There are no perfect decisions in this world. Every choice we make comes with a cost, and we make the choices we make based on our own assessment of the costs and benefits. Homeschooling is no exception. Although I believe emphatically that the benefits are huge, and that homeschooling allows my children to miss out on some very negative things, there are some positive things that homeschooled children miss out on. One of these things is an emphasis on punctuality. This is because homeschooling, by its very nature, tends to invite flexibility. In our household, that translates into emphasizing quality over deadline, and accuracy over punctuality. Since my children will graduate from homeschooling and move into a world where deadlines exist, is my approach a detriment to them??
I was pondering this the other day when I found myself at our local high school dropping off my son to take an Advanced Placement exam. It was near starting time as I was leaving the building, and I heard the “warning bell” being sounded. I watched the scurrying students just entering the building- some walking fast, some almost running. I had a sense of respect for these kids, who are diligent in complying with the demands of punctuality put on them. They comply with rigid schedules and bells that begin and end the various segments of their day. For homeschoolers, on the other hand, there are no buses to catch, no bells to signal the end of class. Things can tend to be, well, a little relaxed at times. Again, my question: is this a disadvantage? The answer actually depends on a few other questions.
First, does it take twelve years of responding to bells to be trained to survive in a rigid world? The answer, thankfully, is no. Although we do exercise some flexibility in our days, we are not totally without any structure. Deadlines exist where necessary. It is not as if my children are clueless about getting things done on time. My older two sons have taken community college classes during their junior and senior years, and have transitioned well to the more rigid format. As my oldest goes off to college full-time, I have no fear that he will be show up ten minutes late for class with the explanation, “I was homeschooled.” In effect, my children are simply learning that sometimes the rules are stricter than others, and that they must learn to discern the flexibility of a situation.
Second, although being punctual and making deadlines are important issues in our society, especially if you want to keep a job, are they actual virtues or are they more like concessions we make to the “civilized” world? Don’t get me wrong. I am not promoting laziness. But diligence and punctuality are not the same thing. There are punctual people who accomplish little, and then there are those whose productivity is not linked to a rigid schedule.
In the end, we all have to find our place in this rigid world. Some of us will find situations where we line up each day to punch in at an unforgiving time clock. Others will have more freedom to set our own hours. As for my own children, my goal to prepare them for this world is this: teach them how to respond to situations that require punctuality, teach them how to be responsible when flexibility is possible, and then teach them how to know the difference between the two.