Hal’s about It: Is There Anything You People Don't Do Well?

May 1, 2005

Homeschooling has worked out so well for so many families that the "good news" reports sometimes run together. I was in a meeting with a newspaper publisher recently who laughed and said, "It’s probably been at least a month since we did a positive story on homeschooling." For a while, our local paper ran photos of the homeschool history club so often, I called it The Smithfield Homeschooler. I think we can be forgiven for enjoying our good reputation—it’s well deserved.

In light of all the good news, can we blame outsiders for asking, "Is there anything homeschoolers don't do well?" In the past, my answer would have been football, but that’s not true any more. We’re working to address the most obvious questions. We join support groups and community organizations for fellowship and socialization opportunities. Homeschool sports leagues are growing to provide more athletic opportunities, especially for older students. If we're uncertain about teaching a particular subject, we find a tutor, a co-op or an online course. We're doing pretty well, thanks.

There are a few things I've noticed, though, that still leave room for improvement. Maybe we don’t address them as often because we’ve decided they're not important; however I've seen or heard these things enough to think there’s a pattern.

 

Phys. Ed.?

Some people love it, some—like me—don't. If you don't, you probably have some personal horror stories. Still, this is the only school subject I've noticed where homeschoolers don't clearly excel in comparison studies. Advice and exhortation about healthy lifestyles abounds in the media, so I won’t repeat any of it here. I do challenge home educators to find the balance in this area for our children that admittedly many of us missed in school.

 

Handwriting?

This is anecdotal, but I have heard a couple of college professors complain that their homeschooled students have illegible handwriting. To be fair now, I've heard the same thing about students in general—they can type eighty-five words a minute but you can't read their scrawl. It’s a product of the digital age.

As homeschoolers, we have the opportunity to produce students who excel in clear handwriting, even when other schools may not require it. Let us not overlook this important area of study! Remember, other people, besides us, need to be able to read our children’s handwriting!

 

Deadlines and rules?

I know for a fact that, as a group, homeschoolers are very relaxed about times, deadlines and rules in general. To some extent, it may be a healthy skepticism of bureaucracy, a desire to unshackle our children’s education from the hidebound regulations of large institutions. That’s fair enough. We’re free people, God made us to be free, why be bound to someone else’s pattern?

There is another angle to it, though. Whether we like them or not, deadlines and rules are part of life. The ability to understand and follow them is a life skill, the same as the ability to take a written test or fill out an application form. Not all deadlines and rules are arbitrary exercises in controlling people; most are at least intended to make programs work for the largest number of people possible, with limited administrative overhead. I think that’s true whether it’s at the local support group or the US Congress.

Unfortunately, homeschoolers are becoming known in some circles as people who don’t respond well to structure. I’ll raise my hand first and admit that I am habitually running late. This article, for example, was supposed to be in the editor’s hands yesterday, so don’t take this as scolding from me. Homeschooling events routinely start ten minutes late; I call it “homeschool standard time.” This probably doesn’t hurt us too much for our own events, and it’s good to be flexible whenever we can.

But we could do a better job training our kids to be aware of deadlines and rules that we don’t control. Anyone who’s dealt with the public school system for drivers’ education classes, for example, has probably experienced how rigid their schedules are, but if you need those services, you have to agree to their structures. Likewise, the sharpest complaint I’ve heard from college professors is that when they call for assignments and homework, the homeschoolers sometimes don’t think the rules apply to them. Ouch! That perception can take the shine off of a lot of personal brilliance.

I’m proud of our independence, our freedom from “this-is-the-way-it’s-always-been-done” education, our self-sufficiency with co-ops, enrichment, extracurricular programs, and the like. I’m glad that we can deal with families rather than treat every child as a disconnected entity. Still, we could probably all be more aware of the needs of others, and of the ultimate benefits of schedules and rules. Frankly, when we aren’t, we either hurt our own opportunities (for us or our kids), or we borrow the time and effort that we need from other, also busy, homeschoolers around us. Here’s an area where, as we improve, we help ourselves as well as each other.

And on all the other stuff—well, keep up the good work! Really, as a whole, we’re doing quite well.

 

Your obedient (though not always punctual) servant,

 

Hal

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