I’m walking on a tightrope in the dark — thrilling chills and terrifying fears lurch in my belly. I haven’t actually joined the circus. Instead, I am taking a hike off the well-paved homeschool trail, forging a path of my own. We are up a creek, so to speak, without a paddle. And can I tell you? It feels glorious!
Libertarianism has seeped into my educational philosophy, and I find myself thinking things that two years ago I never would have thought in a zillion years. I’ve been harboring dangerous thoughts lately, especially for a control-freak like me, such as:
- Classical Conversations is no longer the best fit for my teen (gasp! Did I just say that?)
- My teen has a right to direct her own education as it is HER education, not mine
- Debate is the best vehicle for real-life work training than anything I’ve ever imagined, short of real-life work
- I value freedom in the schedule over pretty much everything else
- It’s not my job to remind my teen to get her work completed
- I need to do something drastic to help instill a solid work ethic in my over-privileged but tender-hearted teen
- I am looking forward to the day my teen is able to drive (Yes, I did just write those words!)
- Packaged curriculum is not meeting my daughter’s educational needs
All throughout the past eight years of homeschooling, I have followed a well-beaten path forged by other homeschoolers, either by joining groups with specific curriculum such as Classical Conversations or by using specific lesson plans and materials published by an outside company, such as Sonlight. But this year, my daughter’s sophomore year, is shaping up to be vastly different.
Last spring my daughter juggled figure skating, CC, and speech and debate club through the National Christian Forensics Communication Association (NCFCA). I watched her shoulders slump under the weight of all the work. I modified her CC schedule, allowing her to skip some assignments and shorten others. I cringed inside, sending her to class unprepared but unable to make everything fit into the schedule. But I also watched her blossom, unfurling her talents and improving her communication skills — all thanks to the practice and tournaments of speech and debate. More and more I adjusted her CC schedule to accommodate the speech and debate tournament schedule. Many weeks were so contorted in order to fit inside the “CC Box” that I felt like my daughter and I were becoming distinctly pretzel-shaped!
As she struggled with the immense workload, I had a thought that hit me square between the eyes: what are we doing? Why do we homeschool, anyway?
- Is it to fit inside someone else’s calendar? No.
- Is it to learn something that someone else has deemed important? No.
- Is it to dance to a tune someone else wrote? No.
We homeschool because God entrusted us with this precious, amazingly talented daughter. He is the one who gave her an amazing ability to write, to speak, to communicate logically with humor. He is the one who created her with a unique set of passions and abilities. We homeschool so she can fully become a human being created in the image of God without being constrained by a list of subjects and books that are deemed by someone else to be the ingredients of a complete education. By always jumping into a different off-the-shelf curriculum, I was allowing the lines of a box to be drawn. Of course, I could erase lines as needed…but the fact remains that the starting place of the education did not begin with her unique needs in mind but rather to the needs of the homeschool masses.
The question occurred to me: how different are we from private or public school if we force our daughter into an educational box that does not necessarily meet her individual needs?
So this year is a new beginning down a very different road. Rather than signing a contract with CC, we are signing a contract with our daughter. Her education is her job. As her “employer,” I have created a robust curriculum unique to her needs as a speech and debate student, a figure skater, and a novelist. The work load is heavier in the fall to allow her time to focus on speech and debate during tournament season beginning in January.
- History: Study the history of the Middle East, using primary source documents from Milestone Documents (August-May)
- Debate: Resolved: that the United States should reform its policies towards one or more countries of the Middle East. (August-May)
- Speech: Interpretive, Persuasive, Extemporaneous, Impromptu, and (possibly) Apologetics. (August – May)
- The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History by Professor John Hale, University of Louisville (August-September)
- Literature: Read a series of classic “Chick Lit” and discuss/debate with Mom: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein (August-December)
- Writing: Online Creative Writing Course through Gotham Writers in New York (October-November)
- Latin: Memoria Press Third Form (August-May)
- Science: Biology, with an outside class (August-May)
- Math: Geometry, with an outside class (August-May)
- Health: Nutrition Made Clear, a course by Professor Roberta Anding of Baylor College of Medicine (August-September)
- Driver’s Ed in a Box (As Able)
Instead of contorting ourselves into a box, we’ve drawn the box around us to accommodate our daughter’s needs and interests. We may be walking on a tightrope, but we walk in faith nonetheless. May God bless our daughter’s education, and may she grow in wisdom and in stature along the way!