Saturday, February 12, 2011

O Pioneers

I am preparing to homeschool my children. The concept is not new to me; I am a 12-year homeschool graduate. But something occurred to me recently with profound relevance. God used my parents, first generation homeschoolers, pioneers, to prepare me for this. They are the ones who figured out the basics such as laws, support groups, and daily logistics. They sampled a myriad of curricula, schedules, and methods. For their own reasons, they wanted to give their children something better. They wanted to give us something better than the status quo and better than their own educations.

I cannot tell if I would have chosen to homeschool my kids if I hadn't been homeschooled...But if I did, I know I wouldn't have as clear a direction as I do now. If I were starting from scratch, simply inquiring about the laws regarding homeschool would be daunting. Then I would have to start digging for information about support groups and homeschool-friendly extra-curricular activities. Thanks to the pioneers, I know where to go for state laws. Thanks to the pioneers, I have watched a support group built from the ground up and have personal acquaintances in groups that have choirs, bands, and basketball teams.

Perhaps the best advantage of being a second generation homeschooler is that the pioneers tried everything. Just looking at a Rainbow Resource catalog makes my head spin. I love books. Forgetting financial restraints, I would buy them all. But then what? Should I use a Classical approach or Montessori? Unschooling or traditional classroom? I know me. I would end up buying a curriculum in a box so I wouldn't risk leaving anything out and because I simply would not have time to research all the models and options. That would be okay. After all, it is what the pioneers did sometimes. But I have an advantage. I have already dabbled in most of them. I already know what I like and dislike. I know I would rather use something more stimulating than questions and answers but more structured than a relaxed approach. I choose Classical, as in The Well-Trained Mind (although I also learned from the pioneers that I have permission to change my mind at any time), but I wouldn't know this yet if I were not the second generation.

I do not think the pioneers would be insulted if I said I want to improve on what they gave me just as they wanted to improve on what their parents gave them. Following the paths they cleared proves their work was worthwhile, but I will do some building along the way that would not have been possible without the groundwork they laid.

Now when I get discouraged with facing seemingly endless decisions, sometimes I forget my advantage. I forget that I should thank the pioneers for charting the course, for trying out everything, and for improving on their own experiences so that I can improve on mine.

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