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It's Our Turn: Building a solid foundation

Never underestimate the power one choice can have on the direction of your life.

About 12 years ago, my wife and I made one of those decisions when we decided to homeschool our son.

At the time, we weren't really sure what to do, other than that we knew we wanted to avoid the public schools. We knew some other families who taught their children and we also considered a private school option. But we finally just took the plunge and decided to homeschool.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we celebrated my son's high school graduation. Other than the last year and a half — where he did a lot of college-level, dual-credit classes at the tech college — he was entirely homeschooled. Our daughter, who just finished 9th grade, is also entirely homeschooled.

Looking back, I think home education was the best decision that we could have ever made. Not only did we learn a lot and grow along with the kids, but they also received the best education they could get based on our values and their personalities and interests. Homeschooling has also allowed us to focus more on family, as well as giving us more freedom in planning our lives.

It's difficult to say with certainty how things would have been different for our children if they were not homeschooled. Because every child is different, you can't just compare how one child turned out to how another did.

However, one thing I can say with certainty is how being a homeschooler has affected me.

Being a teacher and having a reason to think about education has helped me see what education is and what it should be. It's also helped me to recognize what I missed in school.

When I was young, I hated school. I guess I had the standard American view of struggling through school so you could get on with the really important things in life.

Now I can see that formal education is only the foundation that should make life-long learning and a good life possible. Today's focus on technology and careers at the expense of literature, history, logic and writing, is a serious mistake. In addition to adding value to your whole life, a good liberal arts education, combined with learning how to write, speak and think well, will best prepare students for any career path and enable them to easily learn new skills when necessary.

I've also realized that if we really want to understand and be prepared for the world we live in, we need to look more to the past, not the future. Without a knowledge of history and the classic written works of Western Civilization, we are doomed to not only keep making the same mistakes, but also to make the error of thinking our problems are new and can only be solved with new ideas. History and tradition have a lot to teach us if we would only listen.

Because of the importance of history and carrying on "The Great Conversation" with authors from the past, I have decided that one of my life educational goals is to read and study the 54-volume "Great Books of the Western World" series. This collection, which takes up about 5 feet of space on my bookshelf, contains many of the time-tested classics of literature, science, mathematics and political thought from Homer and Plato to Sigmund Freud.

These were the ideas that most educated people knew and understood up until the last hundred years or so, when we decided that the new was more important than anything old and "outdated." These were the ideas that formed the foundations of Western Civilization and still are the basis of everything that we are today.

I can only imagine how different my life would be today if I had read these books in high school. But, then again, it's probably impossible to really understand and appreciate these treasures until you have some life experience and age behind you.

But the point is that we don't need to learn everything there is to learn in high school; we only need to construct a solid foundation. And with that foundation we can build in many different directions throughout our lives without fear of things falling down.

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"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.