The bus pulled up to the end of the driveway, and my little boy (then six years old) climbed aboard. Turning toward me with a smile and wave, he was off. He seemed happy enough and excited to go to school, so why did I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach? Almost eight hours later the bus delivered him back home.
I unpacked his backpack and asked him how his day was. His response was, “Good.” Then he was off to play. He finished the first grade, and by the end of the year, that sinking feeling I had the first day he climbed aboard that bus, still had not gone away. At some point during that year, I began to explore why sending him off to school made me feel so uneasy. After all, it’s what you do. It’s what everyone does, isn’t it? Or is it?
The Decision to Homeschool
My husband and I discussed in length what was in our heart toward our children. How we wanted to raise them, what we hoped to impart to them, and how we would accomplish our vision for our family. We desired to teach our children to be followers of Jesus. We wanted our family relationships to be close. Our goal was to create a home that was comfortable and comforting, a refuge from the world. We longed for our children to have space to pursue their individual passions while receiving a quality education.
When I added together how much time our son was spending away from us, how much time he was spending being influenced by people we didn’t know, and how little quality time we were actually getting with him, I realized he was already leaving home by age seven. We knew in our hearts, that in order to accomplish all we wanted for our children we would need more time with them. We wanted to be the directors of their education and didn’t want to delegate such an important task to strangers. Homeschooling became the practical answer to the how question: how we were going to make the vision we had for our children, for our family, a reality?
One Year at a Time
My son didn’t return to school for the second grade. We decided to give homeschooling a try for a year, just to see if it could be all that we hoped. Year one, turned into year two, and by the end of our second year of homeschooling my husband and I both knew it was the right choice for our family.
At the end of year two, we had discovered the cumulative positive effect homeschooling was having on our family life and in the lives of our individual children. We continued to take one year at a time, but with the intention that we would homeschool all of our children all the way through high school.
Fast forward eleven years. I’m happy to report, we are still homeschooling with just four years left to make it to the finish line. We are so thankful for all the good fruit it has borne in the lives of our children. God has used home education to shape all of us, my husband and me included.
We all have a story. The story that has led you to think about this educational option for your family may be different than mine. No doubt you have lots of questions. Maybe some fear and trepidation too. I understand. I was there all those years ago. My prayer is that the Lord gently leads you to discern the right decision for your family.
As you prayerfully contemplate the educational options available for your children, here are 10 reasons to choose homeschooling:
What does it mean to be a disciple? A disciple is a follower, a student, a learner. As parents, we naturally want to pass our faith on to our children, to teach them to be followers of Jesus. We don’t want to simply teach them a set of beliefs. We want them to have their own personal life with God.
How did Jesus go about training his disciples? He spent time with them. Lots of time! He taught them how to pray, serve, and reach the lost. He instructed them in doctrine and practice. Jesus opened up the Scriptures to them. He talked, walked, and ate with them. He modeled for them, in front of them, continually, how to walk with God.
Homeschooling provides a unique opportunity for us to share the gospel with our children. As we approach every subject from a biblical perspective and we live out our faith before them in the way that we talk, walk, teach, and serve, we are continually inviting them to respond to the call of Jesus, to pick up their cross and follow Him.
2. Healthy Family Relationships
When you homeschool, not only do you get to spend a lot of time with your children, but your children get to spend a lot of time with each other. This is a good thing. Siblings have a greater chance of creating strong ties with each other as they grow and learn together. Older siblings can help with the care and teaching of the younger ones. This develops many qualities such as compassion, positive role modeling, and responsibility. Of course, the younger children benefit as well, by learning from and observing their older siblings. This spirit of cooperation between siblings engenders good feelings and closeness that will continue into their adult relationships.
Inevitably, conflict will happen between family members when you homeschool. Part of the beauty of spending so much time together as a family is that any issues remain in the forefront. You are less likely to sweep problems under the rug. As a homeschool mother, I have appreciated the opportunity to use teachable moments throughout the day to help us grow in our capacity to love and forgive one another.
I remember when my children were little my daughter was having a hard time getting her school work done one day. This was unusual for her, so I asked if something was wrong. She explained that earlier that morning one of her brothers had said something that hurt her feelings. I was able to help them talk through their differences and encourage them to forgive one another. Homeschooling gives us lots of practice in conflict resolution and teaches us what it takes to foster healthy relationships.
3. Meaningful Family Memories
I love to sit around with my almost grown kids and talk about fond family memories. So many of our memories were made possible by the fact that we homeschool. Like the time we traveled through several states accompanying my husband on his speaking engagements and fitting in sightseeing and museums along the way. Or the early morning walks to the ocean to see the sunrise, pondering together the beauty and wonder of creation.
Not all meaningful memories are happy. Some are special in a weighty, sobering kind of way. Like the time we took a field trip to a Holocaust Memorial and heard the personal testimony of the son of a survivor, recounting stories of his father. Or going to our state house in the middle of the week, in the middle of the school day, to stand against unjust legislation.
Of course, families who choose other educational options can also create meaningful family memories, but homeschoolers have a unique opportunity to experience life together more often. The memories we create together draw us closer and endear us to one other.
4. Protection From Negative Influences
“He who walks with wise men, will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20)
Children are impressionable. They do not have the mental and emotional maturity to discern when they are being negatively influenced. Some children are more susceptible to being lead astray than others.
Homeschooling enables parents to protect their children from adverse influences whether that comes in a form of a teacher convincing a child of something that conflicts with the family’s worldview or a peer that entices a child into bad behavior or attitudes. All parents must “open the funnel” eventually, allowing their children to practice navigating the world, but the proper time for testing the waters can be different for each child. Exposing children to negative influences before they have established a strong system of beliefs and acquired critical thinking skills can prove disastrous. Homeschooling can guard against the effect of injurious influences and give parents the time they need to prepare their children to handle themselves wisely and to make good choices.
5. Spiritual Growth for Parents
When I first began to homeschool, I thought it was entirely about the children. It wasn’t long before I learned that it was about the parents too.
When you seek to disciple a person, you quickly realize that you can’t impart something you do not possess yourself. It was genius of God to create the family. He knew that nothing would motivate us to be conformed into His image more than the task of raising the little people we brought into the world. Homeschooling has forced us to our knees in prayer many times. We are thankful for the homeschool moments that have centered us and caused us to seek the Lord more diligently.
Through the years, homeschooling has caused us to cross paths with many astute and thoughtful people, who have sharpened us in many ways. We have found ourselves considering issues we’re not sure we would have ever thought about had we not been challenged by other parent educators.
Homeschooling has strengthened our marriage. I admire the sacrifices my husband has made, working multiple jobs, to make it possible for me to homeschool our children. My husband affirms the importance of what I do and offers me needed support. Working together in this way to raise and educate our children brings us closer together, as we cooperate together to make our vision for our family a reality.
Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to customize an education for each of your children. Students have different learning styles and different strengths and weaknesses. For some students, the over stimulation of large classes or a complex social environment can detract from education. Maybe your student learns best in a calm atmosphere, or maybe they going deeper and don’t want to be interrupted. Maybe your child is so sociable that they are easily distracted with lots of people around and can’t concentrate on academics. Homeschooling offers you the opportunity to create an ideal learning environment for each of your children.
Customizing your homeschool can be particularly wonderful in the teen years when your student’s passions emerge. My oldest loves current events, debate, and politics. I created an academic plan for him that included time to volunteer for political organizations and participate in a debate league.
My daughter loves writing and art. For her I required a lot of writing, as she aspires to become a published author one day. I have also arranged for her to have private art instruction as part of her homeschool day.
My youngest son is passionate about music and is a gifted pianist. Homeschooling gives him the flexibility to be on and off the piano throughout the day in between subjects. Time on the piano helps refresh him to tackle tough academic subjects. He is beginning to compose his own music, so when he gets an idea he can take a short break to try it out.
I love to see my children’s true selves emerging! I’m so thankful that homeschooling allows us to give them the time and space they need to become who they are meant to be.
7. Control of Our Time
When my oldest son went to school for first grade, I was overwhelmed with the amount of paper announcements that came home on a regular basis. There was always some extra event, meeting, or fundraiser to attend. Saying “no” didn’t always feel like an option. Between church and school we were constantly running.
When we began homeschooling, I immediately noticed how in control of our schedule I suddenly felt. I chose the activities we participated in with our homeschool community. There was perfect freedom to say no when I needed to. The church recognized that as a homeschooler my main priority was at home, so there was more understanding when I couldn’t volunteer as much.
Homeschooling helped me to become more intentional about our commitments. I knew that I had to leave enough unscheduled time in our week to accomplish the our schooling. Instead of feeling overloaded, I actually felt the opposite. Homeschooling gave me clarity and focus regarding my weekly schedule and my priorities. It felt like freedom from the rat race! Instead of bemoaning all the time spent away from my son, I was now getting to enjoy having unhurried days with him. We read books, did crafts, went on nature hikes, went to museums, and attended homeschool events at our leisure. It felt natural, normal, and the way life with little ones should be.
8. A Proven Method
The evidence favors homeschooling with homeschoolers typically scoring higher on standardized tests than their public school peers. These scores don’t fluctuate based on the educational attainment or income level of the parents either. Not surprisingly, homeschooled students also perform better on the SAT and ACT tests. As a result, many colleges are now actively recruiting homeschool graduates.
Not only are homeschooled students doing well academically, but it appears homeschooling benefits social, emotional, and psychological development as well. Without having to navigate negative peer influences at too young an age, homeschool parents are able to socialize their children in a healthy way. Homeschooling also provides the opportunity to interact with a wide range of ages.
We now have access to research adults who received a home education. They tend to participate in community service, vote, attend public meetings, and succeed in college at a higher rate than the general population. More importantly, homeschooled students remain in the faith at a higher rate than that of their peers who attended public or private school.
Many of our founding fathers, presidents, and American greats were self-taught and did not have much formal schooling. The list includes George Washington, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, and many more.
9. Real Life Experiences
Homeschooling exposes children to real life. When you homeschool, children get to watch their parents run the household. They are given a front row seat to observe how their parents manage everyday life. This prepares them well for adulthood and for the day when they will have to run their own households.
My children watch me plan the week as I sit at the kitchen table with my calendar and planner. They see in real time that in order to accomplish goals you have to make a plan and implement it. I post our calendar on a bulletin board, and I write weekly events and to-do items on a whiteboard hanging in our kitchen. As they see me model how to manage responsibilities in an efficient manner, they are internalizing these skills. Observation over time is an effective teacher.
In addition to their school work, I have always given my children regular chores to complete throughout the day. I have taught them to clean, cook, and do their own laundry. My husband has taught them how to take care of the yard and how to build things. These household duties are part of their routine. Homeschooling gives them lots of time to practice these domestic duties.
Homeschooling also allows time to respond to real life. Whether it be children spending time helping a parent care for a sick grandparent, volunteering to clean the church as an act of service, or collecting signatures for a petition on an important political issue, these real life experiences are a vital part of their education. They are invaluable in character formation, teaching them to become responsible, empathetic, and capable adults.
10. Opportunity to Address Special Needs
Teachers and schools are overwhelmed with trying to meet the needs of struggling learners. In many cases, there are too many students with too many challenges and not enough resources to help. Homeschooling can be an excellent solution for addressing a child’s special needs.
There are many advantages to homeschooling a struggling learner. Parents can create the appropriate learning environment for their child with more or less structure as needed. They can choose curriculum that fits their child’s learning style. They can provide one-on-one instruction and attention. Your child can avoid the embarrassment of being developmentally delayed or lagging behind in a certain subject with their peers watching. At home, your child can progress at their own pace without unnecessary criticism or shame. Students can begin to focus more on making consistent progress and less on adhering to arbitrary grade levels.
The story I often hear from parents in the public school is that they always had to fight for what their child needed. Homeschooling eliminates the fight with school officials. When taking advantage of private therapy and tutoring services, parents can have more of a say in proposed programs and therapies, as opposed to being at the mercy of the school.
I have spoken to many mothers whose children were not progressing adequately in the school environment and who made the courageous decision to home educate them instead. Homeschooling can be an answer to prayer for the parent who wants to see their child happy, healthy, and successful. Homeschooling a student with special needs is not easy, but there are a wealth of resources available to help.
We have been conditioned to believe that we must turn our children over to the “experts” for education. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can educate your child at home. God has uniquely qualified you for the job. There will be a learning curve for everyone, and there will be hard days, but anything worthwhile is hardly ever easy.
After we finished our first year of homeschooling, we weren’t sure if we should continue. It had gone well, but we were feeling the financial pressure of living on one income. I started to interview for jobs.
In the meantime, I had already purchased tickets for our state homeschool convention. Even though I knew we might not homeschool the following year, I decided I would still go.
Over the course of the convention, I felt more and more grieved at the thought of abandoning homeschooling after just one year. I was really wrestling over what to do. When the convention ended, I made my way to the large set of stairs where I would exit the building. As I turned the corner, I stopped.
The stairs were filled with hundreds of homeschooled high schoolers wearing caps and gowns, getting ready for a graduation ceremony. As they lined up for a group picture to mark the momentous occasion, I paused and took in the students. They were smiling and laughing, having a great time with their friends. It filled my heart with joy. Then I looked down below to the large group of parents with cameras at the ready. I began to cry.
Behind the smiles of those precious parents, I knew in my heart that they were glad they had endured to the end. I sensed that they had overcome many difficulties through the years. They had persevered through tired days, bad attitudes, and Monday mornings when they just didn’t feel like it. They had sacrificed and lived frugally to be able to stay home with their children.
The Lord whispered to me, “Look at the joy on their faces. They are so thankful that they didn’t give up. I was faithful to see them through, and I will be faithful to see you through too.” It was a moment I will never forget. On that day God gave me the determination to continue. Now as I prepare to stand at the bottom of the stairs, lovingly watching my eldest son graduate, I can’t believe we are here at this moment. I am so thankful that we gave homeschooling a try all those years ago!