Some of the most traumatic memories I have of our first few years of home schooling (1984-88) involve standardized testing. These nightmarish memories rank right up there with threats of jail from the state superintendent of education when my husband and I first decided to homeschool Ty, who was then six years old.
In those early years in South Carolina, home schooling parents were required to have their children take standardized tests in classrooms in the public schools for which they were zoned. I have vivid memories of taking my sweet little boys (Ty and John) to these schools and handing them over to teachers they did not know, to sit in a classroom full of children they did not know. They were required to take these important year-end tests in totally unfamiliar, and sometimes unfriendly, environments. Rather than serving as helpful diagnostic tools, the test scores became a large part of the criteria our local school board used to determine whether or not we could continue homeschooling.
While Ty and John were testing, I spent a good deal of time wandering around the halls of the schools, examining the facilities as well as the samples of artwork and schoolwork that were displayed on the walls in the various corridors.
The schools in our public school district are expensive and well kept. Every year I would experience a new round of angst and depression as I surveyed those first-rate facilities that my sons were “missing out” on. The grounds were well –cared for. The playgrounds were well equipped. There were art rooms and music rooms; the cheery school cafeteria also doubled as an auditorium with a stage for performances and programs.
In those early years I often wondered if our modest home could come close to offering our children the same opportunities that our school district’s multi-million-dollar facilities could offer.
Important Lessons Learned the Hard Way
During the past 20 years of home schooling, I have made some discoveries that have surprised me and that I hope will encourage you.
- Facilities do not educate or teach.
- For home schooling families, the world truly becomes your classroom. Field trips, travel opportunities, mission trips, and internships expand your child’s horizons far beyond the walls of the most beautifully appointed classroom.
- Time with immediate and extended family abounds because your child is not confined to a school schedule or classroom, beautiful though it may be.
- One-on-one education that focuses on the needs and gifts of each student empowers the child and encourages him to become a lifelong learner.
- In the home school environment, dialogue and constant interactions are the norm—and number in the hundreds daily. In the traditional classroom environment, the child has personal interaction with the teacher on average about eight to ten times a day. Constant dialogue is crucial in developing critical thinking and leadership skills.
- In the home school, education and “real” life intersect on a daily basis.
- God is the Ultimate Superintendent of Education. He orchestrates opportunities for our children that we could never imagine. The presence of the living God transforms the most humble home into a holy place of powerful learning and growth.
The Answer to the Question
What should a home school classroom look like?
Henry Ward Beecher, a pastor in the 1800s and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, said this: “The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.”
Proverbs 24:4 says, “By knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).
From these two sources we learn that our hearts, which are the child’s schoolroom, must be appropriately decorated. If we allow Christ to be our Interior Decorator, He will create the most fabulous schoolroom imaginable for our children—a room that is furnished with “precious and beautiful treasure.”
When our schoolrooms mirror Christ, they become the most exquisite, effective classrooms in the world.
Lord Jesus, please decorate our lives and homes with precious and beautiful treasures from the storehouse of Your unfathomable riches and grace.