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