I get asked almost on a daily basis why we homeschool our kids, and you know, most of the time, people are surprised with my responses. It seems that most people think we homeschool because we want our children to only learn about a Christian worldview or because we want to shelter them from nearly everything or because we have some kind of religious view against school systems. When in reality, we have many, many reasons we homeschool, not just one, and none of these reasons are what people tend to expect. It’s pretty difficult to remember and to list all of our reasons, since there are so many, and each day it seems I come up with another one, but, since there are so many questions that come at me about our choice to homeschool, I thought maybe I should try to explain a bit here. We really have three reasons that always seem to come to the top of the stack for homeschooling, and here they are:
- Hours in the day. Goodness gracious. These kids are pretty amazing, and I love being around them, and I believe that they gain much from spending most of their time with their family, specifically with the parents who are hoping to guide them as they grow into their individual self and to master the gifts they were given. And you know, my kids are young. They go to bed at seven, and not because I make them, but because they don’t nap, and they are done at seven, and so we like the idea that we spend more than several waking hours together a day. And don’t get me wrong, my kids are not locked in the house all day, never seeing anyone outside their immediate family. No, we are a part of a large homeschool group that meets for a day of school each week, the kids are in dance lessons, violin lessons, piano and art lessons, and we go to parks, museums, the library, and even to a local coffee shop as part of their educational plan each week. And when it comes to hours in the day, it isn’t just about what the kids are doing, but what they aren’t doing. By having an individualized school day, the kids can work through lessons efficiently. There’s little time spent waiting, bathroom breaking, being quiet while others are disciplined, or sitting around while others are finishing up work. Of course, with our growing family, there is always going to be some waiting for turns, but not on the scale found in a school. And I’m not saying waiting is bad for kids; waiting is a part of life. I’m just saying, that it is kind of nice to not have to work on school work for 7 hours a day, since the time it would take for lunch, recess, waiting, and moving between classes is not such an issue at home. We love having more time for extra-curricular activities, too. As someone who has worked in the field of the arts, I have to say that I value their music lessons just as much as their math lessons. (Hours in the day is one of my top three reasons, but for my husband, this is definitely reason number one).
- Academics. I am passionate about challenging my children and packing them with as much knowledge and skill as their little minds can happily handle, which is a great deal. I have high standards for the education of my kids, and I really do believe that their young minds are capable of learning high level facts, operations, and grasping the wealth of wisdom and inspiration to be found in so-called upper level literature, art, science, geography, history, and mathematics. We do have fun around here, baking and creating and coloring, but for the most part, most of our time is spent memorizing and listening, reading and sharing, and not so much on following the same directions on worksheets over and over again, or on crafts that are designed by someone else and ready to be put together, and definitely not on testing and box checking. It’s exciting to see a five year old talk about Joan of Arc and the parts of speech and the different types of stars. Goodness, what is she going to be talking about during her lessons when she’s twelve? That’s an exciting thought.
- Traveling Family. I grew up in a family that loved to travel. I was blessed with parents who thought it was important, beneficial, and fun to see the world, and to teach their children about the places visited. I am a history nerd, and when I think back to the times I learned the most about history, many of those times were spent at Williamsburg, in Colorado, in the Natural History Museum, at Yellowstone, and all sorts of other places far from home. My parents encouraged questions, and made sure our souvenirs were educational. I loved a book on first ladies purchased at Gettysburg, and read it so often as a child, studying the pictures and dates. I don’t think the book would have been as special to me as a little girl, if it has been purchased through a catalog. There’s something about being in the place where the event happened that really brings history to life for a child, and of course, this concept doesn’t just go for history, but for all subjects. I never liked science all that much, but most of what I learned and held on to, I learned from hands on museums and planetariums. We have the freedom with homeschooling to just pick up and go somewhere if there is something we want to see that corresponds with our learning, and our kids won’t be missing a beat, because we shape things around what we want to do. Our school comes with us. And having the freedom to travel as a family also makes for stronger sibling bonds. My brother and I were not always the sweetest of friends as kids, but on trips, we found a way to work together and get along, and I want that for my kids. I want them to learn to share the backseat, to share their souvenir money, and to share their school projects.
So there they are: our biggest, clearest reasons to homeschool out of a sea of a million little reasons. But most people I know who homeschool would have a different list entirely. I’m in a world full of homeschooling families at this point in my life, and it is so cool to me how everyone has a different story, a different purpose, and a different inspiration. We’re all just trying to be great parents, and we all believe that teaching is a part of parenting and that you can’t separate the two, because whether mothers and fathers claim it or not, we are our children’s teachers. They do learn from us, good or bad. And that looks like something very different from family to family.
Before wrapping this up, I wanted to include some other voices, some other reasons. I’ve asked some friends to contribute to this post and have a few responses from fellow homeschooling moms included below. I hope this helps to show why some of us do what we do. And if you have another reason for homeschooling, then please share it in a comment if you’d like. Let’s take away some of the mystery that seems to be out there. And thank you to my friends for their responses. If you have the time, please read on to see what some great homeschooling mothers have to say.
“It gave me the opportunity to cater to my child’s strengths and weaknesses. To allow my child to go at their own pace. Some subjects or concepts may have required a bit more time for my child to grasp where in a classroom full of kids they must move on. And allows my child to move at a much quicker pace on subjects or concepts that they grasp quickly while not having to wait on a classroom full of kids to catch up. It also allowed my family to form lasting relationships with each other and in this fast pace world those are the relationships that count. Mostly it allows me the privilege of choosing my child’s curriculum and peers. That is one of the things I valued most about homeschooling. There were times we changed curriculum midway. Not because of content, but because the style of teaching or format was just dragging my child down, and changing curriculum brought us a welcome relief. ”
“We homeschool for a variety of reasons. God gave me these children to raise. Deuteronomy 11 says “18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” I have more time with my children while they are young to teach them God’s Word and prepare them for life in the world. We pray each year about whether to homeschool and God impresses it on our hearts to continue this journey. There will come a day when my children would rather be with their friends than their parents. While they actually want to be with us I feel like we should spend the time with them. Our boys are three years apart which means they would be in separate schools/classrooms and have separate lives and friends. They’re brothers and friends. They fight but they also love one another fiercely and have a great time playing together. The time they have at home together is so precious.
Our first son stayed home with me until he was four. I’d received a lot of pressure from our friends and family to put him in school so we gave it a try for VPK. There were some positives but mainly it confirmed our suspicions, our son would learn best at home. He was miserable in school and I knew more school would make him hate learning. We’re able to tailor the education of our son to his unique academic needs. If he’s flying through math then we let him. He needs more help with writing and spelling so we carefully and gently develop those skills. He’s an auditory learner so I can read story after story and he just soaks up the information. His little brother is an auditory learner as well (what a blessing) so at three he’s spelling like a kindergartner. He just listens to older brother’s lessons and soaks up bits and pieces. We learn division through cooking and experience world geography through food. I choose the most meaningful activities that will teach/reinforce skills the most efficiently. I don’t particularly cherish the drama associated with dragging two children out the door early every morning for school. There’s a lot of rushing around and stress. If we have a sick day we just make up the work later or snuggle on the couch with our school books. School fits our lives instead of our lives fitting school.
The final reason we homeschool is so our children will be well socialized. I know most people are so worried that homeschoolers will turn into weird hermits but I argue that there is nothing natural about putting a group of children the exact same age together. Seven year old boys think bodily functions are the funniest thing in the world. I don’t see how spending all day with a roomful of kids who think that way is quality socialization. Well socialized children should be able to talk to adults and children, make eye contact, and make new acquaintances. Homeschool field trips have taught my shy son to make new friends. He rarely sees the same children each time we go somewhere so he has learned to get acquainted with whomever is there and find a common interest. He still has his best friends over for playdates and we have a regular group at Lego club, Bible study, Awana, and Sunday school so he has to learn to function in a group but what I love about several of those groups is that they are multi-age. Two of his more recent “new friends” are three years older than him. The one room school house has merit – the older children look out for the younger ones which teaches leadership and the younger ones see empathy and patience modeled and learn to be nurturers themselves. I would say that out of my 30 closest friends, only four are my age. The majority are older and several are younger. That is the real world and that is what I am preparing my children for.”
“Where to start! There is so much I could say about homeschooling. I have NOT always known I would homeschool. It was only recently that I really began to know how important the freedom to homeschool my children was to me. I am realizing that I have already taught them so much before we even started “school” formally. In fact, I teach them every day. My choice to homeschool is just a decision to be intentional about it and the result of a question to myself…. Who will ever have my child’s best interest more at heart than I will? As we approach one of our most important milestones….. learning to read….. I am so amazed that “teaching” really is as simple as talking and practicing and exploring with my child every day. Working with them makes me proud of my children and gives me confidence in the innate ability I have as a parent to learn my child’s abilities and learning styles. I certainly don’t take educating my children lightly and it is certainly not always easy but I hope to teach my children things I never learned in school and open the world to them because they are the most important parts of my life.”
– Quote from a friend