24 Aug Homeschooling For Spiritually Minded Families
Our vision of education
When people hear that we homeschool our children, at first they are stuck with wonder. How is it possible that children can learn anything without school? Well, there is a significant percentage of families in the world who have homeschooled their children with great success. Saying that it’s good to ask ourselves what kind of success we want for our children. Public education today, in any country, focuses mainly on academic learning and preparing children to find a suitable jobs and make a career. If you have a different perspective of what education should be, maybe you are ready to step out of a box and consider other ways of teaching your child, closer to your vision and goals.
I’ve been thinking, reading, and searching a lot about what kind of education I want for my kids since they were toddlers. Over the years, my vision became more and more clear – I wish to nurture my kids as whole human beings, helping them to develop spiritually, emotionally, physically, socially, and academically. I want them to develop strong moral values and good character based on spiritual knowledge. I want them to feel good about who they are, help them express their unique talents and interests, and invest in those areas. I want to make sure they have enough time for free play during their whole childhood, as free playing is crucially important for their socializing and developing physical and creative powers. And I want us all to be active family members, doing chores, helping each other, and contributing to the family as a whole.
What I can see about school children around us is that they have little time for free play and for doing chores at home. Most families today live a lifestyle of each member does his or her own thing, being outside of home almost the whole day. Children have too many activities outside of the home, plus school duties, so there’s not much room left for play, chores, and time to be together with the family. This kind of lifestyle is unhealthy for children because it creates overstimulation and stress from an early age. So, if I summarize what I want for my children and what I want them to avoid, I came up with homeschooling as the best option, not only for their education but for creating a favorable lifestyle for the whole family.
Advantages of homeschooling
Being a homeschooler means that family members will spend more time together and develop more intimate bonds among themselves. Academic learning could be slower compared to the conventional learning pace, but not necessarily. What I feel is the most important advantage of homeschooling is that children have more time and space to learn in harmony with their temperament, abilities, and personal interests and needs. It doesn’t mean that everything will be subordinated to the child’s whims, as one might think. Being a homeschooling parent means to even more take responsibility as a loving authority and leader of a family, the one who sets up a mood and holds the structure and daily rhythm of activities. And naturally, we have to adjust activities and rhythm to the personalities of all family members to everyday life function smoothly. The same rule applies to learning – it needs to be stimulating enough for a child to accept it. If you teach to a class of 20 children at school, you can but don’t need to adjust to the personal needs of students for school to function (somehow). But having only one, two, or three students, you can’t teach without adjusting to their learning abilities because you will end up with everyone frustrated and not learning anything.
Another great advantage of homeschooling is that we have an open space to incorporate our spiritual or religious practices into learning. As devotees of Krishna, we can include the study of sacred scriptures and present other subjects in connection to the principles of Krishna consciousness. It could be especially helpful for families who live away from the temple and community of devotees. As homeschoolers, we can create a stable spiritual culture within our family that would help our children to identify with family traditions and practice spiritual life naturally.
Homeschooling also helps to keep up the good health of our children. I don’t say that children who learn at school don’t have good health, it depends on so many different factors. But, what I have noticed, and experienced as a child, is that school rhythm could disturb healthy eating and sleeping habits. Children take breakfast along the way, and lunch could be too late because of long school hours. It can happen that children do not sleep enough because they can’t fit all the duties and activities into the day, so they go to bed too late. Having regulated eating and sleeping rhythm is the basic need of a developing child, and I believe it’s the foundation of good health. As homeschoolers, we can build our daily rhythm with regular meal time, providing warm and homemade meals, and engaging children to help prepare and serve them. We can make sure that children have enough sleep by having a regular bedtime. And, on hectic days, we can allow them to sleep longer in the morning (which you can’t do if they have to go to school).
What about socialization?
Even though homeschooling has so many advantages, the main fear of parents who consider it is the question of socializing. What if my child (or children) would feel isolated? How are they going to fit into society? How are they going to fit into “reality”? I still have no experience with teenagers since my kids are 11 and 10. For young children up to the age of 9, I can confirm that they’ll be just fine being mostly at home learning, playing, crafting, and celebrating with close and extended family members and neighbors. As they grow up, they can have more outside activities like sports, hobbies, and whatever is available and favorable for them.
It could be more challenging for families with one child, especially if a child is very social. In that case, a child could need some activity outside of the home with a group of children even at an early age. It depends a lot on the child’s temperament. I don’t believe in the myth that all children need to be “socialized” as early as possible. First and basic socialization happens at home, and family is the first team where we learn to function and cooperate. Socialization happens with people of all ages, not only with peers. Actually, for young children, it’s more natural to socialize with adults and children of different ages than with their peers, because it’s a natural family setting that happens in real life. Putting many young children together in groups like the nursery is actually artificial because you never have so many children of the same age in one family, even an extended family (and any kindergarten teacher can confirm how difficult is to take care of a big group of young children of the same age).
In upper grades, socialization with peers is more natural, it’s more the need of a teenager than an early grade schooler. There are many ways to fulfill this need other than school: homeschooling communities, sports, camps, workshops, neighborhood, religious communities, etc. Parents should estimate if the socialization at school would be more important for their child than other advantages of homeschooling, and consider a child’s temperament, place of living, opportunities available, and so on. Generally speaking, many spiritually-minded families do not consider socialization at public schools favorable for their children. The school has become more and more a place of degraded moral values, unhealthy lifestyle, bad examples, and even danger of many kinds. We have to estimate whether the negative impacts of school will outweigh the positives. It depends on many factors like whether you live in a small town or a big city, what kind of teachers are there, what kind of mood prevails in school, the family background of classmates, and so on. There is no one recipe for all, it’s a personal decision. In all circumstances, we have to do our best to make a good deal out of a bad bargain. Things are rarely perfect in this world.
Different types of learning
Some children like to go to school, usually those who are good and fast academic learners. Schools also provide stimulation based on competition; some children would be inspired by this. But, for some children it would have the opposite effect, they could feel less worthy because they cannot achieve great results. We all have different kinds of intelligence, and I would say that many children have problems fitting into school standards and requirements, based on academic learning. If your child has this kind of problem, homeschooling could help that child to learn in a way suitable to its nature, according to its learning pace, and achieve better results in the long run.
Homeschooling is a kind of adventure, stepping out of a comfort zone for the parent in the beginning, but as time goes it becomes more and more rewarding. The same as in the spiritual process, it requires some patience and steadiness. Learning is a marathon, not a fast race. When you start to homeschool you realize that learning does not happen only at the desk, but in all kinds of situations: during play, practical work, conversations, exploring nature, crafting, reading, storytelling, planning and accomplishing individual or family projects, etc. Learning is part of life and it never stops, just changes its form. Homeschooling opens the door for exploring different types of learning and finding the uniqueness and authenticity of our children, and ourselves. There are so many benefits for parents who dive into the adventure of homeschooling, but this is a subject for whole another article.