President’s Corner: Realistic Superlatives
Consider the plight of a family who is just starting out in home education. “Steve” and “Sally” attend a home-schooling conference and hear that home schooling is wonderful, exciting, and thrilling. They are told that the result of home schooling will be children who are spiritually mature, academically excellent, not to mention thrifty, brave and reverent.
And they are told that these are the results that “average” home schoolers can expect.
As if this wasn’t enough, they are then told about the “Super Mothers” of home schooling. You know the kind of Mother that has figured out a unit study program that teaches her seven children three-variable algebra problems, the history of the Roman Empire, the atomic weight of the sixty four most common elements, and physical fitness all from Psalm 104—fully illustrated with hands-on manipulatives using nothing but Legos. And somehow she still finds the time to bake all her own bread, from flour she has ground by hand, from wheat she grew (organically of course) in the back yard.
And then there are stories of the “Super Children.” These are the kids that have mastered quadratic equations, are working on biblical Greek, have a ministry to the old folks home, and are making $18,000 a year selling muffins in a home-based industry. Not bad for a 9 year old.
I have met as many home-schooling children and parents as any other person. I have never met a “Super Mom” and I have never met any “Super Children.” Instead I have met thousands of ordinary people who work hard and occasionally struggle.
The reason everything seems so superlative in home schooling is that our achievements are so much better than what is being produced in the public schools (in terms of both character and academics) that we seem “super” by comparison.
But when we look at ourselves more objectively, we see that we are really quite ordinary people who sometimes struggle. I can tell you for a fact that my family is composed of ten ordinary people who struggle. Things don’t always go perfectly. Our house is sometimes a mess. Our garage is always a mess. Our kids sometimes misbehave. Turmoil sometimes interrupts our academics.
This is not to say that we do not have success. We do. Our children are spiritually far, far ahead of where we were at their ages. They are achieving good things academically. They are well-adjusted and get along with people of all ages. They have very high moral standards. They love each other. Our older girls can cook anything and fully run a household. Each of the older girls has found an area of involvement that they love and which allows them individual achievement. They are not ashamed to be with their family in public. They are mature in good ways and innocent in other ways.
After ten years we have learned that success in home schooling is not automatic. It requires a lot of hard work. But we have also learned that God multiples our sometimes stumbling efforts in the same way that He used five loaves and two fishes to feed the multitudes.
But I am convinced that the “Steves” and “Sallys” of this world—new parents just beginning to home school—need to hear a more balanced presentation of the real lives of home schoolers. They need to know that they are not the only family to ever struggle. If they think that only perfect families can succeed in home schooling they may quit when they hit persistent problems.
Real people home school. We need to rely on the Lord, work hard, and keep a long-range view. When we do, real people achieve real success.
Michael P. Farris