You homeschoolers have it made! You can pack up and go wherever you want, whenever you want!” I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. But aren’t they right? Can’t we pack up and go wherever, whenever?
One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is that, yes, you do have quite a bit of freedom. You can start school at nine o’clock if you want to. You can eat lunch at any time during the day. You can do math first and science next if you want to. You can even do school in your pajamas!
What if your child is not quite up to speed on his math? Can you do seventh grade math if your child is in eighth grade? Yup. What if he is ahead of the curve in science? Can you teach him physics when he is in the tenth grade? Yup.
Wow! Now that’s freedom!
You can take a day trip to the local museum any day you wish. You can take a trip to Grandma’s any time you wish. You can skip school lessons in order to go see the latest movie, or you can excuse Junior from his school lessons in order to watch the solar eclipse.
You can do all these things, and more. Homeschooling frees you from the eight-to-three time constraints of the standard school system. It frees you from the grade levels. It frees you from the curricula. It frees you from the social influences. It frees you from the state-driven holiday schedule. It frees you from the August-to-May mandate. It frees you to do whatever you want, whenever you want. It frees you from responsibility. Wait. What?
So far, there has been a lot of talk about “freedom.” Perhaps it would be prudent to examine the meaning of freedom for just a moment. Dictionary.com defines freedom this way: “The power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without.” Using that definition, if we are truly a free people, we should be able to take whatever we want, from whomever we want, whenever we want. That doesn’t seem to fit what freedom is really all about.
Charles Kingsley put it this way, “There are two freedoms; the false, where man is free to do what he likes; the true, where man is free to do what he ought.” So maybe freedom is more than simply doing what you want. Perhaps it is the ability to do what you should…not necessarily what you want.
If, indeed, that is a better definition of freedom, then can we really do whatever we want, whenever we want with Junior? Well, the right answer is probably “maybe.” What is stopping us from skipping or eliminating lessons so we can go to Grandma’s house? The consequences.
Doing what you should versus what you want, is all about consequences. If you want to go see the latest movie, you must first consider the consequences. Will Junior miss some important lessons? Maybe not. But what if you make these excursions regular events during the school week? Will Junior miss some important lessons? Probably so. And what is the consequence of that?
Your responsibility is to train up your child in the way he should go. That means you are responsible for his academic, spiritual, and moral training. It is your responsibility to build his character. If you continually give him an excuse not to do his work, what are you actually teaching him? When Junior shows up to class, does he have his assignments completed? Or does he hem and haw, telling the tutor he went to the movies and therefore couldn’t finish his assignments? Or worse, do you—the parent—give his tutor all the reasons he was unable to accomplish his homework? What is the lesson Junior is learning? In a nutshell, the lesson is this: I don’t have to do my homework because I will not be held accountable, and Mom (or Dad) will bail me out. If this lesson is learned in school, it will carry over into life and will look something like this: I don’t have to do any task I don’t want to because I am unfamiliar with the concept of personal responsibility, and someone will bail me out. This is a dangerous lesson to ingrain in our children. In the workplace, this would be considered a character flaw, and it is a recipe for failure.
George Washington Carver put it this way, “Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”
So, does homeschooling really give you freedom? Absolutely. Does it give you freedom from responsibility? Absolutely not.
Ours is a monumental task—to train up our children in all walks of life. Classical Conversations not only gives students excellent academic instruction, but also opportunity for parents to teach, demonstrate, and hone critical life skills, such as responsibility.
The freedom we enjoy as homeschoolers does not mean we have the right to do whatever we want, whenever we want. It does not mean we have the right to be irresponsible. It means we have the privilege of doing what we ought with the precious children God has lent us. We cannot expect our children to engage our culture for God if they lack the ability to be responsible citizens of that culture. So, go forth and be free from the shackles of the school system. But always keep an eye on the crucial long term goal: Training up your godly children to engage our godless culture.