We are a homeschooling family. I believe (more and more each day) that this is what is best for our family as a whole and for our kids as individuals. I also think that it allows me -- as a mom -- to do my job as a parent to the very best of my ability. We are only beginning our third year of this journey but I am more excited than ever to be walking this road with my kids.
I could write for pages (and pages) about our reasons for homeschooling and why I think more families should honestly consider it. However, I will attempt a short summary, for my sake as well as yours. By writing it, I am better able to articulate what is in my heart and mind.
Homeschooling had always been on my radar, mostly because a woman I respected very much homeschooled her children. I liked what I saw in her and her family and I wanted the same for mine.
Because we have lived overseas and worked in international schools, I also saw the amazing experiences that these schools provide. The opportunity to learn and play with kids from all over the world was something I longed to give my children. I spent time hoping and praying that this would one day be our reality.
And then we moved to Indonesia and I was so thankful that my prayers had been answered. My kids had a great year at school – Alaina in kindergarten and Caleb in preschool. Their teachers were caring, the kids thrived, and my dream had come true.
In February of that year, I was having coffee with a friend at my house. She was going to be moving to another part of the country in the summer and had no other options than to homeschool. I said to her, “I sometimes think I would like to homeschool but that just isn't what is right for our family right now
.” Yes, I said it. I said the same thing I hear all the time from other women.
After she left, my heart was overwhelmed with one simple question that I felt the Lord was whispering to me: “Why not?”
And without exaggeration, from that moment, I knew it was what we were supposed to do.
It's only been two years. And they haven't been easy. The first year I prayed very specific prayers that were along the lines of, “Oh Lord, get me out of this!
” I will admit it, just so you don't feel alone in your fears, that there was a time that I was very, very sick and in that time I actually hoped it was a very serious disease (that I had symptoms of) so that I could put my kids into school without feeling like a quitter or a failure.
During the second year, I was pregnant with my fifth child. Pregnancy and I don't mix very well. I threw up every day until I was 26 weeks. We did a lot of school sitting on my bed and we missed a lot of days. I felt guilty at the time, even enough to put my oldest into school for second semester (which was a good decision in many, many ways...and I am sure I will flesh those out at some point). Those guilt feelings, however, were part of me coming to an understanding of what I truly believe about children, our role as parents, about education, and about how family and learning intertwine.
As I prepare to begin our third year of homeschooling (this year with FOUR kids!), these are my reasons (apart from the initial “I just know in my heart that this is what is right.”
) I want to note that we have access to a fantastic, free
Christian education at a school with loving, believing teachers and some amazing administrators. I am thankful for that privilege and there may come a time when I want to take advantage of it. But for now, as I have young children, these things I know:
- I am the best teacher for my children. This is not because I have the most educational credentials. Rather, this is fact simply because there is no one who knows my kids the way I do. There is no one who cares for them the way I do. There is no one who has their best interests in mind the way I do. A teacher can never love a child the way a parent does. Never. That deep love motivates all other educational decisions.
- I don't want to compartmentalize our lives. Instead of having “home/family life,” “school life,” and “church/discipleship life,” homeschooling allows us to braid these three together. Home is learning and school is discipleship and family is church.
- I want my children to learn in their own time and in their own way. With no grade levels to worry about, I can let my children learn at their own pace in each subject. I can slow down where needed and speed up when appropriate. I don't have to worry that they are being frustrated by work they are not ready for or being bored because they are doing work that they have already mastered. They are free to explore areas that interest them and to be exposed to books, ideas, and experiences that schools-- due to their structure -- cannot offer.
- Children need time to play. I think that young children need lots of time to play. They need time to explore, dress up, imagine, jump, run, get messy, and be kids. This cannot be accomplished in 15 minute recess periods. Little boys, especially, don't thrive sitting at a desk being “still and quiet.” It is a skill they need to learn , but not for seven hours a day.
- I need the time. I feel the weight of the job I have to do as a mother. The stakes are high – very high. I have (give or take) about 18 years with my children at home. In those 18 years I need to raise them to be mature, thoughtful, responsible, compassionate, hard-working, humble, and educated adults, ready to make a difference in their world. This takes time...lots of time. If my children are gone for 7 or 8 hours a day (and then come home to homework and other responsibilities and activities) I will simply not have the time to do my job the way I feel called to. If they are away all day, not only do I miss those hours with them, but also I have to spend extra time working through and undoing some things they learned at school (through teachers, peers, and/or experiences).
- I care about socialization. However, the kind of socialization that I want my children to have cannot be accomplished in a room full of same-aged peers. The definition of socialization is: “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.” Isn't having a six-year-old learning “values, behavior, and social skills” from other six-year-olds a little like the blind leading the blind? So to answer the most often asked question, “Yes! I do care about socialization...so much so that I am choosing to not put my kids in school.”
If you are interested in knowing what curriculum we are using, feel free to contact me
. I am choosing not to post it here because I know the tendencies of homeschooling moms to see something that someone else is doing and then start second-guessing themselves and the choices they have made. I've done it. I still do it.
As I have mentioned, we are very new to this homeschooling journey. However, I have learned a few things in regards to curriculum:
- Every family is different. You cannot look at what another family is doing and think that it will be a perfect fit for your family.
- Every child is different. What is good for one child may feel like torture for another child (as is the case in our family). You have to freedom to do what is best for each child.
- If you hate the curriculum you are using, you won't want to do it. Homeschooling takes a lot of work and commitment on the part of mom. You need to have something you enjoy and can commit to doing.
- Remember that life skills, character training, and service to others are just as important as traditional academic subjects. Make time for them.
- Homeschool does not have to look like traditional school. It can, but it can stifle a lot of the advantages of teaching your children at home.
- Know (and write down) your main, over-arching goals for homeschooling. Then, as you look at curriculum options you can ask yourself if this will help in meeting those goals or if you are drawn to it for other, less important (note I didn't say unimportant) reasons. I truly believe you can find options that will fit with your personality, your budget, your beliefs, your goals, and your children's specific bents.