Orthodox Home Schooling

By Sarah Loft

A   nationally growing home school’ movement is an attractive alternative for   Orthodox Christian parents. We have been home educating our eight-year-old   daughter since kindergarten and have found it a rewarding experience. I would   like to share some of the positive benefits of this experience as well as   provide some concrete resources and information for others who would like   so considering home-based education.   

Surveys   and studies of home-educated children have shown them to be not only academically   advanced, but also better adjusted emotionally and socially. This results, perhaps,   from the more natural and secure home environment, freedom from negative classroom   peer pressures, personal attention, greater personal freedom, and an individually   tailored learning program. Generally, home-educated children become self-directed   learners, have higher self-esteem and are more independent and (surprising to   many) better social~ than their peers. 

An   Orthodox Christian Education

The   benefit of a borne-education program for Orthodox Christians, however, extends   beyond the usual advantages over institutional education. When Orthodox Christians   take on the responsibility of educating their own children, they have the unique   opportunity of providing an Orthodox Christian education—Orthodox in context,   content, and presentation. 

Briefly,   our approach has been as follows: Our academic calendar follows the Church calendar,   beginning on September 1 with a prayer service. We observe all major Feast Days   by attending services, discussing the Feast and doing appropriate reading such   as the Gospel accounts of the Nativity at Christmas, the life of a saint or   selections from the Church Fathers. 

We   reduce the academic workload during Lent and take off all of Holy Week and Bright   Week. While it is necessary (in order to meet most state requirements) to have   ‘school’ a certain number of days per year (usually 180), there is no requirement   to follow a secular or state calendar of school days and holidays. In addition   to regular attendance at services, we begin each day with morning prayers and   usually have some form of religious education every day. The rest of the day   is spent doing projects, reading, visiting the library, working on math, etc.  

There   are many resources for home schoolers; I get dozens and dozens of catalogues   from companies whose only or primary business is supplying textbooks, manipulative,   or visual aids to home-educating families. I will add a list of resource addresses   at the end of this article, but here I want to concentrate on the ‘religious   education’ aspect of home education. Religious education can (and does) take   many forms for us, including reading she Bible. (The International Children’s   Bible has a third grade reading level, the Living Bible paraphrases an eighth   grade reading level, and the King James Version, a twelfth grade level).   

Parents   should have a life, too. They should think of themselves primarily as parent,   rather than teacher. Discussion and projects go a lot further than lectures.   I explain a concept in math only when Rebeksh cant figure it out herself and   asks for assistance. Every child is different, but moat people don’t want another   person (teacher, parent, or anyone else) 

“breathing   down their backs” constantly. Respect for the child, his/her inclinations,   interests, limitations, feelings, and learning style are critical.   

2.   Where does the child find friends? How does the child engage in extracurricular   activities or sports? 

There   are a lot of kids out there, and they aren’t in school most of the time. Rebekah   finds friends in the neighborhood (playground, library), at church, in classes   and clubs, in her Junior Chorus and Ensemble. There are a variety of extracurricular   activities and sports available: Boy/Girl Scouts, clubs (a local chess club,   Camp Fire Girls, 4-H), Little League games and other organized sports through   local churches and other organizations. There are also the commercial and organized   “after school” activities such as art, dance, music, classes at the   YMCA’s, local churches and civic organizations, museums, libraries, and shows.   Home school associations also organize group activities. 

The   difficulty is not in finding activities (in most areas) but in selecting among   the myriad of options. Rebekah made the painful decision last fail to drop out   of a girls’ soccer team organized by a neighborhood Lutheran church because   of schedule conflicts with chorus and orchestra. 

3.   Does this set up assume that at least one parent is at home all the time? What   kind of educational background and teaching skills does a parent need to be   able to do home teaching? 

We   have heard of home schooling situations where there is a single parent or where   neither parent is home full-time, but it seems to us that the optimum situation   is for someone to be home on a regular basis and for both parents to be involved   in the process. 

Parents   of many different educational backgrounds teach their children at home. What’s   needed? 

-Basic   literacy

-A   willingness so learn (by the parent), curiosity and interest You don’t need   to be an expert in every possible subject (e.g., Rebekah and I are learning   French together). It is also not necessary for the parent to teach every subject   personally (e.g. Rebekah goes to a Greek class with other children two times   a week and takes violin lessons). Parents may also elect to hire a tutor for   a specific subject or subjects.

Taken   from the OCA Resource   Handbook for Lay Ministries