Homeschooling and Libraries

Things I'm thinking about and learning while working with homeschoolers and writing Helping Homeschoolers in the Library for ALA Editions.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Interview with Maureen Wittmann, Part 5

Adrienne: It’s interesting, too, to be at the point where you have kids right through the range of ages. Is your oldest starting to think about things like college and career ideas? Will this be his last year of official homeschooling? (Of course, we all know that one can never *really* stop learning at home....)

Maureen: Yes, it's definitely interesting having children in all the stages of learning. Hard sometimes, but certainly interesting!

My oldest is a high school junior. He has one more year at home before going off to college. He's already been thinking about college and his future for some years now. He has his heart set on Franciscan University in Stuebenville, OH. He wants to major in journalism, and also philosophy or theology. He's discerning the priesthood, but hasn't made a definite decision. As it should be – that is the kind of life decision that requires time and much prayer.

It's an interesting thing to watch your oldest child grow into a man. He's no longer a little child. He's capable of making sound life decisions on his own. Sure, he looks to me for guidance, but I trust him implicitly in making right choices. I'm not quite sure how that happened. Was I blessed with children who are naturally good or did I somehow make enough right parenting decisions to help them blossom into great kids?

So many people dread the teen years, but in all honesty I love them. (Not just as a mother, but also as one who leads a teen group.) I will go so far to say teenagers are a gift from God and we should be grateful for the time we have with them. Teens are incredibly interesting people, caught between childhood and adulthood. They are fervently seeking Truth and trying to make sense of the world around them. As their parents, we have the awesome responsibility to guide them through these years.

Adrienne: I know you’re at work on a book about teens, so I’d love to ask you to talk a little more about working with teens.

Maureen: By the time a student reaches high school they're ready to engage in the art of expression and articulate their ideas about what they've learned so far.

Think about teens and telephones, or instant messaging. Teens love to chat. This is the time to engage your child in conversation. Don't be afraid of the generation gap, your child will be happy you are interested enough in him to seek his opinions. (Just ignore the eye rolling and sighs.)

This is not the time to let our children go, but to continue to help them flower, guiding them gently. We need to challenge their thinking skills and make them defend their intellectual and religious positions. Ask them probing questions that will help them make connections and come up with their own insightful conclusions.

It is during this time we can move from simple narrative stories to challenging debates and critiques. Think about how much more interesting this is to the parent. Think about those days of reading the same picture books over and over again. Now, you have the opportunity to not only read deep works alongside your child, but to discuss them in-depth. You have not only the opportunity to teach your child, but to learn from him. How cool is that!

Science can include ethical debates such as embryonic stem cell research and cloning. Math can include looking into how the great theorems came to be discovered. History can include primary documents, looking deep into the why and how the turns of history took place. Religion can move beyond Bible facts and get into apologetics. The Early Church Fathers can be studied, looking to see how their leadership shaped the way Christians worship today.

So often, homeschoolers place their children into a site-based school when they get to the high school years. But, I think this is THE time to homeschool. It's a great opportunity to show a child how to get to the very core of Truth. And that, in my opinion, is the end goal of an educator.


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