Homeschooling, Part 1

A couple of weekends ago, JP and I attended our first homeschooling conference in preparation for starting Rae's schooling in the fall. The annual conference is hosted by an organization called the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators, or MACHE. Since it was our first time attending and all of our children are under the age of five, we had the added bonus of being able to attend for free.

The conference was awesome. There was an overwhelming amount of information, resources, training, and support to be gleaned everywhere you turned. I was able to get my hands on different curriculum I had been researching online and physically flip through the pages to see if each one was a good fit for our family; plus, I was introduced to brand new ones I had never even heard of before. But perhaps most encouraging of all was just seeing the thousands of people who are doing exactly what we are doing -- choosing to educate their own children from home.

Choosing to homeschool can be fairly intimidating. Even having been an "A's and B's" type of student all the way through high school and then having earned a 4-year college degree from a respected University, I still struggle with the question, "Am I adequate for this job? Do I want to be responsible for the education of my children? I don't even remember basic science! I'm horrible at math! How can I do this??" And yet we still believe this is what's best for our children. It was encouraging to meet other families taking the same intimidating step of faith and know that we are not alone on this journey.

Homeschooling is not for everyone. Heck, homeschooling might not even be for us! I don't know. I haven't tried it yet. We don't think we are better or more righteous because we've chosen to homeschool. But JP and I have a number of reasons why we do want to give home education a try. I'd like to list some of those reasons here not only for you all to know where we are coming from, but also for myself and for our kids, so that on the days I'm feeling discouraged, overwhelmed or inadequate, I can look back and remind myself of why I started along this road to begin with.

Then in a later post, I hope to go into more about the conference itself, what I learned, and some of the curriculum options I'm considering.

I want to stress one thing that people tend to assume about homeschooling families. Just because we are home educating does not mean we are anti public school. In fact, if when our children get older they want to go to public school, and if we feel confident in their spiritual maturity, we will let them go. It will be their first mission field! High school is not too young to be a light on a hill.

Without further adieu, here they are:

Our Reasons for Homeschooling

1. I Want to Be With My Children

I am constantly reminded how fortunate I am to be able to stay home with my kids. I know there are a lot of women who wish they could, but simply cannot. I do not take it for granted, and I want to make the most of it. It would feel weird to me to send them away all day while I stayed home. I want to be with them! I want to be the one who sees the light bulb turn on in their eyes when they understand a new concept for the first time. I want to be the one to help them through their struggles and rejoice with them when they overcome them. I want to be the one to answer their questions, and if I don't know the answers, I want to be the one to show them where and how to find them. I want to learn with them and talk with them all day long about the things that matter most in life.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9: 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Personalized Education

Everyone would agree that smaller classroom sizes benefit the children in those classrooms because each child gets more time & personalized attention from the teacher. Home education gives parents the opportunity to teach each child individually and personalize the education for that specific child. And who else knows that child better than her mom and dad?

3. Time

With homeschooling, we can be efficient and flexible with our time. If something or some event comes up that would normally fall during a school day, we can rearrange our schedule to accommodate it. We can do school four days a week instead of five, then leave the fifth day open for extracurricular activities, field trips, co-ops, or even just running errands. If something comes up and JP needs me to drop everything and attend to something concerning the business, I can do that and not worry. Once the kids are older, they can have their schoolwork done by lunch time and use the rest of their day to work a job, practice a hobby or skill, or get involved in something they care about.

We have a friend who was homeschooled. At the age of 16, he used his free time to start up a small lawn mowing business. He would finish his school work early, then head out to earn money. Now, in his late twenties, he is the owner of a very successful, full-blown landscaping company, working for high-end clients and providing jobs for people during tough economic times. That's awesome. It's amazing what you can do with a little free time!

4. Family

We want to homeschool to build a strong bond as a family. We want our kids to look at each other as friends, playmates, and pillars of support in their lives. We believe that shared family experiences will enrich their lives and bring us closer together than if we spent our days apart from each other and only came together for dinner before dispersing again. We hope that by keeping our family tight-knit now, our children will one day choose to include us in their lives as adults.

5. Character

It's listed as #5, but this is actually the single most important reason JP and I have decided to homeschool our children.

JP and I both believe school is about much, much more than academics. Have you ever seen the show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? That show is proof that every child who ever asked their teacher, "When am I going to use this in life," was right. Much of the trivia you learn at a young age is not going to be vital to your success as an adult. The most important lessons we want our children to learn are those of character.

With so many different sets of values represented in one community (traditional classroom), it's hard to expect the values you esteem will be taught.

Here is a bold statement, but one that we hold to: If our children earn only C's and D's, barely graduate, never get into college, and work at McDonalds for the rest of their lives, but they do their best, are honest, hardworking, responsible, attentive, fair, faithful, compassionate, industrious, diligent, forgiving, humble, helpful, self-controlled, and obedient (just to name a few), and if they love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths, then we will feel that we have accomplished what we set out to do as parents and home educators.

That said, we believe that if our children possess these traits, they will excel academically and in life.

What about private school?
Glad you asked. I and all of my siblings went to a private Christian school K-12 and we all loved it. But even though they did teach us Jesus and the Bible, private school was not where we learned good character; we learned that at home from our parents. In fact, any of the trouble we did get into as kids happened not at home, but at private Christian school.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, we feel that we can do a better job of teaching godly character to our children not because we're so smart or so godly, but because God appointed us specifically to do the job.

Aren't you worried about socialization?
No, I'm not. It is true, there are a handful of really socially awkward homeschool kids out there. Most of them are from my generation. But homeschooling today is not at all what it was when we were growing up.

I am amazed at how large the homeschool community is in our state, and the opportunities for involvement are astounding. There are tons of co-ops (homeschool families/groups getting together for things like science experiments, outings, field days, etc.) and outlets for extracurricular activities in group settings. There are homeschool sports leagues, or you can choose to have your child participate in the local public school's athletic program. There are musical outlets, like choirs and bands in which to play. Not to mention the socialization that goes on at church, AWANA, play dates with friends, and of course with their siblings!

I am a very social person, remember? I will wither away if I have to stay inside my house for the next 20+ years teaching my kids. We WILL be out in the world socializing and discovering. I am confident my children are not going to be socially lacking.

Aren't you concerned about over-sheltering your kids?
No, I'm not. JP and I fully intend to first teach our children from a Christian worldview; but as they grow, we also intend to verse them in other worldviews and philosophies and have them compare them to the Word of God. We don't want them to just "swallow and follow." We want them to think critically and be able to give an account for what they believe (I Peter 3:15). We want to hold them responsible for their own personal relationships with Jesus and questions about faith, not just depend on us for the right answers.

We are not going to shelter them from the evil in this world. We are going to teach them to face it head on and take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5).

There are so many other reasons I could have included as sub-points under these main ones, but when it all comes down to it, our top three reasons for homeschooling are right here:

Like I said before, I don't think homeschool is for everyone, nor do I think homeschooling makes a family better than any family who chooses not to. I really appreciated my educational experience, as did JP. If a parent's heart isn't ready to take on home education, I'm convinced things could end up worse than if they had just gone to public school.

Here is the bottom line: We feel we can do a better job teaching our kids the things we feel are most important. God entrusted them to us and has placed certain values on our hearts, and we feel it's our responsibility to teach them those values ourselves on a daily basis.

As always, I'm interested to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments. How did you choose your children's school? Do you homeschool? What were your reasons? Do you think homeschooling is a bad idea? Why/Why not?


bruce said...

Great article Sweets. I am very proud that you are going in this direction. You are going to have 3 of the sweetest young ladies in the world in just a short 20 years from now. I know you will be a great teacher. This is the right direction. Nobody is more qualified to raise your kids than you.

Bron and Jenda said...

Audra, this was very well-said! I feel like I am in near 100% agreement. I am excited to home school but I'm not "anti-public school." I see the privilege of homeschooling and I am deeply thankful that we are in a place to do it. Your reasons are very articulate and thorough. I kind of want to copy and paste your reasons to my own word file :) Love it!! I'm excited to see your family be shining lights in your community and for your girls to blossom into bright little ladies under your instruction :)

TFKB said...

Well said! Your girls are so blessed to have you as their mama!

Missy said...

I totally agree with Brenda! You articulated (and SO well) our reasonings. As I was reading it, I wanted to copy and paste it to send it to my family to better explain our direction in education. Loved it!

Christine said...

I recently read this from a homeschooling mom and I thought it was pretty cool:

"As a longtime homeschooling mom (finishing my 19th year) I’m aware of accusations concerning homeschooled children who’ve been isolated and sheltered from reality.

And I confess:

We have protected our children from compromising friends, sinful lifestyles, and wasteful distractions. We have kept our kids “sheltered” in prayer by the powerful blood of Jesus Christ. And we have rejected the reality of low expectations. However, through our homeschooling freedom we’ve actually exposed our children — with oversight and spiritual protection — to horrendous realities in our world. As a result, our older children are now helping to IMPACT the darkness with the light of our wonderful Lord!"

Erin said...

Good summary, Audra. You will do a great job because you are already a passionate and compassionate mother and seeker of knowledge.