Today is a big day for us. I sent in my Letter of Intent to educate my child at home. It’s official. The government is aware that my son's education is in my hands. I'm a bit nervous, but mostly thrilled to the core. I've been considering myself a homeschool mom since my son was born (all of life is education!) but now that it's official, I've literally seen a lifelong dream fulfilled.
I don’t want to participate in the Mommy Wars, I support my friends who send their kids to school, and some parents might feel guilty, jealous, disheartened, or judgmental about this topic. I don't want to stir up any of those feelings in anyone. However, some people haven't been exposed to homeschool much, or they haven't really weighed the benefits. I'm surprised by how many random people in public ask me about homeschooling, as if we are some exotic species. I'm so glad to talk to them about why we choose this way of life. In case you haven’t considered your options, here are some reasons I’m so stoked about homeschooling:
-Our learning is useful. My kids are learning to cook, start businesses, tend gardens, etc. They are getting ready for life, not just college. Isn't it strange that we spend 14 years of our lives preparing for 4 years of "higher education" that likely won’t even help us attain our future careers or equip us with necessary life skills? Why don’t we learn about things such as food safety, mutual fund investments, and interpersonal communication? Tests, quizzes and homework aren’t how the world operates. Separating the disciplines into disconnected subjects (history, science, math, art, etc.) is unnatural and can stifle innovative thinking. Even then, not all these areas are being explored in schools; my friend is a fifth grade teacher and she said they’re only given five minutes each day for teaching history, and some teachers skip science altogether! What in the world!?
-I can personalize our education to meet my kids where they are. For example, my son is brilliant with abstract concepts, but concrete ideas (like phonics or counting to 100) take more time. For this reason I’m pretty sure he would’ve been held back if I put him in school, and that would’ve made him feel like he’s not smart. He's way too smart; that's the problem. He just needs to learn in a different way than his sister does. And that’s okay. Our curriculum, my expectations of them...everything is customizable. My kids don’t have to feel smarter or dumber than anyone else, because they understand that God makes everyone different.
-Learning is fun. It has to be fun! If my kids are curious and inquisitive, they will choose to learn on their own. I adore this quote: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." I want to light the fire that sets their hearts and minds ablaze for knowledge and wisdom. Love of learning, for the enjoyment of God and the good of others, is my #1 goal in educating my kids. If they love to learn, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish and how they can bless the world. It’s good to teach them self-discipline, training them to do things they don’t feel like doing, but it’s surely fruitful for them to learn that primarily through manual labor (aka chores) rather than hours of homework, right?
-We have so much freedom for field trips. We just went on a six-week road trip, and we try to visit as many museums as we can. (Most of them are free thanks to the reciprocal benefits on my membership to a local museum.) Interactive learning sticks so much better than book work. We actually do more formal school during the summer here in Florida because it's so hot! In the wintertime, the outdoors is our main textbook!
-I can school year-round and take frequent breaks (planned and unplanned) so our formal studies are always fresh and we don’t get thrown off track if someone gets sick or we need to focus on something else. Our daily schedule is laidback and free of commitments so we have margin for relationships.
-My kids get enough sleep each night. They wake up when their bodies tell them to wake up. I make a big breakfast most mornings and we don’t have to feel guilty about staying up late on school nights. Our mornings are still a little hectic (because we have so many little kids in our home!) but they are unrushed and sweet as chocolate chip pancakes. :)
-We have freedom to serve. Currently we are in a season where our efforts are focused on taking care of the baby and being a strong support to some family members going through hard times, but I have big plans (and I’ve seen some great examples) of ways we can serve outside our home in the future (nursing homes, hospitals, etc.)
-My kids are developing their personalities and vocabularies from mature adults who love them, not primarily from other kids who constantly reenact what they see on TV. They trust us and open up to us. They are best friends with each other. They value all generations and walks of life. Somehow they still might manage to see a silly commercial on Youtube and six months later I'll hear one of them say "Oh. My. Gosh. Look at her butt." (True story.) But they're not spending their time talking about Transformers or boyfriends.
-I need the extra time to care for my kids' hearts! They are not made of sugar and spice and everything nice. They need lots and lots of direction and encouragement. No one is better suited for this task than the two people who know them better than anyone.
-My husband was homeschooled, and it’s amazing how much we can trace his success (in character, in business, in everything) to the flexibility homeschooling gave him. I, on the other hand, went to the best private schools in the area and got good grades, but it took up so much time, I was distracted by social insecurities, and I had to be so focused on finishing homework and passing tests that—aside from some classes with absolutely stellar teachers—I retained very little knowledge. While many homeschoolers have had bad experiences and public- or private-schoolers had good experiences, our own experiences (and those of our peers) certainly help weigh our considerations.
-Our kids are free to be curious.Mass-education settings, unfortunately, must stifle curiosity. (Admittedly this happens on some level even in our family of four kids.) If a child is intrigued by how lightning works, for example, in school he might not be able to go too far past that paragraph in his textbook and as much time as his teacher has to answer a follow-up question. But in homeschool, we can (and we have) stopped to say “we will focus on this today” and watched YouTube videos, created LEGO dioramas and enacted lightning with pieces of string, consulted multiple books on the topic, and even discussed the scriptures that talk about how God is sovereign over storms and lightning and thunder proceed from His throne.
-I truly enjoy it! Homeschooling isn't for everyone (but I do think more people should consider it), but this is a dream that I've had my whole life. I get to balance creativity and intellect and try to cultivate so many beautiful things in my kids. I have time for tea parties, back scratching, watercoloring, and tree identifying. We are free to bear the burdens of others, to make things for strangers and friends, to pray and weep for loved ones.
I hope that was encouraging! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today