Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why and When We Decided to Homeschool

Different families homeschool for different reasons. Some may start out in public school, then decide to homeschool later because of problems with bullying, education, or the school's administration (or a combination thereof). Some may live in a particularly bad school district and choose homeschooling as a way to give their children a better education. 

Many choose to homeschool to give their children a strong, biblical foundation that otherwise would be lacking in their education. Some feel "called" to homeschool and simply feel that this is something that God is leading them to do. 

While there is no one "right" reason to homeschool, I do think that there are some wrong ones. The first "wrong" reason is fear. Afraid of what might happen in public school. Afraid of what kinds of friends and influences your child might choose to hang around. Afraid of your child being bullied. Fear, fear, fear. If fear is your main motivation, you will miss out on many of the richer moments and joys of homeschooling. (On the flip side, fear is also a bad reason to not homeschool, and is a main reason many people have given me for why they don't homeschool: "I could never do that! I just don't think I'd make a good teacher/have the patience/be able to handle it.") In relation to fear as a reason to homeschool, I highly recommend a blog post by simplehomeschool.net called The Worst Reason to Homeschool

Another bad reason to homeschool is to "save money." Parents who homeschool to save money are unhappy with the public school system but cannot afford private school. These parents see homeschooling as the cheaper choice. When "saving money" is the main motivation, the quality of the child's education usually suffers, and they too tend to miss out on the major benefits that homeschooling has to offer.

We personally have many reasons for homeschooling. We are one of those families who feel "called" to homeschool our kids. My husband and I made the decision when the twins (now 6), were very young. I can't remember how it happened exactly, but somehow the topic of their education came up. I had always leaned toward homeschooling, but my husband and I had never talked about it before, and he didn't know my feelings on the issue. When the issue of their education was brought up, my husband mentioned homeschooling, and from that point on it just became understood that that was what we were doing. Decision making with my husband and I, especially at that point in our marriage, could sometimes take an extremely long time. Where to go for dinner? What movie to watch? You would think those were life-changing decisions as much time as they took. Those decisions took forever. Yet when deciding to homeschool I don't think the entire conversation was more than a few sentences long. It's just something we both felt called to do. I love it when God guides us in unity!

So, other than being called, here are 10 other reasons and benefits of choosing to homeschool:

  1. Homeschooling gives you more family time. Homeschooling gives your entire family more time together, and, as a result, your entire family grows closer. This is a great and important benefit for all homeschooling families. Some families, though, especially appreciate this homeschooling perk. In families where one parent (usually Dad) works nights or another irregular schedule, the entire family would rarely be together in the house at the same time if the kids spent their days in school, and homeschooling affords them some valuable shared quality time. 
  2. Homeschooling provides more free time for your children to pursue hobbies or other interests. Homeschooling takes less time than public (or private) school. When you homeschool, no time is wasted standing in line for the water fountain, the bathroom, or the lunch line. There is no walking or hall time in between "classes." You do not have to teach the same concept to 28 different students, all with different capabilities, backgrounds, and learning styles. There is no traveling or bus time getting to and from school. In the evenings, there is no homework, because all homework has been completed during the schooling day. (Unless the "schooling day" is in the evenings, in which case the day is homework free!) All of this adds up to more free time in the life of the homeschooling family. Kids who homeschool have more time to pursue those passions that most interest them, whether it be reading, writing, woodworking, drawing, playing board games (aka more family time!), building with Legos/K'nex/Lincoln Logs, the list goes on and on. You can see examples of what happens during what one family calls "creative boredom" @ Holy Spirit Led Homeschooling. (Examples are in the post "Methods of our Holy Spirit-Led Homeschool" under "Creative Boredom.") 
  3. Homeschooling provides great flexibility. Want to take a vacation to Florida during the off-season? Go ahead. Save money and have family time while all the other neighborhood kids are in school. Because you can. Want to homeschool 2 months in the summer and take off 1 in spring and 1 in fall when the weather is gorgeous? You can do that, too. Does Dad travel a lot? You can all go, and take homeschooling with you. Homeschooling is not bound by the public school's schedule. Some families homeschool Monday through Friday keeping roughly the same hours as public school. Others run errands during the day (and avoid the crowds!) or spend time out of doors when the weather is nice and do schoolwork in the evenings. Still others may take off Wednesdays and homeschool on Saturday instead. There are several who do extra school Monday through Thursday so they can take off Fridays and have 3 day weekends every week! Any of these approaches are fine, because homeschoolers have the freedom to school on a schedule that works for them. 
  4. Homeschooling helps slow life down. Wake up, get the kids ready and off to school and then don't see them again 'til they get off the bus that afternooon (let's say, 4:15 if you're lucky). Then snack, homework, dinner, bath, bed. Add in parent/teacher meetings, sports practices/games and extracurricular activities and you have a very busy week. Every week. Filling up every minute of time makes time go by more quickly. Too quickly. Homeschooling helps with that, and this benefit relates to numbers 1 and 2 above. Because homeschooling gives you more family time and more free time, it gives you time to not only educate your children, but to enjoy them. Life goes by fast enough on its own, especially in our culture. As one blog writer puts it, "Stop the glorification of busy. Do less, be more." Homeschooling allows time for you and your children to just be, to live, and not always be moving toward the next item on the day's agenda. (Disclaimer on the mentioned blog: I haven't actually read any posts from this particular blog outside of the one post I saw on pinterest, so I can't personally recommend it or not. However, these quotes of hers work quite nicely for the point I'm trying to make. :)
  5. Homeschooling allows your children to learn within the context of real life. Life is the best teacher, and when you homeschool, learning and schooling isn't something you do, it's something you live. Public schools and other educational institutions do not have that luxury. This has benefits beyond just traditional education. Many students in this country sadly do not know basic life skills when they graduate high school, including creating and maintaining a budget, balancing a checkbook, cooking and planning meals for a household, mending clothing, and maintaining a house. Because homeschooled children are taught within the context of real life, most life skills they learn just because they are at home living life alongside you! 
  6. Homeschooling allows you to make Christ the center of every part of your child's life. When you homeschool, Christ and a biblical worldview are wrapped up in every aspect of the day, as the entire family lives and schools together daily in community. Because you are in charge of their education, everything your children learn about can be in the context of a biblical worldview, regardless of what curriculum you choose. During the course of a school day, things come up all the time that raise questions regarding our faith, and schooling at home provides a safe environment to discuss such questions. "Living" school and spending so much time together also creates lots of opportunities for what Focus on the Family calls "teachable moments." "Teachable moments" are times when situations or questions arise that allow you to speak the Word of God into your child's life and help him or her know how to not just know God's Word, but to apply it to daily living. Homeschooling allows more time for family devotions and the pursuit of God's Presence.  And these school years, especially the elementary and younger years, truly are foundational in forming your child's belief system. (According to The Barna Group, your child's moral and spiritual beliefs will be pretty much fully established by age 9.) 
  7. Homeschooled kids have an easier time relating to people of all ages. Because traditionally schooled kids are put into classes of kids the same age as them every year for 12 years, they typically tend to have a harder time relating to people of a different age. Kids who homeschool do not seem to have this same relational problem, because again, they learn within the context of real life. In life, we come into contact with people of many different ages, some young, some elderly, some middle-aged, and all ages in between. Kids who homeschool may have best friends several years older or younger than them, and they don't see it as a problem or concern. They also are more able to hold real, respectful conversations with adults and tend to see everyone as valuable and worth knowing, not just those in their age group.
  8. Homeschooled kids tend to have a strong sense of self, a good work ethic, and less sense of entitlement. This benefit is related to several of the ones before it. When families live together, play together, school together, and work (i.e. clean, cook, garden, etc.) together, all day every day, they learn what it means to live in community. Because mom (or dad) spends much of her day schooling, everyone pitches in when it comes to maintaining the household. This in itself has several benefits. When children have purpose and feel they are contributing to the family in a real way, it increases their sense of worth and allows them to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Understanding the value of contributing to the family and having an expectation of "working" at home helps to build a good work ethic. Also, kids who spend such large amounts of time living, playing, schooling, and working with their families tend to highly value family time, and they see people as more important than things, which in turn leads them to have less sense of entitlement than other kids in the neighborhood may have. (Also, for homeschooling families that give their kids a biblical foundation, knowing their true worth as a child of God is indispensable. But all of these are definitely possible for kids who are not homeschooled, too, and either way it takes deliberate effort. Homeschooling just affords more time together, making these kid qualities easier to accomplish. :)
  9. Homeschooling puts you in complete charge of your children's education. The Bible calls children a gift from God, a blessing (Psalm 127:3). A blessing that you have been entrusted with. Regardless of whether you choose to homeschool or put your children in school, you are in charge of educating them, and either way you should try to be very involved in your child's education. When you homeschool, you decide what is most important to impart to your children. Not the government, the city council, or the local school administration. You. And when (yes, when) topics come up that are tricky and against your worldview, you can talk with them about it within the context of your values and belief system, in the midst of your family and your home where it is safe to have such discussions. You can educate your kids, and no one, not even the most caring and talented teacher, has a more vested interest in your kids' success than you do.
  10. Homeschooling allows for a much lower student to teacher ratio, which provides more individual instruction, which in turn helps your kids to learn more (and better!). Before my husband and I had kids, I was a substitute teacher at a public school for a while. I remember one day I was substitute teaching for a 1st grade class (I think? around that age, anyway), and I taught them how to do a math assignment. After showing them how to do it, one of the students needed individual help, and he was asking me to please help him. I helped him as best I could in the little time we had left, but the problem was, I couldn't really help him like he needed, because the time that had been allotted for math was over. It was time to move on to art or reading or whatever else was next on the day's agenda. I know that teachers try to individualize education for their students as best they can, but with so many kids and such a scheduled day, it just isn't possible. Another problem I noticed is that throughout the day, several of the kids would be taken out of the classroom to go to special services, whether it was for reading help, speech therapy, or something else. I am glad those students receive services in the areas they need help in. The problem that I saw was that whatever was going on in the regular classroom while those students were away just kept going on, and the students needing services just missed out on whatever learning it was! If it was while I was explaining math, they would just miss math and have to figure it out (presumably with their parents) and make up the homework later. Homeschooling, on the other hand, doesn't have these roadblocks to education. You can go at their pace. Is your 6-year-old getting extremely frustrated when trying to learn to read and making no progress? Put it away for while. Shelf the whole thing. Read to him instead. Do your other subjects. In a few/six months, try again. You'd be amazed at how much easier it will be for him when he's developmentally ready to try again! Homeschooling doesn't require you to follow a state-mandated cookie-cutter formula. Your child is a unique creation, endowed by God with specific gifts and abilities, gifts that you can help cultivate and watch grow, in God's timing, not man's. When you homeschool, if your children need more time on a certain subject, you can give it to them. Alternatively, if they are way ahead and bored out their minds, you can throw the curriculum out and move up a level. You can do this for an individual subject or an entire grade. When you homeschool, you do not need to try and figure out how to maximize learning for 28 different kids, you can just focus on your kids. (By the way, in regards to special services: my kids don't need special services, so I don't have direct experience with it, but it is my understanding that kids who are homeschooled can still get special services from the public school system if that's something you need and want to pursue. If using those services would enable you to homeschool when otherwise you feel you couldn't, I encourage you to explore that option available to you.)
There are many other benefits to homeschooling that I haven't listed here, but I can only make this post so long. :)

Is there another benefit that you have seen in your homeschool? I would love to hear about it! You are welcome to leave a comment and let me know what your homeschooling "treasures" are!

If you liked this post you may also like:

    Where to Start When You Are Thinking of and Praying About Homeschooling                                                            

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