From time to time, GSHE welcomes members to share their own thoughts, experiences, and perspectives on home education issues. Today, we welcome Zsolt Zsofka who is a homeschooling dad, living in Hungary.
“Every parent is a home educator. Make no mistake, children are learning at home by observation of what we, the parents, do.”
As a parent who stays at home, I often assume the significant responsibility of home-educating my children. While it is usually the mother who assumes this role, there are exceptions, such as in my case when I began home-educating in 2001. Now, I am scheduled to continue awesome responsibility until 2035 with my youngest son, Oliver. In this article, I hope to inspire others to share their own stories by offering a father's perspective on the experience of home education.
Twenty-one years ago, I took on the role of home-schooling my children, even though my wife was initially hesitant about the idea. However, she ultimately supported my decision to remove them from the public school system after an unacceptable event occurred at the school. Now, in 2022, I am embarking on my third tour as a home educator, drawing on my decades of experience and the lessons I've learned from raising five girls and a son in two different family settings. I am determined to do my best job ever and welcome others to join me on this journey.
The Collective Wisdom on Home Based Education states:
“Looking at the general wisdom of home-based education. Home education's strength lies in allowing parents to have complete control over their children's education. Parents have the power to choose the curriculum, resources, and learning environment. This ensures that their children receive the best education possible. In addition, parents can tailor their children's learning to their individual needs and interests. They can also provide a more supportive learning environment, which can help children to feel more secure and motivated to learn. However, there are some weaknesses to home education as well. While parents can provide a more supportive learning environment, they may lack the resources and expertise of a traditional school. This can lead to a lack of structure and guidance in a child's learning, leading to difficulties in teaching and learning. Additionally, home education can be an isolating experience, as children may not be able to interact with their peers or develop relationships outside of their homes. Home education also requires a lot of time and dedication from parents and children, which can be difficult for busy and working families. In conclusion, home education has both its strengths and weaknesses. While it can provide a great learning experience, parents must consider their resources and time commitments when deciding whether or not to home-educate.” (Produced by Open AI, an awesome summary that represents the collective objective view.)
I share this view on the strengths and weaknesses of Home Education. Furthermore, I learned to tolerate the outdated school system presently we have to put up with in Hungary. As outdated as this system is, the education level difference between a European public school and the American I was exposed to in New Hampshire is like day and night. For the time being, my boys are spending 50 hours weekly and upwards in primary school and another ten-plus hours studying with me. An additional two hours with a private teacher learning to code and three hours playing the piano in a music school, heavily subsidized by the Hungarian government. We are fortunate to have access to both home and traditional education in Hungary. However, if we were in in New Hampshire, my boys could have a more relaxed learning experience and achieve similar results by age 18. Ultimately, we must make the best of the circumstances we have and find the approach that works best for our unique situations.
As a home educator, I understand the desire to do a good job and the concerns that many parents have. While I have made mistakes along the way, I have always tried to learn from them and not worry. In my experience, the key to success in home education is having both parents involved and working together towards a shared goal. When this is not possible, it can lead to difficulties and may even result in the cessation of home education, especially if the marriage breaks down. On the other hand, when both parents are committed to and actively participating in the home education program, the chances of success are greatly increased.
William is a 14-year-old boy who was born in Taiwan and adopted by me. He speaks English at home, Chinese with his mom, and Hungarian at school. In addition, he is learning German and has studied a little Japanese. William's programming studies began with Scratch and for the past two years, he has been focusing on learning Python. He has a talent for languages and is highly motivated to become a software developer by the time he is 16 years old. As part of our home education program, we prioritize William's career goals by dedicating a significant amount of time and effort to his Python studies. He is also receiving private lessons from a high school IT teacher and was recently accepted into the Alphacademy, a program run by a senior Google engineer and a Ph.D. student specializing in the IT education of young students. We are also actively seeking out opportunities to learn from others in the fluid field of programming by attending software events and gathering reference points for our journey.
Our second focus in home education is communication skills. We had the opportunity to test out high school-level debate as a family activity in the summer of 2022 and found it to be enjoyable. This sparked my interest in the subject, as I had never formally studied debate before. As I researched more about it, I discovered how valuable structured debate can be, not only for the specific skills it teaches but also for the transferable skills it provides. I try to keep this in mind as I teach, recognizing that all skills can be applied in different contexts.
This is especially relevant for William, who is required to spend a minimum of 50 hours per week (and often more) on his primary school curriculum, despite the outdated and substandard teaching methods used. Despite these challenges, William has maintained excellent grades. We are doing our best to make the most of the situation until we can find a way for William and, eventually the entire family to return to New Hampshire, where the laws and education system may be more conducive to our goals.
As a result, our home education program is focused on two main areas in order to support William's career goals: programming and communication. While he also attends a traditional primary school in Hungary that emphasizes hard academic work, we are able to provide a more personalized and targeted approach through home education. In addition to his studies, William also helps with the work on our homestead, including tasks like cutting firewood and making firebricks. Despite these demands on his time, he still manages to find time for personal pursuits and interests. Let him speak more about that aspect of his life.
By Zsolt Zsofka