When we think of pioneers, most of us typically reflect upon those who crossed the plains in covered wagons. Visions of dusty, dry terrain, oxen pulling a wagon, women in cotton and calico dresses wearing bonnets, perhaps wiping the sweat off their husband’s brow while the children play stick games alongside the trail, and so forth. But a pioneer is much more than this image.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a pioneer as “a person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or a new method or technical development”. To pioneer is “to open or prepare for others to follow.” From settling new territory and lands to space exploration to medical discoveries, there have been countless pioneers who truly paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps.
When Sir Alexander Fleming inadvertently discovered penicillin, one cannot imagine that he wanted medical research to stop after he parted this life. On the contrary, we suspect that he wanted others to utilize his findings to continue the research and help mankind. A pioneering spirit doesn’t always have to be intentional. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, she had no idea that what she was doing would affect future generations. She was tired and just wanted to get home, but her actions definitely opened up a new line of thought.
In this incredible journey of home education, we can think of ourselves as pioneers. Although at times the road may be rough and bumpy, we know that as we strive to provide the absolute best for our children that future generations may follow. Going back to the image of those who blazed such trails as the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the voyages to the New World, we can apply some of the things they did to our lives. Why did these people give up the livelihood they had to venture out into unknown territory? Most accounts say it was because their hearts knew it was right, and their conscience dictated that they follow their heart. But they hardly realized at the time, the economic impact their trek would have on the United States of America.
Today’s public schools are a vastly different environment from when most of us attended as children. While it’s true that there are severe moral deficiencies, it is the academic deficiencies that are driving many parents to seek other options. Private schools and public charters are not resolving the issues of academic failure, and most of us have realized that all the money in the world will not make a poorly qualified teacher into a good one, or compel a greedy administrative system to reduce classroom size so a good teacher can have the opportunity to make a difference.
Much like the pioneers, many parents are starting off with no background in home education, and we learn by trial. Our conscious minds dictate that we cannot put our children into today’s public schools, yet we must do something to provide a good education for them. From memories of our own academic background, most of us know that education was not second rate when we went to school, the curriculum was good enough for us. So those of us who are new to homeschooling often seek to model what we envision an education should encompass – textbooks, workbooks, structured lessons, field trips, and video supplements. We look at all the options and select a method that we feel best suits our family, knowing that any possible social benefits of attending institutionalized schools left long ago and are not even a consideration. In spite of our own insecurities, we press on and continue to perfect our methods until one day they just naturally flow.
From time to time we will have unpredicted storms and circumstances that may challenge us, but we can endure because we know that what we are doing will affect our children, and our childrens’ children. Like the pioneers, we sometimes keep records and journals of our ventures so that our posterity can see what worked for us and what did not work. Today’s home educators are sharing their experience by joining support groups, and by writing – through personal journals, internet forums, and blogs.
This is the philosophy behind today's home education as a whole. No matter what type or level of home education one chooses, it is still home education and will reap a bountiful harvest as long as it is nurtured by a heart with good intent. And this is the philosophy behind Pioneer Online Academy for Homeschoolers – to provide a good, solid starting point for parents to be able to take control of their child's education.