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?
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 and to be the primary influence in their lives. We wanted our family relationships to be close and create a home that was comfortable and comforting, a refuge from the world. We wished for them 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 and his siblings, 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. These were the children that God gave to us, and we didn’t want to give them away. 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.
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 it was having on our family life and in the lives of our individual children. It was exciting. 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 go 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 and the way that 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 and maybe some fear and trepidation too. I understand. I was there all those years ago. I pray that the Lord gently leads you and helps you discern what decision you need to make 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 onto our children, to teach them to be followers of Jesus. We don’t want to simply teach them a set of beliefs, but we want them to have their own life with God.
How did Jesus go about the training of the twelve? He spent time with them, lots of time. He taught them how to pray, serve, and reach the lost. He instructed them in doctrine, in practice, and 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.
- Foster 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.
As a parent and teacher you are able to lovingly maintain authority and to remain the primary influence in your children’s lives. This helps your children feel secure, loved, and nurtured.
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, how to be a good example, and responsibility and teaches them important childcare skills as well. The younger children of course benefit 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,
but part of the beauty of spending a lot of time together as a family is that it keeps any underlying core issues that have to be dealt with in the forefront. You are less likely to sweep problems under the rug. These unresolved differences can break down healthy relationship over time. As a homeschooling 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 listening and getting her school work done one day. This was uncharacteristic of her, so I asked her if something was wrong. She explained that one of her brothers had said something that hurt her feelings earlier that morning. I was able to help them talk through their differences, and encourage them to love and forgive one another. Homeschooling gives us lots of practice in conflict resolution and to learn what it takes to foster healthy relationships.
- Create Meaningful Family Memories
I love to sit around with my almost grown kids and talk about fond family memories. So many of our happy 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 necessarily. 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 the 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.
- Guard 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 root system of beliefs and have acquired the ability to be critical thinkers 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.
- Formative for Parents
When I first began homeschooling, I thought it was entirely about the children. It wasn’t long before I learned, that it wasn’t only about the children; it was about me and my husband too.
When you want to disciple or teach a person, you quickly realize that you can’t impart something that 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, who we brought into the world and love more than we love our own life. Homeschooling has forced us to our knees in prayer many times. We are thankful for the homeschooling 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 stay home to educate 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.
- Customizable Education
Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to completely custom make an education for each of your children. Students have different learning styles and strengths and weaknesses in various subjects. All of these factors can be taken into account when making curriculum choices.
For some students, the over stimulation of large classes, the constant stopping and starting and bells ringing, and the navigating of the social environment can be detractors from education. Maybe one of your students learns best in a quiet and calm atmosphere, or maybe one enjoys going deeper when studying science and doesn’t want to be interrupted, or maybe one is so sociable that they are too 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 students.
For the social child you can find outside activities or join a local homeschool group to help meet their need for interaction with others. By homeschooling, the more introverted child can get the alone time they need to feel energized and balanced.
Customizing an education can be particularly wonderful in the teen years when your student’s natural interests and passions emerge. My oldest loves current events, debate, and politics. I was able to incorporate into his academic plan, time to volunteer for political organizations and time to participate in a speech and debate league, planning his assignments, making sure he had space to do research and to write his cases for tournaments. My daughter loves writing and art. For her I have chosen curriculum that requires a lot of writing, as she wishes to improve her composition skills to one day become a published author. I have also arranged for her to have private art instruction as part of her school 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. Having access to his piano throughout the day gives him needed breaks and helps him feel refreshed 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 and write it down. I love to see their true selves emerging and 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.
- Control of Schedule
When my oldest son went to the local Christian school for 1st grade I was overwhelmed with the amount of paper announcements that came home on a regular basis from the school and/or teacher. There was always some additional event, meeting, fundraiser, or conference to attend. Saying “no” didn’t always feel like an option. Between the church and school calendar we were constantly running.
I remember when we began homeschooling, one of the things that I noticed almost immediately was how in control of our schedule I suddenly felt. I chose the activities we participated in with our homeschooling community and there was perfect freedom to say no when I needed to. Also, the church realized that as a homeschooler my main priority was to focus at home, so there was more understanding when I couldn’t volunteer as much.
Essentially, homeschooling caused me to become very intentional about our commitments, knowing that I had to leave enough unscheduled time in our week to accomplish the task of homeschooling. For me, instead of feeling over booked with taking on such an important endeavor such as homeschooling, I actually felt the opposite. It 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.
Also, since my children were not in a traditional school we were able to participate in meaningful opportunities that we would not have been able to take advantage of otherwise, like lobby day at the state house, or visiting elderly housing to sing songs and deliver cookies in the middle of the day, or a random beach day when the weather was nice and we decided to take our lessons outside, or ministry road trips with my husband. Having complete control of my family’s schedule has been one of the incredible freedoms that homeschooling has afforded us.
- A Proven Method
Homeschool statistics are favorable with students typically scoring 15-30% higher on standardized tests than their public school peers. These scores don’t fluctuate with the educational and/or income levels of the homeschooling parents either. Not surprisingly, homeschooled students also perform better on the popular College Board SAT and ACT tests and as a result many colleges are now actively recruiting homeschooled students (Ray).
Not only are homeschooled students doing well academically, but it appears that they are above average when it comes to social, emotional, and psychological development as well. This makes sense to me. Without having to navigate at too young an age negative peer influences, or emotionally damaging bullying so characteristic of the traditional school experience, homeschooling parents are able to socialize their children in a healthy way, providing them various opportunities to interact with a wide range of ages and giving them the chance to connect with people in the community as they serve or participate in different social and educational contexts (Ray).
We now have access to research compiled on adults, who received a home education. They tend to participate in community service, vote, attend public meetings, and succeed in college more so than the general population. Additionally, and most importantly, homeschooled students remain in the faith at a higher rate than that of their peers who attended public or private school (Ray).
Many of our founding fathers, presidents, and American greats were homeschooled or self-taught, and did not have much formal schooling. Among them, George and Martha Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, and many more.
- More Opportunity for Real Life Experience
Homeschooling exposes children to real life. When a child is homeschooled they have more opportunity to watch their parents run the household and 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.
In addition to their school work I have always given my children regular chores around the house that have to be completed 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 week. Homeschooling gives them lots of time to practice these domestic duties.
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 your goals you have to make a plan and implement it. I post our calendar on a bulletin board and I write weekly events or to do lists on a whiteboard hanging in our kitchen. As they see me model how to manage responsibilities and how to be productive and efficient, they are internalizing these skills. Observation over time is an effective teacher.
Homeschooling 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, collecting signatures for a petition on an important political issue, or visiting the nursing home down the street in the middle of the day to cheer up the residents, these real life experiences are a vital part of their education and assist in the formation of their characters, teaching them to become responsible, empathetic, and capable adults.
Additionally, if a student has a specific interest in a particular vocation or wants to acquire a certain skill, homeschooling can make it possible for them to do an apprenticeship or internship, gaining valuable experience related to their pursuits.
- 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. This can create a very frustrating experience for all involved. 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 and choose curriculum that fits their child’s learning style. Homeschooling students receive more one on one instruction and attention, without 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 with a struggling learner in the public school is that they felt like they had to always fight for what their child needed. Homeschooling eliminates the fight with school officials.
A healthy diet and regular exercise can have a positive effect on struggling learners. Having your child at home with you will give you more control over their diet.
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 special needs 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 special needs student is not easy, but there are a wealth of resources available to help.
Someone once told me that homeschooling is parenting on steroids. That is kind of true. Parents who don’t homeschool can accomplish some of what has been listed above, but home education offers a unique freedom to the family, giving them the necessary time and space needed to accomplish a quality education in a way that other methods of education cannot deliver.
We have been conditioned to believe that we must turn our children over to the “experts” for education, but 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. Anything worthwhile is hardly ever easy.
After we had finished our first year of homeschooling, we weren’t sure if we should continue. It had gone well and we had a good year, but we were feeling the financial pressure of living on one income, so I began interviewing for jobs. In the meantime, I had already purchased tickets for our state homeschooling convention that spring, which just happened to be held in the city where we lived. Even though we might not be homeschooling the following year, I thought I would still attend since it was local and I knew I could take away something valuable from the speaker sessions regarding parenting and the discipleship of children.
Over the course of the convention, I began to feel more and more grieved at the thought of abandoning homeschooling after just one year. I was really wrestling, feeling very conflicted about what to do. It was the last day of the convention and as I was getting ready to leave to go home, I made my way to the large set of stairs down to the ground level of the convention center where I could exit the building. As I turned the corner toward the stairs, I stopped. The stairs were full of a couple of hundred homeschool high school students wearing caps and gowns, getting ready to participate in the graduation ceremony. They were arranging themselves for a group picture to mark the momentous occasion. I paused and looked at the students. They were smiling and laughing and having a great time with their friends. It made me smile. Then I looked down below to the large group of parents with their cameras ready to capture this moment and they were smiling and laughing too. I began to cry.
Behind the smiles and the laughter of those precious parents, I knew in my heart that they were oh so very glad that they had decided to homeschool all those years ago and had endured to the end. Somehow as a young mother I knew in that moment that they had overcome many difficulties through the years, that they had persevered through tired days, bad attitudes, and Monday mornings when they just didn’t feel like it. They had sacrificed much, labored with much effort, and had lived frugally to be able to stay home to educate 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. God put in me that day the determination to continue. I went home and shared my experience with my husband and he agreed that we should keep homeschooling.
In just a few short months, we will be those parents standing at the bottom of the stairs, lovingly looking at our eldest son, our first home school graduate. I can’t believe we are here at this moment. We are rejoicing at what the Lord has done and are so thankful that all those years ago we gave homeschooling a try!
Ray Ph.D., Brian D. “Research Facts on Homeschooling”. National Home Education Research Institute. 2 Nov. 2018.