I was having a conversation with a fellow homeschooler who is really struggling with the pressures of her charter. She feels that she will one day go private, but is too afraid to take that leap just yet. She gave me a lot to think about. Fear is so disabling in homeschooling and in any other aspect of life. My response to her was specific to homeschooling, but I think it applies across the board.
None of us is alone. And doing anything out of fear is just no way to live. It kills the spirit.
You know…by my house there is a little dirt bike trail with fun bumps, hills and curved banks. My kids have a lot of fun riding on them and catching some air. But can you imagine riding the trail with training wheels?? Even if you could manage the curves or pulled off an occasional jump, coming down on the wheels wrong would result in a messy crash!
Training wheels are a great tool for a week or two; but after that, they actually become the problem. Fear makes us use training wheels in life. We think that they will help us gain confidence. But riding with training wheels doesn’t actually prepare you for riding the way you were meant to ride. Your body doesn’t learn the nuances of maintaining balance as long as you are relying on the training wheels. But you are training your body to ride with limitations.
The same is true when you homeschool in fear. People think the charter will ‘keep them honest.’ But the truth is that the charters I have seen just add to the to-do list. The list has to be prioritized over the fun of learning, the core of homeschooling. Meetings, deadlines, testing all on another person’s schedule makes homeschooling a clumsy chore. I am not meaning to trash charters. I have seen them work, and I have seen private (independent) homeschoolers apply crushing pressure all by themselves.
My sister is one of the few people I have ever met who has used the charter as a back wheel on her homeschooling bike. She is still steering; she uses the charter for balance and to achieve higher leaps. It works. Most people that I have met use the charter out of fear—as training wheels. More than 50% of the people I have met (I am speaking very personally and have absolutely no knowledge regarding actual stats) end up putting their children back into public schools.
I think that is because they are led to believe that homeschooling is so hard. But it isn’t—or at least, it doesn’t have to be. Going off-roading (which is a pretty good analogy for homeschooling in general) on a tricycle or with training wheels IS hard. After fighting and struggling, many just go back to the paved road, wondering how those other riders are able to jump and do those cool tricks. Few suspect that if they had just ditched the ‘help,’ they would be out there with the best of them.