Friendly Advice
From Helen Hegener, 30-year homeschooling mom:

With Courage and Confidence

Do you remember when you first learned about the idea of homeschooling your children? Did it seem naturally right for you, or did you have to think about it a while, find out more information, discuss it with a few people, read a book or two and warm up to the idea first? For the majority of parents the decision probably came only after a lengthy exploration. For many it came even harder, with long nights of wondering if it was the right thing to do, heartfelt discussions with family and friends, hours of poring over books and magazines.

Why is something so obviously good for parents and children approached so cautiously and carefully? Why are we so afraid of trusting our own feelings, our own ideas, without validation from others, and often from experts?

I've been involved in an email discussion group between several friends for a few years, and recently this subject has had us sharing our thoughts with each other. The power and wisdom of the words of my friends might be helpful to anyone considering homeschooling:

Kathleen, mother of two teens, writes: "My point of view is simply that the system... whether you want to call that our government, or our school system, or something else.... has somehow taken away our basic human right to confidence in ourselves and acceptance of ourselves. Adults are afraid to do everything. They rely on experts to doctor them, teach them, govern them, religion them. It is no wonder they are anxious about homeschooling. They have no confidence or self-esteem themselves. Making mistakes is how humans learn. We have to err to learn. Yet when we err... we cringe in fear and develop anxiety. I have come to know that not knowing something is no reason for anxiety. It is an opportunity to err gloriously."

Another friend, Deborah: "While I don't know how people develop confidence and courage in this culture, I do know that they won't ever get it from publications that promise 'The Answers.' One thing I've noticed in all my favorite magazines (all subjects, not just homeschooling) is that they ask more questions than they answer. There's a sense of a shared journey, travellers tales on the road, instead of a leader shouting back directions to those behind. 'This is what we do' has a different attitude about it than 'This is what everyone should do.' Ideas instead of Rules."

Deborah's words touched a chord in Marylee: "I really like what Deborah says about a 'shared journey.' When I was so anxious my first year homeschooling, I sought out "experts" (and I mostly mean 'oldtimers' who radiated confidence and common sense) to tell me things like 'trust yourself,' 'you know your kid and her needs better than anyone else,' 'trial and error is fine,' etc. I read as widely as I could, so that I could saturate myself with these thoughts, hoping to contain my anxiety."

A sense of shared journey, and travellers' tales on the road.... In our conversations there were the inevitable allusions to homeschoolers as pioneers in education and family issues. We've always liked this analogy, as the pioneers had to be brave and courageous and confident souls, working together, supporting each other, blazing new trails, building foundations for those who would come later. Because those scared but courageous homeschool pioneers forged ahead, parents now have a wealth of support, but important questions still face us on the trail ahead. With courage and confidence we'll find the answers together.

- HEM -