Why We Homeschool
Choosing to homeschool was one of the best decision of my life. My wife and I are so grateful for the opportunities it provides. Our family has grown tremendously from homeschooling. As a result, I am a big advocate for learning at home. It is not for everyone, but anyone can do it. The thing is, I was not always so pro-homeschool. In fact, I used to think that people who homeschooled were crazy. I believed they were denim wearing, extended van driving loons. I had no exposure to homeschooling families while forming this opinion so it was simply unfair. I had no idea what homeschool involved. I just had a prejudice drilled into me by culture and my public school experience that wrote off homeschooling as weird and wrong. I was sure parents who chose to homeschool wanted to doom their children to a life of…well, I never actually thought that far. I was sure that there was something seriously aberrant with homeschooling. It just was not done by “normal” people.
When I started having kids, public school or catholic school were the only options for us. The funny thing is both my wife and I had terrible school experiences growing up attending those institutions. I was tortured in school on a daily basis for years, but it just what is done if you want to be successful. School was miserable and scarred us for life, but we don’t want our kids to be weird, right?
What about socialization? What about college? Who is going to destroy our kid’s self-esteem? I had no hard facts to support the fear and panic that accompanied each of these questions. I had no reason to feel so strongly on these issues. But in my ignorance, they presented formidable barriers to overcome before ever considering alternatives to public education.
Not Your Favorite Sitcom’s Family
After I came to Jesus, homeschool was still not on my radar. Then I met real, authentic homeschool families in the wild. I found the experience did not at all match the stereotypes. There were some odd ones in the groups I began to encounter, but no more so than in public schools. I generally found homeschool children to be just kids, some better than others.
I also noticed a general pattern of strangeness with these families that took the “weird” option of homeschooling. The older kids from the homeschool families actually looked us in the eye when talking with them. They were respectful in conversation. They often actually participated in group discussions with more than one-word responses. I regularly saw older siblings lovingly taking care of younger siblings in the big homeschool families. They were often the ones serving in church without objection, actually seeming to enjoy it. Many of the kids were playing in worship bands and taking part in Bible study with an interest in the Lord. They also seemed to have interesting hobbies, from raising chickens to learning foreign languages for fun, they were just different than other kids. Sure, there was a normal amount of silly kid-stuff, but the whole atmosphere was unlike anything I grew up with. Perhaps most fascinating of all, the families seemed to actually like each other. The “I hate my annoying sibling” storyline that is pushed so fervently in media wasn’t present, at all. Brothers and sisters were friends with one another and actually hung out with each other even when there were age gaps involved. It was a very pleasant oddity and very different than what I saw on TV or in media.
These observations did little to change my view of homeschooling though. We were an upwardly mobile dual income family in suburbia. We had barbeques, served on the PTA and sent the kids to public school without a second thought. Despite the evidence, we never examined any options other than public school it until God stepped in and changed everything. As usual with God’s direction, we are tremendously grateful for Him changing our plans. Choosing to homeschool is one of the best decisions we made for our family.
In brief, here is how it happened.
(If God has your kids unschooling, public schooling, private schooling or living in a yurt making yak’s milk cheese, it is all good with me. There are many ways to do the Christian life. God directed our path and we are happy with it. I pray that He has done the same with your little ones.)
God Called Us to Lead Our Kids
My wife and I are both professionals with advanced degrees. We had specific plans about what would happen once we had kids. The wife would take off for a few years in the baby years. She would then get back to work once they reached school age. It was important that we only disrupt our dual income for a short time. We needed to afford the all important things in life like…. string cheese, Direct TV NFL Ticket and maybe a boat or at least a BMW. What sort of madman would live without any of the above? We just could not imagine giving up income for an extended period of time in order to do something public school was already doing.
When our oldest two hit school age, we dutifully sent them off to the local public school. It is regularly ranked as one of the best in the state, woohoo! We had chosen the area to live based on how good the schools were ranked so we were prepared. We planned out this portion of our lives and made sure that it led to great colleges for kids. It is just what you do if you are a great parent. We thought we were doing an awesome job. They would get a good education and their acclimation was part of their development.
I told myself these things repeatedly as I handed off my sweet innocent children to strangers for 7-8 hours a day. They were barely out of diapers, could not tie their shoes, and had not yet formed their worldview and we were giving them over to others to be educated. They couldn’t even read the Bible for themselves yet and we thought they were ready to leave home for studies.
Over the next 4 years, we watched as the light was slowly drained from our little guys. Our kids started school outgoing with a simple joy that just shined. As they continued, day by day, they became more reserved and unsure of themselves. It was a like watching a fire that was flickering and beginning to go down. The simple sweetness got weaker and weaker replaced by a hardness that we had never seen before. We felt pain every day sending them off to school and seeing them changed when we picked them up.
We were involved, caring and loving parents who did our best to encourage our kids to be secure and know they are loved. This security is hard for a 7-year-old to maintain when faced with an entire culture that doesn’t care in that same way. The decisions of teachers and administrators who do not love our kids had a direct impact on them. The parenting of other parents who do not share our values or concerns were placed upon our children through their kids. When you are 7 years old, it is really hard to deal with the repercussions of your classmate whose parents who neglect them.
We saw immediate damage being done to our kids but rationalized there were no other options. We did not want to be weird and could not afford private schools. Sure, it seemed wrong to send a little one barely out of diapers out of the house every day, but we all did it at that age. I only cry in my sleep about being called “cootey boy” every once in a while now..or maybe that is just me.
Joking aside, I learned about sex from school. I learned about drugs and pornography from school. I had my first serious misadventures and suffered lifelong emotional damage from school. I was seeing the same impacts on my children and it was heartbreaking.
Train Your Kids in the Way they Should Go
At this time, I truly repented of my ways for the first time and Jesus changed my life completely. I started to actually seek what the Bible said about how to raise our kids and how to teach them how to follow God. My wife and I began looking to the Bible for answers to life questions. In the process, I came across Deuteronomy 6, and it changed my mind in an instant:
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
After reading these words, I sat back and the word rang in my head repeatedly. “You, You, You”. I wasn’t doing much teaching other than in the evenings and on weekends. God asked me a simple question:
“How can YOU teach the ways of the Lord diligently to your kids and teach them all day long, if you are giving them to the others for most of the day?”
Put another way, how could I teach them to follow Jesus if I gave them to someone who did not follow God? I am going to have to give an account for the ones in my care, can I let them go to someone else to teach them for most of their life?
Along with this, the realization about how tired we were as parents hit. We were not worn out from parenting. Well, we were, but this was the normal amount of weariness that goes with raising kids. We were flat out exhausted because we were caught in a battle. Every day while we had kids in public school we were fighting against influences who wanted to own our kids hearts and minds. We daily would give our kids to a system that wanted to imprint its views on them. It was not necessarily out of bad motives. It was just someone, other parents, teachers, politicians, or alleged experts, putting their views on our kids. It greatly impacted out kids.
When one of the little ones went off to Kindergarten, he was known by a nickname version of his name. It was what we called him since birth. It was what he liked and answered to. This is a common practice so no big deal, right? The teacher had different ideas and chose to impose them on Kindergarten kids. She declared that all kids must be called by their full given names, no exceptions. The kid who was known by his middle name and the one named as Junior would be called by names they did not even know. Our own child came home and declared to us, his parents, that he should be called by his full name. He was confused and hurt when we did not immediately get in line with his teachers wishes and go along. Though this is a small issue, all in all, the effect was to subtly sow distrust in our son for his parents.
The school who we gave authority used it to disagree with us and to undermine our authority.
Daily examples of this conflict immediately came to mind. Sure, it is possible to overcome this constant barrage, but if you don’t have to, why? My kids and their eternal salvation were on the line. Why not do everything possible to do what we can to raise them in the Lord?
I was done from that moment on. It took some time to actually trust God on what He was saying. It took more time to learn a completely different world. The idea of homeschooling can seem daunting initially. What is Abeka? Who is Charlotte Mason? Are you people speaking English? But the answer to God’s question was clear to me. I could not delegate our calling as parents to a system that did not care about the Lord. It was expecting something unreasonable from them. It also would be a daily fight for influence in my children’s lives. Raising kids in the Lord is challenging enough without having to battle against the pull of teachers, peers, and their parental influences. There is precious little time left for family after school, work and homework. God does not want us in an uphill battle to teach godliness. I may screw up my kids and be responsible, but at least I am judged by my best effort and trying to follow Jesus.
So two verses from the Old Testament, tons of prayer and an awesome God changed our family life. Years into this weird adventure, I am grateful for how wrong I was before God changed my mind. My oldest children are hitting early adulthood and they are wonderful. Smart, funny, sociable and motivated youngsters who have missed out on many of the traps that are destroying today’s youth. Most importantly, they love Jesus and are actively following Him. I am not sure it would have worked out this way had we continued in public school. You can only fight the secular tide so much before getting weary.
I have seen the results of homeschooling firsthand. I have also seen the kids, in and outside of the church, whose parents choose public school. I am so thankful we made the choice we did.