After you’ve been homeschooling for a certain amount of years, people begin asking the following question: “If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about homeschooling, what would it be?”
Given the chance, I would say many things to my former self. When we embarked on the lifestyle of home education, I had a newly-minted 6-year old, a 4-year old, and I was ready to give birth to our third. People thought we were out of our minds. They didn’t get it. Homeschooling bucks the status quo in general, but starting when you have a baby on the way and there is a wonderful Christian school down the road? We knew it wouldn’t make much sense to most people. At that moment in time, I had many veteran homeschoolers give me bits of wisdom like, “1st grade shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes a day” or “don’t replicate school at home” or “don’t get hung up on public school standards.” All things I agree with and things that helped me but….
On this side of things, 8 years later, the one thing I needed to hear was:
Think with the end in mind.
For some families, homeschool is a temporary solution for a contentious classroom dynamic for a child. It can be a solution for those who want quality, Christian education but do not desire to spend thousands of dollars a year on a private institution. It can be a perfect fit for a child who struggles to keep up due to a learning difference or a child who sits inside a classroom, bored to tears because they outpace their peers. People homeschool for a variety of reasons and 2020 threw fuel on that fire, to be sure. With decades-long inadequacies related to government-controlled institutions becoming increasingly clear, many parents are grabbing their kids and running for the hills. The main concern used to be, “The US doesn’t score that high globally in the area of math” but that is no longer the main concern. It’s hasn’t been for quite awhile, but it’s coming into clear focus now, for so many.
There are many important reasons one might choose to educate their own children and I believe the most important of these is the fact that our children are a precious gift and legacy from the Lord – we should desire to pour truth into their minds and souls and to preserve innocence and wonder as long as humanly possible . As believers, we have one opportunity to fill their hearts with the most beautiful things this world will offer. We prepare them for what they will meet and we help shape their beliefs, viewpoints, compassion, truth-detectors, work-ethic, generosity, and resolve for that moment they will leave our homes.
All children will become like their teachers (Luke 6:40) and so who their teachers are and who they are governed by becomes extremely important. In our present day, it isn’t just one singular master, but a group of them and in addition to that, it’s their peers. If we are not extremely comfortable with allowing people who we do not intimately know to babysit our children when we head out for date night, why we would trust them to instruct and shape our children for up to 8 hours a day? Make no mistake, whoever spends the most time with your child will have a strong hold of influence over them – whether that be the television, video games, their peers, the homeroom teacher, their club baseball coach, or you.
There are many people who will never understand homeschooling and I can see their point of view, certainly. Homeschoolers are still a relatively small minority and our culture has been lulled into a “norm” when it comes to how children are to grow and learn, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it wasn’t this way for almost all of civilization (another post for another time.)
All this to say, if you are here and you are questioning things regarding your family structure and priorities, I am here for you and I get it. If you are scared about homeschooling, I get that too. I was there. If you are skeptical, I also understand that feeling of questioning. My husband especially gets that – he wasn’t on board at first (but is now the biggest advocate for homeschooling.)
I understand where you are at.
If I could give you advice it would be to picture your child/children about 15 years down the road. Picture the end.
What is it the purpose of their education? What is the priority? Is it an emphasis on grades and achievements? Do you want a focus on family relationships and time together? Are you desiring a slower pace for your child so that they can work on their own timeline? Are you wanting the ability to marry their education with a Christian worldview? Are you wanting more time with your children in a peaceful atmosphere without the running to and fro?
Think with the end in mind, my friends. It answers a lot of questions.
When Sean and I asked ourselves what we wanted at the finish line, we both knew that the priorities were simple – we had three focuses:
1.) Christ-centered learning. That is, Christ is the bedrock for all the many subjects we will learn about. He created this amazing world and all the things that interest us – from Botany to crochet to violin practice to algebra. He is the foundational aspect and is woven through it every lesson and discussion.
2.) Family. We knew that we wouldn’t be satisfied with just two hours together a night and less on weekends if we were all running around to different endeavors. Because of this choice we limit some activities so we aren’t frazzled with playing chauffeur every night. We prioritize family time. We sit around together most nights and play games, eat, watch movies, read books, and just talk. We don’t miss each other’s “stuff” for our own stuff. We don’t each do multiple activities. Our lives are spent together and with one another and we have seen how sweet it is.
3.) Classical, Literature-based Education. I knew that if I was going to homeschool, there would have to be a strong emphasis on the classics and quality books. Once I decided that, it was off to the races and it’s been a pleasure since. We read the good stuff, the old stuff, and some of the new stuff. We read and read and read. My children may not head off to college with a portfolio detailing the 9 extracurriculars they were involved in, but they’ll have a completed book list of the best from the Western Canon!
Think with the end in mind. Pray intensely and decide what the Lord is calling you towards and into. Yes, there will be sacrifices and many that people will look at you sideways for making, but I have never
heard a parent say they regret the time they spent educating their child, when they are doing it out of a calling to do so. It won’t always be easy, but man…..it’s been the best job I’ve ever had. By a long shot.
I had initially intended for this to be a Q&A type post but at a certain point, I realized that if I was to answer all of those questions in one post, it would be the longest post of all time and not be very helpful because it didn’t have a clear direction.
Maybe one day I’ll sit down and draft out all of the answers I have to the hundreds of questions I get. Maybe once all of these sweet girls have flown the coop I’ll speak to a group of ladies and encourage them with what I have learned over the years. Maybe I’ll design a line of Hallmark greeting cards exclusively for the mom that has been teaching her kids for 13 years and would really like to have one shirt without stains on it. Who knows.
I’ll tell you what I do know:
1.) If you desire to homeschool, you can do it and you can do it beautifully and simply.
2.) Homeschooling need not be anxiety-inducing or stressful. It can be both of those things at times and for a short season, but whether that lasts is up to you.
3.) You do not have to be a teacher by trade or a college graduate to homeschool your kids. I have met hundreds of homeschooling moms and many of those mothers only had a high school diploma and yet they still graduated kids – most heading off to college (not that that is a litmus test for success, but that’s a whole other post.) In fact, a high percentage of the homeschooled kids I know who are at elite colleges or who own their own businesses had parents who weren’t academics. Trust me…it is nota pre-requisite.
4.) Homeschool parents do NOT have more patience than you do. We have the same amount. We just have to learn to manage it each day.
5.) Homeschooling need not be expensive. I’m serious about this one. Do not let yourself feel like you need to spend thousands of dollars on curriculum and supplies. In leaner years I think I spent $200 per year on each child. I had to be creative, use my library card a lot, head out to garage sales and estate sales for fun craft supplies, but it is doable!
6.) Regarding socialization: 100% of children are socialized. It isn’t if your child will be socialized, it is by whom will they be socialized. I’ve taught in public and private schools and worked with children for over 25 years and there isn’t an overwhelming social deficiency in homeschooled children. Perhaps there was the perception of one at one point in time as homeschooling was such a small grouping of people, but no longer. Let’s get rid of this myth and move on.
7.) When you homeschool you are with your family all the time. This seems to be one of the largest roadblocks for some people because it is different than how the normal family unit functions in our modern society. It is counter culture for a family to be together and eat all their meals together, let alone learn together – different ages and interests included! I will say that, yes, it is an adjustment and you will make sacrifices. But what may start as your biggest roadblock for homeschooling might just turn into the biggest blessing of your life. I had no clue how close a family could become when they do everything together. It’s a rope that cannot be broken. It’s a wonder and it’s a gift Sean and I could never have imagined.
8.) You will make sacrifices. It might be a job, it might be luxuries you have to forgo because one person is no longer working, it might be saying “not now” to a Masters Degree in US History (ahem….), it might be your yoga class, it might be your quiet bathroom breaks and it will certainly be your free time. But what you “give up” will be returned to you 100 fold. Trust me.
9.) People will not understand and might think you are making a mistake. Some will say it but most won’t. They’ll especially think it when your child moves towards high school. It’s alright – trust in the Lord.
10.) God is generous in ways you have no idea and when you are following His will for your life and trusting in Him, He will equip you and give your children exactly what they need. Hold fast to Him, pray, love your spouse, and read the good book each and every day. It will be enough.
Look down that path and think about what you want for your children in 15, 20, 30 years from now. Ponder the desire of your heart and what you feel the Lord is asking you to do. Keeping the end in mind has granted peace on the most harried of days and comfort when we are weary. Where He is guiding you, He will surely equip you…..all the way to the end.