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!
A couple years ago, I tried to keep a “gratitude journal” of something I was thankful for each day. After the first week, I was surprised to find that two whole entries (including the first one) were related to my dad spending quality time with me. Those dates to Golden Corral when I was in high school and those modern-day prolonged chats that we occasionally enjoy today have had such a lasting impact on me that they were at the forefront of my mind when I thought about my blessings. I talk a lot about the important role of motherhood, but fatherhood is an extremely high calling as well, and my dad has taken it seriously. Here are some things I love about him. (I wrote a tribute to my mom last year; click here to read it!)
I love how he has always had a sweet tooth. He’s the only person I know who checks the dates on Reese’s cups at Walmart to try to find the freshest in the store…or who has paid extra to get Reese’s cups shipped straight from the factory so they arrive only 72 hours old. He always has candy, he’s always offering candy, and the time he “quit sugar” still meant he had a little bit of candy after each meal. He knows how to savor a good donut, and he can spend twenty minutes telling me about how great that donut was…and I’m captivated the whole time.
That brings me to another thing I love about my dad: he’s an incredible storyteller. His stories are almost always about mundane things, like something interesting he saw at the mall or a cute experience he had with one of the kids. He has some extraordinary stories too, like when he rode his bike over an alligator’s neck and it snapped at him. He also makes up completely goofy fictional stories, which I enjoyed as a kid and my kids enjoy today.
I love how my dad garners deep respect from anyone who really knows him. When I go to bike races, I love telling anyone I meet in the biking community that “I’m Gary’s daughter.” (I feel a little embarrassed saying this, of course, because I literally have the biking skills of my 6-year-old son. On my best days.) Anytime I meet someone who knows him, they say, “Oh, Gary, he’s my man! I love that guy!” A good reputation is better than riches.
I love how he loves to tease. Once, when I had my learner’s permit, he offered me two dollars to not drive us to church on a particular morning. He still teasingly repeats regrettable things my brother and I have said. It makes us feel special that he listens and remembers. His teasing has never been mean-spirited or made me feel truly embarrassed. I just feel loved.
I love that my dad was so involved in the match-making of Peter and me. He wasn’t the shotgun-yielding, don’t-even-look-at-my-precious-girl type dad. He just always wanted me to be in a good relationship. He knew I was slightly obsessed with Peter, he suspected there were some reciprocated feelings, and when he heard Peter and I singing along to Christian hip-hop together he knew that we were a good pair. So he craftily made sure Peter was able to get to know me in the context of our family…and, well, now we’re happily married with a small army of kids. My dad never said “I’m going to facilitate a courtship” or anything like that; he just helped my husband and I fall in love. And he’s always offered me support as we’ve made all kinds of unpopular decisions (such as the aforementioned army of kids), and that’s been huge.
I love how he’s smart. He didn’t need college to figure out how to be a successful businessman and entrepreneur. He worked hard, but more importantly, he worked smart. He’s helped Peter and I tremendously as we try to figure out wise ways to deal with money, and I’m so grateful he taught us about the important stuff like life insurance, a Roth IRA, and, most of all, generosity.
I love how he loves my mom. He treats her with a great deal of thoughtfulness and respect, and he just makes it really clear that he treasures her, finds her beautiful, and wants to spend time with her. (She’s super awesome, so, I mean, it makes sense.) They go to the movies together to watch the latest kids flick, which is weird, but also great.
I love how he cares deeply about our family having a culture of togetherness and love. This comes from our West Virginia/Kentucky heritage for sure. Family is an extremely high value, and whatever we can do to glue our family together is priority. I have so many fond memories of him winning me stuffed animals at Busch Gardens, or of waking up early and watching TV together while it was still dark. Once he even got up at 4:30 am to take me to a Krispy Kreme grand opening because I wanted to be on the news (it didn’t work.) The security I’ve felt in my dad’s love for me has helped me have a really healthy self-esteem that I’ve always resolved I wanted my daughters to find in their dad too.
I guess I didn’t notice how much I love my dad and admire so many of his qualities until I realized I married a man who has so many of those same qualities too. Really, these are some characteristics of Jesus as well: childlikeness, humility, wisdom, generosity, affection…there are many ways that my dad shows me the who Jesus is, and I admire him lots and lots for it.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today