This question, how to school your kids, can be a very hot, controversial topic. People can feel so strongly one way or another. It’s hard to get an honest look at both sides. Can I share with you my story to help you in your decision? I’m a Christian mom who loves Jesus with all my heart and I desire so deeply for my kids to follow the Lord. Currently, all five children are enrolled full-time in public school.
My early understanding of homeschooling
This hasn’t always been the case. Let me begin the story from before we had children. Here is what came to mind when I heard the word “homeschool”. A mom who wore a dress or skirt with lots of children. Their kids all had Bible names. She baked her own bread, and her kids were pretty smart but sort of nerdy and shy and didn’t get out much or stay in touch with the culture. Oh my, I laugh so hard when I think of my preconceived beliefs from 18 years ago. I gradually broadened my view and understanding of what homeschooling was all about.
I was teaching a 3rd and 4th grade class of Bible study students prior to having my own children. One boy in the class, peeked my curiosity. He was the first boy I remember getting to know that was homeschooled. He was smart and funny and he cleaned the toilets as a part of his daily chores! I was so interested in this. Without being too nosey I asked him more about being homeschooled and what his day looked like. I had never ever considered that option, but this was just the beginning of a journey.
Gaining a better understanding of homeschooling
The next year I met a woman who homeschooled her kids. I was so fascinated by the fact that she was just an ordinary, normal, funny wonderful person. Not the same stereotypical picture I had in my mind. Her kids seemed normal. I recognized her passion for teaching her kids. She was very laid back and casual. She said the most important thing to do when your children are little is not to get consumed with the type of curriculum you are using but to read, Read, READ to your kids. Lots and lots of reading. I’m thankful for that bit of advice. I’ve held on to that and have seen how very true and important that is!
Time went on and I began to learn more and more about homeschooling. I learned what an amazing plethera of curriculum there is out there. It also became evident of how many support groups and coops were available. I met some of the most wonderful people that homeschooled their kids. I saw the relatioship they had with their kids. The kids were respectful, obedient and enjoyed being with their parents. The more we looked into this possibility the more we really liked this option. I wanted my children to learn about the world we live in through a Biblical worldview. Christian schools were so expensive, homeschooling seemed like a more affordable option.
The start of our homeschool journey
We started out with preschool at home. We had the neighbor boy join us too, and we had a great time learning our numbers and letters and reading lots and lots of books! I look back and am so thankful for the time we had together.
Then in Kindergarten we joined a coop. Once a week we got together and learned in a school type setting. During the week we had assignments to work on. This particular group focused on memorizing facts in the early years and then through middle and high school years depth and insight were added to the facts. My daughter soaked in those 18 history songs and memorized them at age 5. She learned so many dates and events and I learned right along with her!
Our struggle came with the reading. We followed the method we were given. We tried several others as well. But she kept struggling. I searched for help and advice. At this time we had moved to a little town. I decided I should talk to the first grade teacher to see if she could recognize any learning disabilities, like dyslexia, or if she had any advise to help us with this much needed ability.
When I sat down with the first grade teacher I loved her right away. I could tell she loved her students and enjoyed teaching. I looked at the class list and realized she only had 12 kids in her class! When we found out our daughter did not have any apparant disability, we began to seriously consider having her try out public school. I loved having her home. It was always exciting to me to look through all the curriculum and choose what would be best for her. I appreciated the flexiblity in our schedule as well as giving her a solid foundation of Christian beliefs. On the other hand, teaching her how to read became such a dreaded chore – she wanted nothing to do with it anymore.
The beginning of our public school journey
We made the hard choice and enrolled her in school. She quickly learned to read. I mean she really flourished. I was excited and yet at the same time a little sad we could not accomplish that skill at home. Let me say something about the nature of positive peer pressure. She would get a free pizza if she read a certain number of pages each month. My daughter quickly caught on and jumped to one of the top readers in her class by the end of that year. She became a voracious reader and I will never be able to keep up with how much she reads now!
While I was happy she was doing so well, there were so many things I missed about teaching her at home. I didn’t want her to forget that God created everything, we weren’t just a random act of combustion. So the school actually allowed us to do both. She went to school for most of the day, but I would pick her up during the last part of the day and we did science and social studies at home. It was a great balance for us. She is now a junior in high school.
My son, interestingly enough, learned to read when he was 4. He begged me to sit down with him each day to do his reading lesson. He was reading chapter books by kindergarten. This just proves how different kids can be and that you can’t make a decision based off of one kid.
The hard thing is, they love school. They are doing well in school, and they don’t want to do school at home anymore. It did become challenging for me once we moved to the farm to balance getting the teaching in among the other farm and household chores. We now have 2 high schoolers, a middle schooler and two elementary students in full-time public school.
Challenges of homeschooling
While I was homeschooling, I realized the amount of time, energy and resources it was taking from me in order to make it successful. My husband was becoming second to my kids. My marriage is the number one human relationship I have. Homeschooling for me, was often putting my kids before him. It took a lot of time to prep and teach and balance everything else in life. Some women can do this beautifully and some may have the help of their husbands with the teaching. I have a husband who has mostly a full time job on top of farming, so that was not an option for our family. For me it was time to let go of homeschooling so I could be fully available for my husband to help on the farm and to have the energy and time to be with him.
Benefits of homeschooling
There are so many things I love about homeschooling. I love the curriculum. The content of the books we’ve read and studied from has blown me away. The scientific investigation that supports creation and the history that comes alive through so many extremely fascinating stories. We love to read together, and to have a list of quality books to read together that educates as well as expands the love for learning is a delight. I was so thankful for having the extended time with them throughout the day developing our relationships within the family, although there were days that lesson consumed the whole day! I love knowing what they are learning, and exactly what they might be struggling with. This allowed me to give them the extra help they might need, or find find something more challenging if they were really excelling in a subject.
Challenges of public school
It’s not quite the same when they come home from a seven hour day, and I ask what they’ve learned or did. The younger ones might have a little more enthusiasm in sharing details of their day, but a “fine” or an “ok” is about all I’ll get out of the older ones. Sometimes, one may come home in a grumpy mood, taking out their anger on whatever crosses his or her path. I am thankful that occasionally I will find out the source of their frustration or hurt. It could be a bad grade on a test, teasing at school or on the bus, or a plethera of other irritations that have been bugging them and they have chosen to wait until they get home to relieve the tension. I begin to wonder how many little hurts and disspointments they have faced during the day that I am unaware of or they choose not to share with me.
Benefits of public school
However, there have been many advantages in sending my kids to public school. My boys love sports and to have it as a school function is super beneficial. They have been a part of band, plays, concerts, oral interp, quiz bowls, etc. We live in a remote area, so having those opportunities outside of school is more difficult. They are active in a student ministry to seek out ways to share the gospel with their classmates. They have to prepare speeches and presentations in their classes and are critiqued by someone other than their mother. Some things are just hard to imitate at home. I know that all subjects are covered and for some reason they work harder for their teachers than for me!
What is best for you?
I wish there was a simple answer about what choice is better. Some may argue that there is a simple answer, but for most of us it’s going to take a lot of prayer and consideration. Here’s the thing; there are challenges and advantages; pros and cons with each choice. It has to be a decsion you spend a lot of time praying over. Seek His path for your family. There was one year prior to my daughter’s first year of middle school that I desparetly wanted to bring her back home. I prayed and fasted often throughout the year and my husband became supportive of this and we did go back to homeschooling her 6th grade year. It was a wonderful year, but that has not happened with the rest of the kids, and she has decided to go back to being full-time in public school.
God may have a purpose for your kids in public school or He may desire to shape them in the home setting with you as their teacher. There may be seasons that you do one then do the other or a little bit of both. When you seek God’s path and have peace about the decsion and unity with your spouse, then trust Him to help you with the challenges you face. He knows what’s best for you and your family. Don’t slip into guilt because so and so does this and look at their kids. That’s a comparison trap the enemy wants to destroy us with. You need to do what God desires you to do, not what the neighbor or friend is doing.
Can I leave you with one more tip? If you choose public school, please know that as a Christian, we are still responsible for bringing up our children in the Lord. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 I’d love to share some resources I’ve developed to help you teach God’s Word to your kids. There will soon be some resources available here for you to use. Please be patient, I hope to have them available soon!
“We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep him commands.” Psalm 78:4-7
My prayer and encouragement for you
Dear friend, I pray God will clearly direct your path and that His peace will confirm that decision. Enjoy the adventure, the ups and the downs with whatever decision you make. If you’d like to chat on this matter further, I’d love to hear from you!
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not in your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6