Can Your Children Explain Why They Homeschool?
My children grew up with television cameras in the living room and school room. We began homeschooling in 1984, and it was a controversial decision to say the least. As we marched through the process as a family of lobbying for homeschooling legislation, my children were asked a thousand questions:
What about socialization?
Do you like homeschooling?
Do you have any friends?
Do you feel like you are missing anything?
Why does your family homeschool?
Can you play sports?
Will you ever be able to go to a prom?
Where do you want to go to college … do you think you will be able to get in?
Are you learning anything?
I will never forget the first time the camera crew came to our home. The boys were seven and five. They were well-prepared to meet the crew, socially. They interacted well and were not intimidated, even at such a young age. And then the official interview began. I had not prepped them for it, because I wanted their answers to be sincere, spontaneous, and genuine. The reporter asked my totally endearing five-year-old, “So, tell me, son, why do you like homeschooling?” He looked the reporter straight in the eye and said, “Because I can get a snack and go to the bathroom anytime I want to.”
I cringed. From my son’s perspective his answer was absolutely true and important to him. He had been in preschool before we started homeschooling where he couldn’t do those things when he wanted to. But that’s not what I wanted being discussed on the nightly news.
It was my fault. I failed to realize that lawyers prepare their witnesses to be interrogated. It doesn’t mean the answers aren’t sincere and genuine, but they are thought-through as opposed to spontaneous. Sometimes spontaneity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! Adults prepare for job interviews, so they are able to put their best-foot forward for the potential employer.
If adults need to prepare for interviews and interrogations in the real world, how much more does a child need to prepare and rehearse? I set to work and from that point on my children gave thought-out answers to the list of questions I thought they might be asked in an interview situation. And no age is too young for preparation!
All of life is an interview.
Every child is asked a thousand questions in his growing-up years. If that child happens to be homeschooled the tally rises to a million fairly quickly! You know how it is--you can't go through the check-out line in the grocery store without you and your children being riddled with questions. Homeschooled children are questioned by friends, by relatives, by people at church, by strangers, and occasionally by a TV reporter or a legislator. And sometimes well-meaning friends and relatives can't wait to get your children alone so they can find out what they really think and feel.
You will be doing your children and yourself a great service if you teach them how to handle questions in a graceful, confident, knowledgeable way.
The process of preparing children for interviews-
1. Brainstorming. We had a white board at the time. I began by drawing a line down the middle. I then asked questions like the ones at the beginning of the article. Each child would give his response. If the response was appropriate for the interview, I wrote it down on the right side of the board. If it were appropriate for private conversation but not necessarily an interview situation, I put it on the left side of the board.
2. Tweaking and polishing. At the end of that exercise, we then looked at the answers on the right side of the board and we began to tweak and polish them a bit.
3. Role playing. Then we role played. I would be the reporter, and I would ask the boys questions. Then we would switch roles and they would ask the questions and I would answer. It gave them a chance to hear my responses. We would continue until they were too tired to be productive, or we had an answer relatively down pat.
4. Practicing. Once we had gone through the role playing, we would practice—sometimes formally, sometimes informally. If we were in the car, I would throw out one question and have them answer it. Sometimes we would go back to the white board and have a more formal training session. If a new question arose, we would go through the process again of brainstorming, tweaking and polishing, and role playing again.
A great resource
The Little Book of Big Reasons to Homeschool is a 70-page little book written by my friends David and Kim d’Escoto. Because it is a quick and easy read (and is only $7.99), it makes a great book to keep on hand to give those who are interested in homeschooling.
But I have also discovered another great use for this book. Have your children read it—or read it out loud together as a family. (And count it as part of your school day.) This book gives a little history on homeschooling and then has sections on the benefits of homeschooling to the mind, to the body, and to the soul.
This is a perfect forum for beginning to teach your children how to answer the countless questions they will encounter about homeschooling. Go back to your white board at home. Divide it into three sections—mind, body, and soul—and list the benefits of homeschooling provided in this book. It will be a great springboard for discussion. You will have reasons to add in addition to those listed by the author. Some reasons will be more important to you than others—or more important to your children.
The point is this: begin the discussion. Prepare your children well to answer the questions that will arise almost daily in their lives concerning homeschooling. They are truly some of the greatest ambassadors homeschooling has.
You can transfer this process to other areas.
Your children will be questioned about their Christianity as they grow up seeking the Lord. Use this same process to teach them how to answer questions about their faith.
As they prepare for job and/or college interviews, they will benefit greatly from these same interview skills you have instilled in them as children.
And through this process of questioning and answering you are helping them develop powerful critical thinking skills.