Since before they were born, my husband Nathaniel and I have purposed to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and to educate them at home by means of whole/living books, meaningful work and life experiences, and disciplined habits of wisdom and personal responsibility—for school and for life and ultimately for eternity.
It’s a lovely mission statement, but how did we come to it? And how do our ideals work themselves out in daily life and lessons? In this first post in a series on Why and How We Homeschool, I’ll explain a bit of our personal story and then list some of the most important factors that have both informed our decision on the front end and benefited our family all along the way.
When Nathaniel and I met in college, I was already pretty interested in homeschooling and he was dead set on it. He was homeschooled by godly parents from birth all the way through high school. His parents passed on their biblical convictions, and Nathaniel experienced first hand the freedom and advantages afforded by home education. He valued what he was given so much that it was an important part of the equation when we decided to get married.
I was public schooled in Texas and had a good experience, including good friends, honors classes, and competitive athletics. While school provided many opportunities, I recognize that what allowed me to take advantage of those opportunities was my parents’ dedication to teach and train me outside of school hours–they made the difference in my case, not the system itself.
When I was in high school I attended a church where half of the youth group was homeschooled. I appreciated how the homeschoolers I met were really down to earth and comfortable being themselves, and I admired how they could get their school work done in half the day and have time for family-life and even their own pursuits (like starting a business!)–all while I was sometimes at school for ten or more hours, plus homework. Homeschooling seemed so incredibly efficient! By the time I met Nathaniel at college I was pretty sold on homeschooling my own kids one day.
A lot of our approach and conviction has been informed by how Nathaniel’s parents sought to train and educate him and his siblings, but that’s also melded with my experience growing up and a lot of reading and thinking and discussion on education along the way. We both bring things to the table.
Our approach to education is fairly different from the traditional school model, but it’s also fairly simple. We, the parents, love to learn, and we love to live an enriched holistic life to the glory of God. We wish to pass this love of life and learning on to our children. Our educational approach has a heavy emphasis on Christian discipleship and on reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as engagement with the outdoors. We minimize the use of textbooks, except where necessary to learn a specific discipline, and we lean heavily on literature. We also have rich discussions as a family on all-the-subjects-in-the-world.
I mention this little preview on how we homeschool simply because having the freedom to do things in this way is in itself a reason for homeschooling. Stay tuned for when I go into greater detail on how we homeschool in future articles.
And now the WHY. Here are our top reasons for homeschooling:
- Of primary importance: We believe that we have a responsibility before God to raise our children in His ways (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Ephesians 6:1-4). We believe that we can best achieve this by being directly involved in their education, and we believe that our home has the potential to be the most natural and loving environment in which true learning can take place. Furthermore, we’re able to explore the interplay of our faith in Jesus with everything we study, rather than simply adding “Bible” on the side of academic studies as though it is separate from all other knowledge and experience.
- Homeschooling is efficient. I admired this as a teenager. Academic work for elementary students can be done by noon pretty easily. Older students can work more independently and complete their studies with time to spare for other pursuits if they are diligent. While homeschool studies might be punctuated by playing outside, moving the laundry, or making lunch, they don’t lose time to things like forming lines, pep rallies, bus rides, etc.
- Homeschooling allows life skills to be a natural part of the school day. As I noted in the point above, a homeschool day unavoidably involves life skills. Even if kids don’t do all the chores, they’re at least home to see them being done by someone in the family, so they’re aware of what it takes to run a household. And when Mom is Teacher on top of Home Manager, she tends to make sure the kids get in on the chores! There’s some consternation lately about kids being required to learn higher math in school but not being taught how to file their taxes, buy insurance, or balance a checkbook. Home is a natural environment for learning all of these things and more–not by replacing part of the math program, but by having your child sit down with you as you do them.
- Homeschooling allows primary relationships to stay primary. Parents and siblings and even grandparents can be more involved in the child’s life simply because they are not sequestered away into an age-segregated environment for eight hours a day. Assuming the child has a loving family environment, this extra family time is a huge boon to their security, mental and emotional health, and ability to form stable and positive relationships later in life. Of course, on the flip side, if the home environment is caustic, this would be a reason NOT to homeschool. God bless the teachers that comfort children who receive no real comfort at home.
- Homeschooling provides socialization beyond the child’s peer group. “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” Putting a bunch of kids together who are at relatively the same level of foolishness because of their age and inexperience tends to work against the goal of raising children to be wise. In contrast, by homeschooling, our kids are far less dependent upon their peers, and they have to learn to interact with their siblings, with their parents, with their neighbors, and with other families whose children range in age from babies to adults. While parents who send their kids to traditional schools may also seek out relationships for their kids beyond their peers, the proportion of time spent with a peer group verses time spent with a variety of ages is quite different. Homeschoolers may be less comfortable in the peer group, but they tend to be more comfortable interacting with individuals of all ages in broader society. This different direction in socialization can lessen the negative effects of peer pressure while also putting the child in touch with people and situations from which they can learn wisdom.
- Homeschooling gives us freedom to travel off season. This may not be a high point for everyone, but my husband sure likes adventures. We make our own schedule and take vacation time when my husband’s work schedule allows, or based on the best time of year. School can come along with us (usually in the form of audiobooks listened to on the road), the trip itself might be a broader part of their education (like supersized field trips), and/or we can leave it all behind to be picked back up when we get home (this works just fine, too).
- Homeschooling allows us to pass on a love for learning and love for GOOD books. We love good books and have read aloud to our kids since they were wee babes. Many parents do this, whatever their school decisions. But because we homeschool, and because we homeschool with a literary focus, our kids’ time isn’t taken up with reading textbooks about history or science or literature–they get direct access to great literary books (on all subjects) as part of school time–everyday. And they choose to read outside of school time, too. Reading is enjoyable for life, and it’s also a marker for “student success.” We emphasize the learning and enjoyment–the “success” is a nice byproduct.
In case you didn’t notice, our reasons for homeschooling aren’t really fear-motivated. We aren’t so much opting-out of public school. We’re opting-in to something we think is beautiful. Homeschooling isn’t just how we do school. It’s a lifestyle. Because education is way bigger than our modern concept of “school.”
That said, there are many things we’re happy to avoid (see this article on concerning trends in children’s literature, for one thing). But those things aren’t the focus. We’re not running from Bad Things so much as we’re running toward The Good. Because The Good is well worth it.
Homeschool families come at it from many different angles and experiences. How about you? Why do you choose to homeschool? Or why might you be considering it?