Why would two educators choose to homeschool their own children? I’ve been asked this question so many times. Some people have been very blunt and obviously offended by our choice. It amazes me how controversial this topic is among educators too. So much to talk about, so let’s start with the why…why did my husband and I go this route? It’s definitely not something I like to explain in one or two sentences because, for us, it was a lot of little things and a few big things that eventually led to this crazy decision. Yes, I said crazy! To go off the beaten path, to give up my career and financial resources for several years, to face the disapproval of friends and educators, made our decision a little uncomfortable and yes, a little crazy! But I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Let me give you the short and sweet answer that I share with others when put on the spot. We believe in education and we believe this is the best education we can give our children. We are Christians who want our kids to have a strong foundation in the truth. We can’t afford a private school, so we homeschool. Side note: you don’t owe anyone an explanation. There have been times that we simple say, “this is what works best for our family and we love it (most days).”
Now for the longer version of why we homeschool:
Homeschooling was never in the “plan”. My husband and I worked our way through college to earn degrees in education. His focus was high school and mine was elementary. We believe in education and the power of learning. We were excited to teach! We loved our jobs!
As we started thinking about having a family of our own we were excited that, once our children were school-aged, we would have very similar schedules, so we’d all be home together during holidays and summer breaks. Ah yes, our future seemed perfect.
After our first child (a daughter) was born in 2000, we decided I would stay home for at least a few years. We really wanted to be the ones raising our baby, so I left my job knowing I’d go back in a few years. Our second child (a son) was born almost three years later and I wanted to be there for him too, so we pushed me going back to work a little longer. Being at home was great, but it was hard too. I missed getting out of the house and having a job. I missed teaching. I will talk more about that in another post though. BACK TO THE TOPIC:
When our daughter was four we sent her to preschool. She loved it and we LOVED her teacher. Her teacher really inspired me with a love for this age group, so when our son was getting ready to head to preschool, the teacher we loved had moved on and I decided to open a preschool at my church. Oh, how I loved teaching preschool! When my son was ready for kindergarten I decided to stick with teaching the preschool for a while. Things were going great. I was back to teaching a little and my kids were doing well in school.
My daughter’s second grade and especially third grade years, I started to see some changes in her. This child, once happy and a lover of school and learning, was becoming frustrated with school. The joy and sparkle in her eyes seemed to be dimming at such an early age.
She was in a high ability class which seemed to have a lot of senseless busywork for homework. We would be working on worksheets with her all evening sometimes. She loved her teacher and she was doing well, but the busywork after school was really bothering us. Her grades were good and she understood the work, but it took so long to finish some of these papers.
One day I had the opportunity to ask another parent from my daughter’s class if her child was experiencing some long evenings of homework. She said yes, but went immediately to talking about her daughter’s high reading level and asked me what my daughter’s level was. It was the first time I felt like my children’s education was sort of a “rat race” to the finish line. It didn’t seem to be about the love of learning anymore. It was about test scores.
Obviously, this is not ALL public education is about, but at that moment my emotions were high.
On the night before ISTEP testing, my daughter, a third grader, was upset because she said that her principal could lose his job if she did bad on the test. I asked her where she heard this and she said it was from the principal. He had gone into their classroom that day to tell them to make sure they got a good night sleep, eat a good breakfast, and do their best because if the school scores low on the test he could lose his job. I tried to laugh it off with her and tell her he was just joking. “He just wants you to do your best”, I said. When I left the room I was frustrated. My nine year old was worried about how a test she was taking would affect her principal!
Before I go any further I need to make it very clear that there are exceptional teachers, principals, and staff in many public schools. And the principal who said this to my daughter’s class may even be a good principal who used, in my opinion, an inappropriate motivational tool.
A few weeks later, over dinner with a couple of friends, I mentioned my frustrations. These women were older, their children raised in public schools and now successful adults. (Success has many definitions. I am referring to success as a productive member of society, full-time career that supports a family financially, a good work ethic.) They both said I was not the first person to express these frustrations lately. One of the ladies said that she could see why some people would choose homeschooling these days. For some reason I couldn’t get what she said out of my head, but I knew I didn’t want to homeschool. When I thought of homeschooling I immediately thought about social skills. How on earth can children who are “sheltered” grow up to be productive members of society? The only homeschooler I ever knew when I was in high school was awkward and shy. Also, I had heard that Christian children should be a “light” in the schools.
So, as a Christian, I did what any Christian would do…I started praying about it. I prayed God would show me what road was right for my kids and family.
One night as my husband and I were talking after the kids were in bed, we had a conversation about education and some of our frustrations. I brought up homeschooling to see what his reaction would be. To my surprise, he said he had thought about it as well, but both of us agreed up to this point it had never been an option for us. We made an agreement that night to start researching on our own the positives and negatives of homeschooling. We agreed we should both pray and do our research alone and then in the spring come back together to discuss what we had learned and to decide if this was even an option to consider. We chose to research on our own and not together, so that we wouldn’t persuade one another either direction until spring.
We bought and rented secular and Christian books on this topic, started finding homeschooling parents to talk to, and researched online.
During this time, I got to know a woman who was homeschooling. We became very good friends that year. Now, I know some of you will instantly think that this was a big influence in our decision to homeschool. Yes and No. Because she and her siblings had been homeschooled themselves, it was a glimpse of healthy, thriving, and successful adults. None of them were awkward and I never would have guessed she had been homeschooled. Her nose was pierced, she loved make-up, and wore ripped jeans. She wasn’t what you would call “conventional” or “conservative”, but she loved the Lord and wanted to raise her girls to be confident, well-educated, Christians. We all want that; whether we choose homeschooling, public or private education. Speaking with her gave me “food for thought” and nothing else. You have to understand that my husband and I are focused on being followers of no one, but Jesus. People can influence us, but ultimately for us, it was God leading us to a calling we never would have chosen ourselves.
Some of our goals regarding education and our children were that they would not only have great material to look through and learn, but to have an opportunity to really dig in to a subject that they were passionate about. We wanted the history and science portions of the curriculum to be Christian based because this is truth and not fairytales. We also wanted to expose them to other religions and how to defend their faith. In my opinion, a Christian education is no more “indoctrinating” than a parent telling their child not to smoke cigarettes or do drugs. If you love your child you will want to teach them truth.
We also wanted to provide them with extra days to really master a topic that they may be struggling with. Why would we give them a grade of a C and move on when we could help them earn an A. In traditional school settings, classroom sizes are too big and the curriculum guidelines don’t allow for extra time on subject matter. A tutor can be called in at this point which can frustrate the child and may even start a thinking pattern of being, “behind or stupid”.
When spring came, my husband and I brought our books and research to the table and talked. Actually, we brought it all to our bedroom. We sat in bed with books and research and talked for what seemed like hours. Long night short, we were on the same page…HOMESCHOOLING could not only work, but be something great!
I was excited and scared to death! I had already asked the questions, “What are the laws surrounding homeschooling? What curriculum will I use? How will I get my kids involved in sports, music, arts, and other extra-curricular activities?”, but now it was time to do more research and start making choices.