Saturday, September 1, 2018

Homeschooling and Why We Love It

Back in April, I wrote a blog post entitled "Out of Hospital Birthing and Why We Love It." Now, I would like to do something similar regarding the subject of homeschooling. My reason for doing so is two-fold: 1) For my sake. 2) For your sake.

Let me explain. I may know why I believe what I believe just fine in my head but when I can write it down and get my thoughts on paper (whether literal or digital), it helps me greatly to be able to articulate to myself these beliefs, convictions, and reasons. I can choose much more precisely my words in writing versus in conversation. And it allows me documentation to keep, re-read, and remind myself of when the going gets tough. I am not bound by what has been written, though, and if something needs to be edited in the future, I will certainly make changes as necessary.

My second reason for wanting to write this blog post is for your sake.
Maybe you are someone in our lives who wonders why we homeschool but doesn't want to come right out and ask. This is your chance to get some answers!
Maybe you are someone who is considering homeschooling but you need more information about the whys and wherefores. I hope you will find this post helpful!
Maybe you are a fellow homeschooler and in need of companionship or confirmation along the way. Perhaps this post can be an encouragement to you in your journey to know that you are not alone in your decisions and that our family is walking this same adventure one day at a time!

Before I begin, I would like to offer a similar "disclaimer" to the one I wrote in my home birthing article. If you haven't picked up on it already from the posts and pictures I share on this blog, I am very passionate about homeschooling! The reasons I love homeschooling are many as I plan to outline below, and I would go so far as to say that for me and my husband, homeschooling is a deeply held conviction that this path is best for our family. However, holding this belief does not mean that we therefore hold non-homeschooling parents in less esteem or that we think everyone should do exactly as we do. So please don't take my opinions and beliefs and reasons for homeschooling as a judgement call on your own decision to believe or do differently.  Please don't feel the need to justify yourself if you are choosing a different path or to think that I will not want to be your friend anymore, okay? There is enough division on this topic already and I am not seeking to create more of it. I am simply seeking to communicate for my own sake and the sake of other's why we have chosen the homeschooling path for our family...and in the process, my passion for the subject will likely spill onto the page, so just be ready! ;)

First, I will list our reasons for homeschooling and then I will address some common concerns and objections that are usually raised against homeschooling.

Reason #1 - For the love of God
More than anything, we want our children to love God with all their being, to have a strong faith in Jesus Christ and His Word, and to bring Him honor with their lives.  We take seriously the command in Scripture to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) Nurture means: "The whole training and education of children which relates to the cultivation of the mind and morals..." Admonition means "to put into the mind," and in this specific context, it relates to that which is "of the Lord."

Is it possible to raise a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord without homeschooling them? Yes, it is, and many parents have done just that! However, homeschooling can be a wonderful tool that helps facilitate this process! When we homeschool, we are able to train our children in the knowledge of God all day long. We are able to select curriculum that is distinctly Christian in its worldview or discuss things we read that are not in line with Biblical teaching. We are able to cultivate our children's morals through everyday opportunities in character training, in application of Scripture verses that we have been teaching them, and in the things they are exposed to (i.e. books, media, peers, etc.).

Discipleship is a buzz word amidst Christendom today, and rightfully so! It is crucially important to the development of strong believers and best accomplished when done on a very personal level in one-on-one or small group settings. We believe that the children God has entrusted to us are to be our most prioritized disciples. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth," wrote the apostle John, in reference to his "spiritual children." We parents who love Jesus could write the same thing when we see our own flesh-and-blood children walking in His truth, too, right? There really is no greater joy!!

Though we are not Jews living under Old Testament Law, there is great inspiration to be gleaned from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 when it comes to how to practically teach our children to love the Lord our God: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."  When we homeschool, it allows us to indeed talk of God and His ways throughout all parts and portions of our day and to understand academics and world-wide events through the lens of a Biblical worldview.  We believe it is our Biblical responsibility to be the main influence in our children's lives especially when they are young, and that is much better accomplished when we are together with them, just as Jesus gave the example of being with those He discipled until it was time to send them off.

Reason #2 - For the love of our children
Homeschooling is not often easy. It requires dedication and sacrifice. But the love we have for our God and for our children compels us! Not only do we long to see them walk in truth and goodness according to God's Word, but we also desire to protect them from the brokenness of a sin-filled world as much as possible while they are so young, to guard and cultivate their childlike wonder, to let them be children, and to tailor their schooling to their individuality.

I know it is not possible to protect our children completely or forever, nor do we wish to raise children who are "weird," backward or naive, but there are some things better learned at older ages, some behaviors better seen when they will not be influenced by them, and an innocence in children worth guarding.  Homeschooling allows us to raise our little ones in a greenhouse environment where they are protected from the harsh elements of the world before transplanting them to grow on their own.  Though we can't control everything nor do we seek to be control-freaks or helicopter parents, homeschooling allows us to "nip in the bud" wrong attitudes, actions, and beliefs before they can fester and poison the plant. We can guard against "the little foxes that spoil the vines" because we are there...watching...listening... ...guiding.

Homeschooling gives us the chance to encourage their childlike wonder and be free to be children. Children were designed to move a lot, to run and squeal, to play, to learn about God from nature by being outside in it. We love how being home throughout the day gives our children these opportunities! There is a time and a place for bookwork and table work for sure, but in general, I don't believe it is healthy for children mentally, physically, or emotionally, to be relegated to a desk most of the day, confined inside of four brick walls. So many studies are coming out now about how important recess is in a child's life, and that more recess time (not less) increases academic performance. I see the articles shared on Facebook and the Ted Talks that make rounds on the internet. I see the teachers in my circles rallying for more recess and less testing. I love how homeschooling allows us the freedom to balance learning through bookwork with learning through play. The world is our classroom!

Lastly, under this heading, I love how homeschooling allows us to tailor our children's education to their individuality. We are able to customize their studies to the way they learn best, the pace they need, the time of day they learn best, and the interests they have that fuel greater focus on a particular subject. I know this customization is the desire of many wonderful teachers in public and private school settings, but it's just plain hard when a classroom of 15-30 students must be taught at once. (It is also difficult when so much emphasis is placed on test-taking and the need to perform well on a test in order to get a good grade as either a student or a teacher - more on that below.)  Working as a homeschool teacher allows me the freedom to select a teaching style that suits me and a learning style that suits my children. For the present, this means that we are doing a primarily literature-based, Charlotte Mason style approach to learning with lots of good books and hands-on activities.

Reason #3 - For the love of learning
This reason overlaps quite a bit with the previous paragraph, but I would like to extrapolate a bit more on this topic.

It just so happens that Nathan and I were homeschooled (no secret) and that certainly has had tremendous influence on our own desire to homeschool our children (even though it is not the primary reason we have made this choice). However, I bring this up to say that one of my parents' goals in pursuing home education was to instill a love of learning in their kids. And they certainly accomplished that! To this day at 30 and 33 years old respectively, my sister and I are constantly seeking to learn new things! Whether it is in regards to health and nutrition, homesteading, the science of how boys and girls learn differently, how to run a business, natural remedies for our families, new languages, new musical instruments, Bible studies, recipes, or parenting, we are regularly researching and reading on multiple topics at once. We love learning and never want to stop! Why? Because my mom made learning enjoyable. With the exception of math, I loved school! (But don't worry, I still did my math.) Some subjects were more preferred than others (like reading and writing and history), but generally speaking, school was fun. I have wonderful memories of building a covered wagon out of a refrigerator box when we studied the Oregon trail and pioneer days, of dissecting a cow's eyeball in science class, of reading books out loud together, of writing papers and getting my mom's expert editing advice (even though I didn't always like her corrections...I eventually came around and they made me the writer I am today), of many hands-on projects we did during a unit study based off the American Girls fictional history series, and much more! Ours was truly a "living education" that tremendously shaped the person I am today. And I want that for my own children.

I want my boys to love learning! I want them to get excited about studying topics that interest them (like space and dinosaurs and bugs and robots just to name a current few)! I want them to love reading because of their exposure to quality books and gripping stories. I want them to love the fun we have together writing letters in cornmeal, building play dough igloos, painting coffee filters to look like the sculptures of famous artists, using blocks to learn mathematical concepts, pretending to be the missionaries in Africa who lead little goat herders to Jesus, and playing games that teach phonics.  I am so thankful that, for the present, when I announce that it is time to do school, they don't groan and moan or find their work to be boring or stressfully overwhelming. I know this may not always be the case and that sometimes, you just gotta learn something because you gotta learn it. But I pray that I will always have the desire to make the effort to keep learning interesting and engaging for them, no matter how old they get while under my tutelage.

I am not saying that school is all play and no work...although at these ages, there is certainly a lot of play involved. They still have to learn to write their letters neatly and tidily, to do their math even if it's challenging, and accomplish the tasks I assign them even if it's not their preferred activity for the moment. But generally speaking, I love that my boys enjoy school and pray that it stays that way! An engaged learner is a much better learner than one who is just going through the motions to fill in a bubble on a test.

Along these lines, I want to teach my children how to learn; not just what to learn. A person who knows how to learn can teach themselves anything.  Homeschooling seems to facilitate this process quite well. We have the time freedom to go deep with desired topics, utilizing books, YouTube, websites, or wizened individuals if we so choose. I remember when Isaac was just 3 how absolutely fascinated he was with space! He wanted to read about it all the time, watch movies of people going to space, build a solar system with balls, and dress up like astronauts. So we did. For several weeks, we studied space and he loved it! To this day, he still remembers nearly everything we learned about during that "space age" focus we had.  And even though he is older now and we are following a more "mapped out" curriculum with a daily schedule, we still have the opportunity to stop and zone in on a particular topic of interest or search out extra books at the library to enhance our studying.

Learning is what the point of school is supposed to be, right? It's not about getting good grades or taking tests well. It's about really absorbing knowledge so we can use that knowledge for good in the world. It's about developing the ability to understand and the ability to do.  I love how homeschooling allows us to teach a love for learning and a knowledge of skills with the perspective of, "We are learning this to better glorify and serve our Creator."  After all, He is the God of math, of science, of history, of writing, of music, of art, and the author of the Best piece of literature ever written.

Reason #4 - For the love of what's really important in life
God, His Word, and the souls of people.
Those are the only three things that are going to last forever. In the end, the academic success we achieve in this life, the college scholarships, the income we make (whether high, low, or middle ground), and the "stuff" we acquire is all going to pass away. It won't really matter much.  But how we we we invest our time, talents, and treasures - those things matter!

So I want to prepare my children for a future that is more eternally-minded than just getting into a good college, nailing down a good job, and being a productive member of society. Those things are not wrong in and of themselves, and in fact, they can be very good, but life is about so much more!

Therefore, the way we approach school is with a holistic mindset. It's not just about learning academics, although academics are important. (And by the way, can I just say, it's not just about playing sports either, although that can be a wonderful aspect of life!) For our family, school is about learning with eternity in view. It's about learning academics...and character...and skills, so that we can be good representatives of God's image in the earth, serving and investing in people, making disciples, striving to be Godly spouses who raise Godly children, and be able to stand before the Lord Jesus one day with "gold, silver, and precious stones" to offer Him instead of "wood, hay, and stubble." (1 Corinthians 3:9-15)

I love how homeschooling provides a rich context in which to prepare for the future and keep our focus on what is really important in life.


I could probably keep writing out reasons we have chosen to homeschool, but those would certainly be the top four.

Now, allow me to address some of the common concerns and objections that are sometimes raised against homeschooling.

Concern #1 - What about socialization?

I will be the first to admit that there are some pretty "backward" homeschoolers out there who have given the rest of us a bad name in this "socialization" department. But you know what? I have met and currently know quite a few children, teens, and adults who are socially awkward who were not homeschooled. So to chalk it all up to homeschooling is a rather unfair stereotype. Actually, the vast majority of homeschoolers socialize very well, because even though they don't sit through 7-8 hours of a classroom setting surrounded by 20 children all their same age, they don't usually live like hermits in a remote cave somewhere. They go to church, youth group, sports activities, music, dance, and drama lessons, homeschool co-ops, grocery stores, banks, nursing homes, libraries, hospitals, movie theaters, bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, and coffee shops just like the rest of society. They interact with people of all ages on a regular basis.

In my home growing up, socialization was just a normal part of life and we were taught manners, "social graces," how to make eye contact with grownups when speaking to them, how to shake hands firmly and say, "Nice to meet you," how to set a table properly and host people for dinner, how to start conversations instead of sitting in awkward silence or only talking about ourselves, and how to be bold about ministering to the needs of people in nursing homes or international gatherings. This is certainly how we are striving to raise our children now as well.

Is socialization the main reason to send a child to school? If not, then why is it often the main objection?

Socializing with with a variety of ages. :) 

Concern #2 - Are you sure you're qualified to teach? What about when you get to the really hard subjects like trigonometry?

Yes, I am qualified to teach. Not because I went to college and got a piece of paper telling me so, but because I am their mother. I love them like no other and have their very best interests at heart...which includes not just their academic achievements, but their character, and their eternal destination. Obviously, I cannot control the end results, but I can certainly lay a foundation in their hearts and minds that will hopefully guide them to the One who is deserving of their devotion. Therefore, I am willing to offer my own time and energy to pour into their lives all day every day so that they can learn to love God, to love learning, and to live with eternal purpose in life. I hope you can hear my heart! I do not say this out of pride in my stellar abilities, but rather in the fear and trembling of how deep a responsibility I have willingly, gratefully, humbly taken on.  It is a daily walk of dependence on God's grace!

And while it is true that I certainly do not know everything about microbiology and trigonometry or Latin verbs, that is what books, video courses, and tutors are for! ;) Where there is a will, there is a way to get the job done. Thankfully, in this day and age, resources ABOUND for the homeschooling parent in regards to higher level learning or extracurricular subjects that a parent may not feel knowledgeable enough to teach.

Getting equipped at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati!

Concern #3 - Aren't you afraid you will shelter them too much?

No. We believe little children need sheltering, as I hinted at above when I compared them to greenhouse plants. (Even the Bible compares them to olive plants around the table - Psalm 128:3.)  I'm pretty sure most level-headed parents would agree with me that there are far too many 8 year olds using profanity, 12 year olds having sex, and 15 year olds dealing drugs. I would much rather my children learn about the "ways of the world" from me or Nathan explaining these topics at an appropriate time from a Biblical worldview than from a fellow 6 year old.  The brokenness of this sin-filled world is not something they need to be exposed to unnecessarily until the time is right.

Even with this perspective, I am fully aware that they will likely learn about and hear about things earlier than we would wish, and we will deal with these topics as they come up. However, I do not want to purposefully subject them to the depravity of the world through the means of unsupervised peer influence and media. Case in point, we had a discussion about ghosts after the two oldest boys came back from 3 days at Grandpa and Grandma Camp surrounded by (mostly older) cousins (who all come from Godly homes). It's life. It happens. We'll talk about it and keep moving. Isaac told me with great excitement the other day that a new friend of his has an XBox! I asked him if he knew what an XBox was. He said, "No," so I explained one. Considering that he doesn't even know what video games are, I'm not sure he fully grasped the concept, but I cracked up when he said, "Oh, I thought it was a blue box with an X on it like you see on treasure maps!"  No wonder he was excited! ;)

There is a fine balance between sheltering and exposing, and we are just trusting that the Lord will give us the wisdom to find that balance.

Lookin' pretty sheltered there... ;)

Concern #4 - If you homeschool your children, how will they have the opportunity to be lights in the darkness? Public schools need missionaries too!

We certainly want to raise my children to be lights in a dark world, but we do not want to send them into the darkness until they are ready to actually shine in it instead of being swallowed up by it. And I don't believe my children are ready to know why they believe what they believe, to stand alone, to go against the flow of peer pressure, or to "shine" until they are much, much older. Being easily influenced just as children are designed to be, they would likely be swept along instead of able to stand strong.

This is not to say that God can't use children as bearers of the Gospel message. He can and does! However, we would prefer that their initial opportunities to minister as little lights take place under our guidance and in settings that do not compromise our efforts to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  All missionaries need training first, and that is what our responsibility is in these early years: to train them and equip them for the work to come. By the time they are teenagers, we are hopeful that they will be much more able to stand strong in their beliefs and have the courage to let their lights shine wherever they find themselves.

Isaac with his fire fly.

Concern #5 - What about sports and music opportunities? How will your children get those if you homeschool?

Thankfully, there are many opportunities for homeschoolers to pursue extracurricular interests these days! (But even if there weren't, the reasons for homeschooling still far outweigh the opportunity to play a sport, in my opinion.) There are homeschool co-ops, private sports leagues, private and group music lessons, hybrid schools, and even band and orchestra opportunities in most places in the U.S. - some public schools will even allow homeschoolers to play on their teams or in their bands. I am not so much worried about having enough opportunities for my children in these areas, but in narrowing down the opportunities to what needs to take priority and not getting too overbooked running around to all of them! ;)

Concern #6 - I really want to homeschool, but I just don't think we can afford to live off one income. How do you do it?

I am a firm believer that if the Lord is leading you to do something or showing you an area you need to obey Him in, He will provide for you! Sometimes this means adjusting our understanding of what we "need" and learning to live with less. Homeschooling always means sacrifices in some form or fashion. The question is, "How important are the benefits to you? Are they worth the sacrifices?"

In my personal opinion, the souls of my children are far more important than a nice house, two cars, or a large grocery budget. We already try to live reasonably within our means, but if times got hard and we had to sell our house and live in an apartment or a single wide trailer, we would if it meant we could keep homeschooling. If we had to go down to one car instead of two, we would. If we had to live off oatmeal, rice and beans, and peanut butter and jelly, we would. We would look for extra work on the side or something I could do from home (like I do now actually!).  If I had to work evenings as a waitress so I could stay home during the day to raise my children, I would!

Maybe this seems extreme to you, but I believe so whole-heartedly in this freedom and privilege and to homeschool, that I would do whatever it takes to keep it possible for our family!  My children are my top priority and being the one to raise them, teach them, and disciple them for the few short years we have with them is paramount.

So my suggestion to someone wanting to homeschool or at the very least, be a stay-at-home-mom, would be to take a serious look at your lifestyle and figure out where you can cut corners or add a side income in order to make this goal a reality. We do need money to live, but I firmly believe we can live with much less than we have been conditioned to believe in our society if we get our priorities in the right place. There are scores of work-from-home online jobs available, network marketing jobs available, tutoring children in China jobs available, and cottage industries that could be considered for someone wanting to stay home with her children. Again, where there is a will, there is a way, especially when God is the one making a way!


In closing, I would like to share a few more thoughts.

As passionate as I am about homeschooling and as convinced as I am that this is the right choice for our family, I recognize that it is not a "guarantee" that our children will turn out as Godly people who love the Lord and live for Him. There are no guarantees for that kind of result in life! It is the work of the Holy Spirit to draw people to Himself and the power of the Word of God that brings conviction. However, I do believe that it is my job to be faithful to train them in the knowledge of this Word and in the nurture and admonition of the Lord alongside my husband, trusting God with the results, and we see homeschooling as the best way in which to do that.

I also want all my teacher friends to know that I greatly respect you for the work you do investing in the lives of children and teenagers in schools throughout our country! I realize that not all families can or do homeschool for various reasons, and I am thankful for people like you who are there to pour into their lives! Your work is valuable and appreciated.

Lastly, I want you to know that I realize articles like this can generate praise or criticism, and mine will likely generate both. Your comments are welcome, but I do not wish to spark debate or create dissension, especially within the Body of Christ. There is room for a variety or opinions and convictions on this matter of education. I do not write to please people on one side of the fence or the other, but in accordance with my stated objectives above...ultimately seeking to please Christ.

He has entrusted our precious children to our care and keeping and we are seeking to do the best job of raising them that we can. They will not be perfect. They will make mistakes, as will Nathan and I. We are simply striving to walk this journey of life with as much grace as possible and inviting you to do the same alongside of us - no matter what choices you believe to be best for your own children!

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,

So are the children of one’s youth.

Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;

They shall not be ashamed,

But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5