What Homeschooling Taught Us

When I was first married – almost twenty years ago – we lived down the street from a homeschooling family. My husband and I had no experience with homeschooling, thought it was a crazy thing to do, and did not understand why anyone would choose to homeschool. Sometimes while I was working in the yard, the 12-year-old homeschooled neighbor would walk by and he would actually stop and talk to me. I thought this was completely strange and it convinced me that homeschooling was a very BAD idea. After all, what normal 12-year-old voluntarily stops to talk with ADULTS?

I never thought I would be a teacher. My business degree in Management Information Systems did NOT cover classroom management. Teaching Vacation Bible School gave me PTSD. Computers are more my style; I love logical.

But, God has a sense of humor. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, He had planned for me to teach my kids. In His grace, He gave me the desire and drive to do it with all my heart, and I have loved teaching my children.

Early in the summer after my daughter’s kindergarten year, I sat down next to her with hand-me-down Hooked on Phonics kit. My goal was to help her learn to read, or at least to move her toward that goal and to prepare her for first grade. The results surprised me. I couldn’t believe that she was learning to read with ME teaching her. Most of the time, it was actually fun.

One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, I was mailing my county a Notice of Intent to Homeschool. Just like that, I had a new job.

Since that day, has every day been wonderful, filled with laughter and joyful learning? Absolutely not. As with every other endeavor, there are smooth, happy days, and there are bumpy, bad days. And some days have gotten downright ugly.

The Good about Homeschooling

  • God used my homeschooling experiences to redeem my own education and to grow me as a person. I have learned more in the past 9 years than I ever forgot in high school and college. Sometimes I wonder if God wanted me to homeschool more for my kids’ benefit or mine.
  • There are some AMAZING curricula out there. We have used various resources over the years, as I tend to get bored with the same books and want to change things up after a while. But the one thing we have done consistently from the beginning is Classical Conversations (CC). I LOVE, LOVE their curriculum and am humbly in awe that I have been able to give my kids such a strong foundational education. I don’t know Leigh Bortins (CC’s creator) personally, and she has no idea who I am, but she has changed my life and my children’s lives in ways that I will be eternally grateful. As a caveat, I will say that CC doesn’t always make decisions with which I am happy. But, God put this passion and burden for education on Leigh’s heart and she – along with her fabulous team – have knocked it out of the park.
  • Homeschooling has allowed our family flexibility in our schedule and enjoyment of some fantastic family experiences together. We have taken many fun field trips and experienced “off season” vacations.
  • I love that while I was writing this post, I was able to play a quick game of Ping-Pong with my son during his morning break. He gets recess too!
  • The homeschooled students I know are willing to happily interact with people of all ages – children and adults. They don’t look down their noses at children younger than themselves because they’re in a lower “grade”. In real life, we relate with people of all ages and homeschooling helps kids adjust to this reality.
  • Homeschooled students spend more time with adults, which I now understand is a huge benefit. This gives them more exposure to ideas and values that adults have. After all, the goal is that they would mature and grow to be responsible adults, not the average 4th grader.
  • There is nothing better than seeing my children reading and knowing that I taught them. I feel truly privileged to have been their teacher. They learned on our couch while I sat next to them and encouraged them. My kids never knew how it felt to have to go to the “lower” reading group, and they never had to feel that they didn’t measure up in those tender years. They learned at their unique pace that worked for them.
  • Our decision to homeschool was not prompted by religious reasons. However, my eyes have been opened to the importance and value of homeschooling in the spiritual life of our family. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew. 16:26) If our purpose in raising children is to raise them up for His glory, then we should be actively teaching them about Him all the time, not just in Sunday School. Homeschooling gives parents a unique opportunity to demonstrate, model, and teach our values to our kids as we go about our daily lives.
  • The very best thing about homeschooling is the relationships that are built. Homeschooling is really all about the relationships with your kids. I will NEVER regret any of the time and energy that I spent pouring into them, even when it was hard. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity. No matter where life takes us, we’ll always have those memories together.

The Bad about Homeschooling

  • Being with your kids all of the time is like being with your kids ALL. THE. TIME. Several friends had to write me off, as I just couldn’t find the time to get together. Some personal priorities had to be put on hold. However, I have to say that I have met some of my best friends through our homeschooling connections, and there are lots of opportunities to make social connections with other adults if you make the effort. But there were definitely days when I longed to go pick up a latte and do some shopping by myself!
  • Yes, homeschooling is work. It’s a job that you do from your house and that you never really leave. But sending your kids to school is work as well. There is the paperwork, administration, transportation, and volunteer obligations, not to mention dealing with the drama and emotional baggage that comes from putting 20+ children of the same age together for hours everyday.
  • I spent too much time worrying. I worried that I wasn’t using the right curriculum, that my kids weren’t getting what they needed, that I wasn’t doing a good enough job. Finally, I had to just do my best and leave God in charge of the results. Perhaps resting in Him was the most valuable lesson I’ve learned. Homeschooling is the most challenging, most rewarding thing I have every attempted. It requires patience, perseverance, and most importantly, a full reliance on God.

The Ugly about Homeschooling

  • All of that togetherness meant that my kids and I learned how to push each other’s buttons. Sometimes these moments bring out the worst in us. They brought out the worst in me. God used it to teach me patience and help me to deal with my anger. He’s not done with me yet, but I have definitely grown as a person. This can be a truly ugly process.
  • Homeschooling forced me to see my impatience, selfishness, and anger for what it is – sin. I was faced with admitting my weakness so that I could rest in God’s strength, not my own. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It is hard to face the fact that we are weak and see the ugliness inside ourselves. But when we admit it, it is so incredibly freeing.

Final Thoughts

If you are considering homeschooling your kids, here are a few closing thoughts.

I am a curriculum junkie and I do love our Classical Conversations community. These things make a sizable dent in our budget. However, I am also a firm believer that a mom with only two things – love and a worn-out library card – can be the very best teacher for a child. Don’t let resources stop you from jumping in.

I don’t believe that God calls everyone to homeschool their children. Homeschooling is not the Gospel. You will meet people who confuse the two, but you have to make your choice based on your family’s situation. If God isn’t calling you to homeschool, DON’T DO IT! You and your child(ren) will be miserable. If God calls you to do it, just do it. Don’t tell yourself that you don’t have the patience, the skills, the money, or the time and definitely don’t listen to the naysayers. He will provide all that you need, if you walk in faith.

For everything there is a season.  Just because you decide to homeschool your third-grader doesn’t mean that you will be spending every moment of every day teaching them until they are 18.  Children grow and change and their needs grow and change.  I’ve learned to hold these things lightly and take our schooling decisions year by year.

A wise friend once said to me that we should hold up homeschooling as the beautiful and excellent thing that it is. I pray that is what I have done here.

Next week, I’ll post about the next phase of our educational adventures, our experiences with transitioning to private schooling. And, I will explain why I called myself a Homeschool Quitter.