements are all ways that homeschooling parents have an advantage in taking responsibility for the nutrition of their household.
Nutrition can even be beneficial for boosting kids’ academic and social abilities. Whereas in government schools children are confined to prescribed mealtimes, homeschoolers can intersperse small healthy snacks throughout the day to keep kids’ blood sugar steady. Homeschoolers, by virtue of being home, can make balanced breakfasts from scratch, rather than giving children the standard sugar-and-carbohydrate-filled fare of cereal or processed foods like pop tarts. Many homeschoolers even use nutrition, rather than pharmaceutical medication, to help children with issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder. Home education provides the optimal opportunity for parents to have primary responsibility and authority over nutrition – this critical part of their children’s development.
4. Homeschooling allows parents to influence the values of their children.
Children will be influenced by those around whom they spend the most time. Instead of same-age peers, teachers, or anyone else, homeschooling ensures that the primary influencers of kids are….their parents. This means that home education is one of the most effective ways for parents to be able to disseminate their own values to their children – worldview, foundational beliefs, faith tenets, manners of believing about and interacting with others, and character. Through conversation, educational resources, choice of activities, and modeling, students learn the principles and practices that matter most to their parents, rather than those of others (whose values may be completely different from those of the family). Education is never void of the values of the person imparting it. Home education ensures that the values undergirding students’ development are those of the people who love them most and have their best interest at heart.
No matter how much teachers, caretakers, medical professionals or others may care for children, they cannot substitute for parents. Parents know their children best, love their children them most, and are most fervently seeking their kids’ well-being. Homeschooling safeguards the role and influence parents are able to have over their offspring, allowing them to utilize their rights to oversee their kids’ development to its fullest potential.
Parental rights are not, of course, unrestricted freedom. On the contrary, the right of parents to oversee the development of their children brings with it tremendously increased responsibility. Homeschooling also gives parents, as the primary influences in their children’s lives, even greater obligation for ensuring that their intentions and actions toward their children are in their kids’ best interests; that parents are constantly motivated by love, restrained by self control, and guided by patience and wisdom. By virtue of having more control over young people’s well-being, homeschooling parents bear significantly more accountability for doing right by their kids. Rights are only as good as our responsibility in taking hold of them.
Children are not assembly-line models that will turn out ok if the right sequence of events are put into motion. They are special, irreplaceable, uniquely gifted individuals who need their parents’ love, support, and guidance. Homeschooling maximizes parents’ opportunity to have the greatest direct influence over their children’s lives, and for them to be able to impact who their children become.
For that, I am profoundly grateful.