Should I homeschool my children?
Homeschooling in America is an enigma, surrounded by myths that are perpetuated by people who have never attempted to homeschool. Not that I fault them, for we all have a picture in our minds of what school is, and what it should be. But rarely do we take the time to think about what it could be.
It’s easy to come up with lots of ideas as to why we SHOULD NOT homeschool. I’m sure you can make your own list. “I’m not smart enough to be a teacher” or “I just don’t have it in me” seem to be popular. Don’t worry, we won’t judge – those were on our list as well!
There are also lots of reasons as to why we SHOULD homeschool, but I’m not here to list those, either. You can find another article for that!
I want to take a different approach to helping you decide. I think most people have a difficult time taking the leap into homeschooling because they simply don’t know enough about it – what’s it going to look like, everyday? What will my kids turn out like? Will I lose myself in the process, from all my hair-pulling, teeth gritting, self-sacrificing? What if I try to homeschool, and end up a failure?
So, I’d like to speak to that place, as a mama who has walked this road for a handful of years.
If you let it, parenting can be a crash course in burning selfishness and apathy straight outta your life. I mean, we’re talking about the next generation here, right? Talk about a ginormous responsibility. Homeschooling is like that, but on steroids. Still with me? I have some friends whose kids will act up (lie, hit, whine, whatever) over the weekend, and the parents will actually say, “Oh well, at least I get to send them back to school on Monday”. As if that character flaw that has been deeply rooted in their souls since they took their first breath is not important because it won’t be our problem on Monday,but the teachers’?! Contrarily, if there’s no school to send them to on Monday, your whole perspective HAS to change, and good thing! This character issue needs to be dealt with now. So we pray for the strength to dig into the tough job of correcting our kiddos, and push on. And we are all better off for it.
I wasn’t born with my fair share of patience, so I was full of fear when we decided to start homeschooling. I knew it would be a big battle theme in my life, and it sure has. I have had some shining moments of patience, but also some very low lows (as my family can attest to). Homeschooling gives me the practice I need, day in and day out, to be slowly transformed into the woman that I know I someday want to be. I get plenty of practice asking for forgiveness, then simply trying again. Parenting is like this, but again, homeschooling puts it on steroids. There’s very little hiding, very little time to recoup. It’s trial by fire.
Homeschooling brings me to the end of my rope more often than parenting alone could. But I find God at the end, every time, without fail. He brings new hope to stand on, new techniques to teach them, new grace for my shortcomings. EVERY. TIME. Wouldn’t I be an idiot to trade that experience, that gift, that evidence of His love, for anything?
Homeschooling has taken on a life of its own, and I have marveled as I watch it shift, transform, adapt to our family’s constantly changing circumstances and capabilities. I have homeschooled through multiple pregnancies, births, incredibly busy seasons in life, supporting a husband who worked six jobs at once, changing churches, moving, filling volunteer positions at church, miscarrying, and caring for a chronically ill child. Not only does homeschooling NOT need to be stressful in these times, but it can and should flex through whatever our family is currently going through. There will be seasons where the kids and I accomplish endless hours of bookwork each week – and seasons where a lot of the “homeschooling” is real-life, on-the-job training for ourselves and our children. I.E, how do we adjust from having three kids to four? How do we function when Daddy is deployed for six months? What do we do when we’ve just lost a loved one? There is no right answer to these questions, and that’s what’s beautiful about homeschooling. Within our legal boundaries, homeschooling can and should take on many different forms over the years.
Homeschooling has very practical unseen benefits that most people don’t ever talk about. For instance, we never set alarms to wake up. A kid will take care of that 🙂 We don’t have to get the kids ready to go anywhere when they’re still half asleep and grumpy. We don’t have papers to turn back into the teacher, student handbooks to
read, dress codes to follow, uniforms to purchase. (We do get a taste of some of these things currently when our kids attend the Homeschool Academy on Wednesdays… and I’m not a huge fan!) Getting sent to the principal’s office is so much more fun when you’re actually headed to Daddy’s office upstairs to play a quick game of chess or an online real-time strategy game before the school day starts! And PTA meetings are a million times easier when you are both the parent AND the teacher. You don’t have to pull kids out of school for dentist appointments or checkups, you just go – and get the bookwork done before or after or even during the appointment. We don’t have to worry about school shootings, anyone teaching our children any colorful language or the theory of evolution, or a fellow classmate describing an incorrect interpretation of the birds and the bees to our six year old.
Homeschooling has allowed me to enjoy and love my children in a way that I knew it could, but didn’t see how it would. When we were still considering homeschooling, a family friend of mind who had eight children at the time told me, “I wouldn’t want to send my kids to school
all day- I would miss them!” At the time, my children were four-under-four, and couldn’t imagine that sentiment. I was tired, overstimulated, and dangerously under-showered. I actually couldn’t wrap my mind around how I could possibly not see school as a welcome respite from the day to day trials. But that was years ago, and the Lord has been working in my heart and in our relationships – and I now understand. I WOULD miss them like crazy. And I won’t ever give them up to go away every day without a fight.
Homeschooling was a major leap of faith for me, and then turned into one of my biggest “God met me there” stories of my life. He asked me to jump into the water without a life jacket, and I did, out of a desire to simply be obedient. I have been humbled to watch the Lord willingly walk with me throughout the whole journey. He has rewarded me. He has shown me glimpses of the fruit of my labors just when I needed them, and gave me the strength to keep going.
As far as my kids go, I have been amazed to see how homeschooling has set them apart from their peers a bit, as well. Homeschooled kids get the benefit of being around one or two pivotal caregivers who know them incredibly well, and have a vested interest in their lives and their success. This can provide a deep, unshakable sense of permanency and security in kids’ hearts.
The homeschoolers also have the privilege of having a full-time, front row seat to the “Mom and Dad” show – how do the parents navigate finances? What about conflict resolution? How do they speak to one another? Is there mutual respect, and is it clearly shown? Do they walk the walk or just talk the talk? Do they eat vegetables too, or just force me to? (Now there’s a doozy). Do they follow the rules, except when the rules are unjust and need to change? Do they drive the speed limit? When your kids are around you every single day, there’s very little opportunity to hide who you really are. And this is both for good and bad! But as Christian parents, I am thrilled to say that even my failures are teachable moments. Since we will all fail from time to time, I have the opportunity to teach my children to fail well – to be humble, to ask for forgiveness, to buck up and try again – or not.
Homeschooled kids are generally very good at interacting with people outside of their own age bracket, because they aren’t artificially age-segregated. Real life isn’t generally segregated – not at the playground, the grocery store, or our workplaces. (Modern church is, but that’s a different can of worms…) It’s so much fun to watch my 10-year old attend a men’s Bible study with my hubby every week, and actually have meaningful conversations with men decades his senior. Or to see my five-year-old walk up to a neighbor and talk to them like they’ve been friends for life. I don’t want them to see those things as strange – I want them to learn from all different shapes and sizes and ages and races of people, and to know that both they and everyone around them are fun and valuable in their own way.
One of the things I love the MOST about homeschooling is that my children have TIME on their hands. They can play Legos for hours a day and learn engineering and physics principles at age 7. They can make beautiful, thoughtful paintings without being interrupted by the bell. They can try their hand at writing novellas about going on absurd adventures with their siblings. They can take horseback riding lessons or music lessons, without a school schedule to work around. They can sit for 15 minutes and just tickle the newborn and discover that they love babies – or don’t 🙂 They can play 4 rounds of Monopoly Deal with mama and be soothed by the fact that they are worth my time and attention. They can lay down for a couple of hours with a good book when they aren’t feeling tip top. They can watch YouTube videos on nauseatingly graphic eye surgeries or animal activists rescuing 11 puppies from a puddle of tar. They can bake cookies with mama and find out they LOVE the art of feeding people. All the while, they are unraveling the mystery that is themselves. And that will serve them incredibly well for the rest of their lives.
With all that said, I really can’t tell you what your homeschool would look like on a day-to-day basis, and that’s the great news! It can and will look so differently from one family to the next, depending on our personalities, circumstances, abilities, backgrounds. You can turn it into just about anything, make it fit who you are and who your kids are becoming. It is NOT public school at home. We don’t do eight hours, seven subjects a day for each child. We keep things simple, so that no one gets burned out. We’ve got a marathon mindset and are pacing ourselves for the best chance of success in the long run.
Good luck on this journey of deciding how to educate these children that you have been entrusted with for a time. It’s quite the adventure!
Coming Soon: Curriculum, “Me Time” and Toddlers – Oh My! How We Navigated Common Homeschooling Challenges”