Education is never wasted. I heard James Dobson say that when I was a kid and it stuck with me. Law school was a great way to be prepared for homeschool teaching. My legal education and experiences as a lawyer benefit me in teaching my own children.
There are a few things that lawyers do better than most, because most law schools retain a classical method of teaching. While they do not go a long way toward teaching you to practice law, law school does something far more important – it teaches you to find information, analyze it, and use it. In other words, done correctly, it teaches you to think. The chief amongst those skills is analysis. Research, writing, and speaking are excellent skills for teaching your own children, too. If you want to teach your children to think, you had better be a thinker, too. That is something sadly missing in many schools.
The Socratic method is something not typically taught in schools, but typically is a part of law school education. Forget its use in grade school, Socratic dialogue is one the best parenting techniques there is. Anytime a kid can come to their own conclusion and it happens to be the same one you were leading them to, it is a parenting win. Here is a sample from the other day:
Teen with a tendency to get emotional and exaggerate: MOM! I can’t find my uniform and we have to leave for kung fu right now!
Mom: Where did you leave it last? Bathroom floor?
Teen: No, I am sure it put it in the washer. Besides, I already looked on the floor.
Mom: IF you have looked everywhere, what else can you wear?
Teen: Nothing else! They won’t allow me to enter without the uniform! They will throw me out!
Mom: Has anyone ever worn something else during a class you have been in?
Teen: Yes, but they got teased.
Mom: I will meet you in the car.
My co-op students write several Socratic dialogues as part of their Logic class. They will thank me someday. They may even be prepared to homeschool their own kids.
Law school is a lot of reading. In fact, it is about 90% reading. I am immune to long, difficult books now. Reading 1,000 pages of War and Peace is a pleasure after reading any portion of Restatement of (Second) of Contracts. The reading required in law school has definitely prepared me to homeschool.
It takes a tough teacher to assign The Brothers Karamazov to a group of high school students and walk them through it. It takes an absolutely immune to hard books teacher to get them through Social Contract or Second Treatise on Civil Government. But Locke and Rosseau are so foundational to understanding why the world is the way it is and how governments function that I am more afraid of them not understanding their world than I am of them not understanding some of what Locke is getting at.
Quite a bit of getting along in this world and being a good citizen means doing your own research. Kids need to have looked for enough information on their own that figuring out something like who to vote for or how to clear their name when their identity has been stolen doesn’t feel completely overwhelming. Law school is research oriented. Not the double-blind, placebo controlled kind, but rather the kind learned from Aristotle’s Rhetoric – how do I use what was said here to prove my point in this unrelated issue? Do enough research and you will come across something that fits. There is truly nothing new under the sun. Then apply that research to the issue at hand. Just don’t argue with your spouse that way.
Much can be said about the writing that goes right along with research. Though law school writing is a bit technical in form, that the writing must be persuasive is of great value when it comes to teaching writing.
And finally we come to my favorite. Law school requires constant analysis. Case after case, day after day, for three long years you analyze and synthesize. This is real critical thinking. But it doesn’t have to wait for law school. It begins with making distinctions and seeing resemblances or comparing and contrasting. If you are using the Five Common Topics for everything from science to history, you are already doing this. If not, start by asking how things are different and how they are the same. You can almost always get a kid talking if you start with movies – how was this Marvel movie different than previous ones and how was it similar? How about Avengers and Justice League comparison and contrast? Star Wars trilogies? Old movies and their modern re-makes?
Then you can move on to an era of history. We based our government system on ancient Greece and Rome. How is our current situation similar to theirs? Don’t dig too deep in this one. I don’t want to give you nightmares. Compare and contrast cultures, famous leaders, modern and ancient heroes, and poets. My rhetoric students enjoyed finding a Marvel Cinematic Universe character to compare to the major Greek heroes in the Iliad and the Odyssey. They insisted on Achilles being likened to Iron Man and Odysseus to Captain America, Agamemnon to the Hulk and the Ajaxes to Hawkeye.
Economics systems can be compared and contrasted, particularly after students have read both The Communist Manifesto and Wealth of Nations. Circe Institute’s Lost Tools of Writing teaches this important thinking tool very well.
The take home point is not that you should go to law school to prepare to homeschool. I hope to get you thinking how your unique combination of education, work experience, and life experience has prepared you to homeschool with excellence. An education degree is not necessary to teach your own children. A corporate background can be used to keep your homeschool organized and functioning well. A retail background can help you teach communication and persuasion. An arts background lends well to co-oping in order to share strengths.
Almost anything you have done can be a benefit to your homeschool. It helps to make a list. Brainstorm the classes you excelled in, continuing education classes, job experiences, skills you have picked up, computer programs you have learned, and things you do well. Then imagine how those gifts, skills, and education can better your homeschool journey. How will you apply your education and experiences to your advantage in creating an exceptional home education?
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