Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homeschooling and Preparedness

I’ve been saying for quite awhile now how people should be prepared for hard times in seven core areas: food, water, heating, lighting, medicine, sanitation, and protection. But it didn’t dawn on me – duh – to consider the importance of education as a core area. I’m not talking about educating one’s self in preparedness issues (though that is, of course, critically important); I’m talking about educating children.  I suppose this is because the List of Seven addresses physical needs, and education is more intellectual or psychological.

For those without kids or for those whose kids are grown, addressing and preparing for educational needs is not a big deal. But anyone who has a Preparedness mindset and who also has kids must question what might happen if those kids were unable to attend school for whatever reason.

Homeschooling is clearly the answer.

It’s funny – after umpteen years of educating our children, I never really thought about the connection between homeschooling and Preparedness; yet the two are entwined to a surprising degree.

I’ll use our story as an example. Preparedness wasn’t really on our radar when we started homeschooling; it was just what we always knew we would do. Nor was Preparedness on our radar when we decided to leave Oregon. Since we’re self-employed, we had the freedom to move anywhere we wished. We looked at properties in Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The homeschooling laws in Idaho were by far the least restrictive, so that’s where we concentrated our search.

About a year ago I read a book called The Two-Income Trap. While often spouting a leftist perspective, the author made some interesting observations about parents and school districts. It seems quite often parents choose to purchase a home in a school district with better schools so their children will have better educational opportunities. Makes sense, right? Trouble is, these districts often have higher home prices (no doubt because of the better schools), necessitating both parents working to pay the mortgage and other bills.  This is the two-income trap. It’s a pity these parents don’t recognize how homeschooling their kids means they can live far more cheaply because they’re not tied to a particular school district.

We purchased our twenty-acre farm with home and outbuilding at a very low price (read: affordable mortgage payments) in a rural area where property values were low (at the time – they’ve gone up since). Until we moved here we also didn’t realize we were in one of the worst school districts in the State of Idaho. And I mean this district is BAD. Concerned parents frequently enroll their children in neighboring districts, driving long distances under sometimes extremely challenging weather conditions simply to make sure their children receive an adequate education.

Or – they homeschool. One of the side blessings of a bad school district is the number of homeschooled kids in this area.

The reason we didn’t inquire about the quality of the school district prior to purchasing our farm is because we didn’t care. Our choice of location was totally independent of the quality of the local school district. We were not held hostage to home prices because of our children’s educational needs.

And now that we’re “Preppers,” we find ourselves living in a place many people consider to be a wonderful “bug-out” location. This can be indirectly linked to our education choices. Chalk up one for homeschooling.

Now let’s suppose the bleep were to hit the fan. If the economy crashes, or if an EMP or solar flare takes out the grid, there’s going to be a lot of distress and hardship for a lot of people. It goes without saying that schools – both public and private – are not likely to be running under these conditions.

But homeschooling families can continue their children’s education un-interrupted. They may be scrambling to cope with the “List of Seven” core areas in which they may or may not be prepared; but at least their children will not be deprived of an education.

To this end, I’ve tried to think ahead and anticipate what my girls will need to learn between now and their adulthood. In other words, we’re “stocking up” on educational resources in addition to beans, bullets, and bandaids. Whether or not the girls choose to attend college, my job is to equip them with the very best K-12 education I can. Obviously if my kids were in kindergarten it would be more challenging to anticipate what they might be studying at 17, but at their current ages (12 and almost 15) it’s not so difficult.

I should point out that we don’t follow a pre-planned curriculum. The educational options available for homeschoolers these days are rich and varied, ranging from (cough) “unschooling” to rigid packaged curricula. We’re strictly middle-of-the-road in our approach. I often call our method the “wing-it” school of learning because we just pick up and select materials as we need them, rather than following someone else’s pre-packaged ideas of what the kids should be learning, and when.

To this end I seldom turn down any homeschool-related books or materials that someone is getting rid of, because after all we never know when we may want or need it. We have a whole cabinet stuffed with books and reference materials that were given to us over the years by various people cleaning out their unneeded homeschooling materials. Sometimes we dip into these resources and they become part of our curriculum; but most of the time these resources just sit there.

But that’s okay. It gives us additional breadth should we need them.  Or it means we have things to share with others if they need them.

Anyway, back to the planning-ahead stuff. I’ll use science as an example. Since my husband and I both have master’s degrees in the sciences (him, geology; me, biology), we consider a sound science education to be important. We certainly don’t lack for resources and materials! We have books galore on the subject. Yet I found myself floundering in science. Why? Because I didn’t have much by way of a logical and progressive guide.

Most of the science resources we had seen were either too young for my girls, or too shallow (meaning, it didn’t delve deeply into a particular subject). We have plenty of “depth” resources for science learning, but what I lacked was a comprehensive overview of what should be taught.

A friend introduced me to a catalog called Classical Conversations. This company offers a bewildering wealth of foundational material, nearly all of which we can’t afford. I was drooling over the history and grammar aids but they’re priced beyond our budget. Besides history, being linear, is not hard to teach.

Recently this company came out with a series of science “flashcards” that comprehensively cover the subjects of biology, geology, ecology, astronomy, physics, anatomy, chemistry, and famous scientists. Each flashcard is merely a summary of a particular topic and is not meant for shallow review. They’re meant as a guide for a much more in-depth study of that particular topic. We have the in-depth resources to delve into each topic, and now I have a structure that will guide me through these core science areas through the girls’ high school years. These cards were expensive but, I believe, well worth it. Whoo-hoo!

This is the kind of thinking in which we are trying to engage. We’re trying to “prepare” for our girls’ educational needs as well as physical needs if the bleep ever hits the fan. The whole idea of Prepping is to transition ourselves into hard times with as little disruption or inconvenience as possible under the circumstances. For most children, schooling is a major part of their lives, and for us schooling doesn’t have to be interrupted at all.

There are other, less tangible but just as important benefits to homeschooling. Our girls are growing up with an education that does not dilute the values we hold dear. If they spent half or more of their waking hours among peers of questionable values, they would begin to drift away from their upbringing and embrace easy sex, skanky fashions, and a snarky attitude in a desperate bid to “fit in” with their peers.

Instead, they spend the majority of their waking hours with family and friends of similar values, just like children have done through 5000+ years of civilization. The whole public-school peer-pressure culture is such a recent invention that it baffles me when critics claim we’re depriving our kids of that kind of horrible pressure, or that peer pressure is necessary to raise well-adjusted children into adulthood. Wrong-O.

In addition, despite the efforts of a minority of battle-scarred teachers, the public school curricula in most areas emphasize things that are completely antithetical to our values and political suasions. (Read the “Update” on my Women Against Women post to see what I mean.) I don’t want my girls attending classes where they learn to put condoms on bananas or how to write their own gravesite epitaphs or why capitalism is evil and our Founding Fathers were idiots. I want my girls learning non-politically-correct history, the true foundations of our country, and how to write like educated humans instead of texting monkeys.

For anyone who is serious about Prepping, please consider homeschooling your kids. Like anything else, homeschooling takes practice and adjustments. There are always kinks to work out, there are always problems that arise and must be solved. All children learn differently, and it takes a patient parent to adjust a subject and teaching method to a particular child’s abilities and interest.

But once a family gets into the homeschooling swing of things, the blessings and benefits are innumerable. – and that includes Preparedness as well.


  1. We came to a preparedness mindset after deciding to homeschool also. I'm not sure why, but it seems like the two often go hand in hand.

    My husband thinks it's funny when I pick up school supplies that we're still years away from using (our oldest is 3). However, he thought it was funny when I started stockpiling too. Now, reading almost daily reports on the coming inflation, he commends me.

    I'll figure he'll see the light on the books and chemistry sets soon enough. :)

  2. It's always gratifying to read your thoughts on education, Patrice, and in particular on the subject of home schooling.
    As I read your post and Michelle's comments it kept coming up in my thoughts how very valuable your approach to gathering educational materials will prove to have been if and when the bleep hits the fan. I can foresee the blessing you and others like you would be in that scenario, as well as the bartering and employment potential it would afford your own families. In a post b.h.t.f. scenario we'd soon see a shift to smaller and more locally centered schools reminiscent of +/- pre-50's rural America and earlier.
    Your children and others like them, having been
    successfully and well home schooled, could be a first generation of new teachers, while you home school seasoned mothers and fathers could become the natural designers and administrators of a "new system."
    (That seems like a poor choice of words somehow.)
    One shudders to think how comparatively few parents gave given even a passing thought to such things.....ok, I won't go there.
    ....but you've gotta admit it is pretty [snort] funny to think about the inevitable and widespread scenes of screeching, confused helplessness and flailing incoherence spewing forth from a nation of instantly-deprived-and-gone-cold-turkey dead cell phone totin' and rabidly addicted text monkeys.


  3. I also homeschooled long before I became a prepper. My four kids range in age from seven down to 10 months of age, so we're settling in for the long haul intermingling homeschooling and prepping. Our base curriculum is reuseable for all of our children and I am going to buy extra copies of the consumable items as we use them up.

    I wrote about homeschooling and prepping here: http://theharriedhomemakerpreps.blogspot.com/2010/08/does-prepping-homeschooling-and-vice.html

  4. Funny how we did the same thing - had no problem moving to a beautiful rural area in No. Maine - we carried our school with us. The "great schools" thing I am convinced is a myth(at least where realtors are cncerned). Have you ever heard one say " the schools here aren't too hot"? Nope, it's always - "best schools in the state". What a pleasure to be free of that restriction.

  5. We use Apologia for science and love it. I wish I had their Chemistry book when I was in high school. (http://www.christianbook.com)

    Teaching Textbooks has been great for us for math. http://teachingtextbooks.com/

  6. Love it! I've been stockpiling various curricula for a few years now. If I find a publisher or series that I like, I try to find it in several grade levels. More often than not, I can find things used rather than new. Saves so much money! (I also like to ask for homeschool books and materials for Christmas. My mother-in-law is always happy to help in that area, unlike others in my family who would rather buy something shiny and plastic.) My kids are still pretty young (preK and 1st), so I still need to think about junior high and high school levels, but for now, I've got the elementary levels taken care of. It does feel good to know the kids will still be learning no matter what happens.
    Andrea S

  7. just think of the real education kids are missing in todays world compared to years ago. they are not being taught at home the skills they need to live on their own and the public schools just keep doing the same old stuff and getting more $$ to do the same old stuff. kids don't have recess, pe, home ec., shop, art, chorus,...and when they go home they have piles of school/ homework to do.. a good math student in public school cannot even bake a good loaf of bread because they have'nt learned how to apply the math needed. i mention baking because that is in fact an exact science. school districts are being told to keep raising the bar-what a joke! and parents today would rather spend their tax dollars on someone else raising their kids. it is a sad sad world out there for parents and kids these days.

  8. Being a "retired" home school mom, I can say, "Preach on, sister!" There is absolutely nothing so gratifying as being a part of your child's education. I look at my grown children now and marvel at where God has taken them and how he used us.

    We've always had a "preparedness" mentality and I agree with Michelle, it and home schooling just seem to go hand-in-hand. We don't have to do your type of educational preparing anymore, but I commend you for encouraging in that direction.

    Just to share a funny; my son, a college professor, was teaching class the other day and the subject came around to home education. Several of the students jumped on their soapbox, "Home educated students are social misfits!" "Home schooled kids aren't as prepared." "Home educated kids are weird." They asked my son what he thought about home schooling. He smiled and said, "I guess you're saying that it isn't a viable form of education?" The kids looked at him and he said he saw this lightbulb go on in one of the more vocal students and this look of "Oh crud! The professor was home schooled" washed across his face. They asked him and he told them that he had been home schooled all the way through high school. Their response? "Yeah. But you're old." Yep. All 27 years of him is old.

  9. I've often wished that I had home-schooled my boys. They are 20 and 27 now, and the opportunity has passed. However, I still think that it is valuable to collect teaching materials, even if it is "out-dated". After all, if the economy goes down the chutes that badly, government funded schooling may no longer be available for "free". So homeschooling will be the only viable option. It certainly is the best option if you want your children to learn to think for themselves.

  10. As part of the homeschooling survivalist curriculum, I recommend local plant identification be included in botany. That first aid be taught in anatomy. And that mathematics be taught in the practical ways of home canning and shed building.

    It's good to know so many homeschoolers are preppers. Perhaps our republic will thrive afterall.

    Anonymous Patriot

  11. Patrice! Finally! An article on how homeschooling is also a preparation that should be made. I've often thought that articles on this topic have been missing from most of the survival/preparedness blogs I read. Thank you!

    (And yes, I'm a homeschooling mom and greatly appreciate your recommendation on the science cards; funny how I'd been praying about that very thing last night! Oh, one more thing. We use "rigid packaged curricula" but trust me, how we use it is certainly not rigid. My child is currently doing one week's worth of science from that curriculum in about an hour! The curricula is only a guide, to be used and implemented as the parents see fit.)

    Love your blog! Thanks for all the time and effort you put into it!

    Merry Christmas from North Carolina!

  12. As a fully credentialed teacher I agree with the homeschooling. I know I know, shame on me some would say but hey I've been around some of these so called teachers, principals and school districts, they are only there for the cash and holidays, not the kids. When I was working I worked hard teaching my students many things and I did well getting their scores up. But of course those who work hard do not have jobs and those who don't work have jobs (crappy I know. My child is going to public school and there is only one reason, at her school she is in a multi-language classes since K she is now in 2nd, and this goes until 6th grade(english and spanish). If it wasn't for these classes she would be home-schooled (since I am at home). She is very intelligent and could do really well home-schooled and learn a heck of a lot more. I do however stay on top of things she is doing and don't put up with her teachers slacking, principal or district and they can not (the district more than anything) try to pull the wool over my eyes, I know the laws and rules and have had to put them in check already this year. :( so yes coming from a fully credentialed (k-6th grade) teacher with a master degree say "YES, to homeschooling"!