I have been homeschooling our four children for 13 years, starting when my oldest began kindergarten. I love it more with each passing year, but it wasn't always that way. In fact, when my husband and I were considering various schooling options, I always said, "Homeschool is not an option." It wasn't that I thought there was anything wrong with homeschooling; I just knew it wasn't for me . . . but God knew better.
As I contemplated the potentially negative effects of exposure to secular ideas in public school, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of sending my daughter there. I didn't want to spend precious time every day sorting through the conflicting messages she might receive.
The nearest Christian school was still some distance away. And then there was the cost to consider. We weren't sure we would be able to afford it for one child, let alone any others to come.
As the deadline for kindergarten registration approached, our prayers for direction increased. I woke up one morning and distinctly heard the words, Consider homeschooling. Half-heartedly, I told God I'd consider it and reluctantly turned on my computer to do some research on homeschooling.
To be honest, I was hoping to find a loophole so I could go back to God and say, "See, here's why I can't homeschool." It didn't happen. The more I researched, the more excited I got about the prospect. I told God I'd do it, but only if he gave me the patience to do so!
Like Gideon did, I asked the Lord for confirmation. This was such a colossal venture, I wasn't about to do it unless I was absolutely sure it was God. That same day a homeschool curriculum catalog arrived in the mail. Then my husband said he received a single word from the Lord while praying: homeschool. Our pastor, who had also been praying about it, told me he had indeed heard from the Lord. As I responded, "Homeschooling, right?" he simply smiled like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.
From that point of repeated confirmation, I was all in. I no longer doubted that homeschooling was the way to go and knew that because God called me to do it, somehow it would work.
I truly believe that every family should have a sense of their unique vision and purpose. When God called me to homeschool, I began to think of home education as an extension of God's purpose for our family. God made every child with a unique life purpose. It is my responsibility as a parent to help my children uncover this purpose and to equip them with the skills, tools, and knowledge necessary to fulfill their individual purpose in life. I believe that homeschooling enables me to do that.
While some people view homeschooling as simply an educational alternative, I am convinced it is infinitely more than just a different approach to learning. I believe in academic excellence, but that's not why I homeschool. I also don't homeschool because I thought it would be easy or because I don't have anything else to do with my time. In fact, in addition to teaching four children on four different grade levels, I'm also a part-time freelance writer. I have my hands full! But, for me, homeschooling is a long-term investment in our children. It's a way to keep our children safe while teaching them about academics and God. I am very thankful that I have the freedom to homeschool.
I have no desire for my children to "fit into society" or for them to feel that they should. We are, after all, called to be in the world and not of it (see John 15:19). Through homeschooling, I am able to share important values with my children, like valuing people and service over money and status. Like holding the Bible as their ultimate standard for all the choices they face. I do not homeschool my children in an effort to raise Einsteins. Instead, I want to raise children who grow up to be adults that love the Lord and love other people—kids who become kind, loving, and caring individuals.
I have discovered that if I give little thought to my goals and how to reach them, much of my time, money, and priorities will be determined by others. I know that a haphazard approach to homeschooling will cause us to miss our preferred future, and so I strive to keep my priorities in order. For example, schooling always comes before my writing.
As with anything, motivation is key. I know for our homeschool to be successful and glorify God, I need to have a clear idea of what my objectives are and why they are worth attaining. The why incites me to press on when circumstances arise that tempt me to relinquish my goals.
For example, peer pressure was a big concern of mine when contemplating schooling options. Homeschooling greatly reduces the pressure to grow up too quickly in terms of clothing styles, possessions, and interest in the opposite sex.
Critics of the homeschool movement often cite socialization as a major reason homeschooling shouldn't be allowed. But in my experience, their concerns are groundless. My children's social interactions are by choice. They socialize with people of all ages regularly, not just with their chronological age peer group.
Freedom and flexibility
I don't believe in a "one-size-fits-all" education philosophy. While the standard public classroom may not have an option, I do—and I take advantage of it. If something's not working pedagogically, we try something else. Special interests are pursued; talents are developed. I love being able to give my kids a personalized education.
Homeschooling is so flexible. My children understand and appreciate that learning can take place in a large variety of ways. I often remind them that we should never stop learning and that there's more than one way to learn about something.
When one of my daughters was in fourth grade, we ditched her social studies textbook a quarter of the way through the school year. It wasn't holding her attention and she was tired of the routine "read the lesson, answer the questions; read the lesson, answer the questions." (To be honest, it was boring me too!)
I decided to combine her recent request to start scrapbooking and her need for social studies. She began a "God's World" scrapbook, which she has been working on for three years. After researching a country of her choice— including its history, geography, culture, and so on—she designs two pages in her scrapbook on that country. The results have been nothing short of amazing. She now loves social studies and is retaining much more than she ever did with a traditional textbook.
Homeschooling allows me to structure curriculum and other resources to fit each child's individual needs and learning styles. They all learn at their own pace in every subject, moving along quickly in some subjects, slower in others.
We're also able to do more in less time. There's no tedious busywork or even "homework." Evening hours give us plenty of family and individual time. Because instruction is one-on-one or self-guided, more time is left for nonacademic pursuits such as volunteering, music, dance, or just plain fun.
Because we're at home, our "home economics" class happens naturally. Life skills—such as washing laundry, sewing, cooking, and home maintenance—are learned as children engage in those activities right along side Mom, Dad, or other siblings. Teamwork is learned experientially.
Because I know my children better than anyone else, I believe I can offer them a more complete education than any institution ever could. This is not a prideful statement; rather, it's based on the reality of the situation.
Being together most of the day, I am able to pass on my faith, values, and convictions throughout the day, helping my kids to build a solid foundation. As a result of our extended time together, we are a close family with strong relationships with one another. I am so blessed to be able to get to know my children in a way I wouldn't be able to if they were gone most of the day, year after year.
It's not easy to embrace a lifestyle that is misunderstood by so many in addition to the sacrifice it requires. I have faced endless questions over the years by strangers and family alike about the "rightness" of what I am doing. ("You're not going to let them go to school? Ever?") Knowing why I homeschool empowers me to respond in a loving and godly manner instead of becoming defensive.
I know that every moment I spend investing in my children, training them in the way they should go, will pay great dividends in the future (see Proverbs 22:6). In our home, morals, manners, and character are taught right along with math, reading, and science. I am so thankful God called our family into the homeschooling adventure. While some days I'd like to pull my hair out, I wouldn't give up homeschooling my children for the world!
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer living in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.