Homeschooling is one of those topics that really seems to get people riled up. I kinda feel like I might just as well write about something like abortion. Nonetheless, I’m gonna give it a try.
Right up front, I admit that we homeschool our kids. When I first met her, Kendra (my wife) was fairly negative on homeschooling, being a public school teacher and all. But over the next couple of years, she observed a few different homeschooling families, and was very impressed. The next thing I knew, she announced that she was interesting in giving it a try. By the time our firstborn was of school age, she took a leave of absence from her job to teach him at home. He’s now finishing fourth grade, and our daughter is finishing third. Kendra has since resigned as a public school teacher. Aside from the Christian school they attended in Kiev last year, our kids have been taught at home.
I was happy when Kendra got interested in homeschooling, but I’d never given it much thought myself. The first couple years I figured we might do it for a while and then send the kids to public school. But as time goes by, both of us have become increasingly dedicated to homeschooling and determined that our kids will never attend a government school.
So how can we be honest about our passion for homeschooling without offending our many friends who are public school teachers and/or send their kids to public school? That’s the tricky part, but again, I’m gonna give it a try (expressing our perspective, not offending them!!!).
It is kind of strange when two public school teachers (we have over twenty years combined experience teaching) decide not to send their kids to public school. We didn’t make the decision to homeschool because we thought public schools were terrible and we didn’t want to subject our precious babies to that. The main reason was that Kendra really wanted to do it. She had a vision and a desire. Most people seem to get this and aren’t offended. On the other hand, we both feel pretty qualified to know what goes on in public schools, from the classrooms to the hallways to the teachers’ lounge. And frankly, we’re very happy not to have our kids in that environment.
Over the years, we’ve heard plenty of arguments against homeschooling. By far the number one reason skeptics use is socialization. My initial response to this is, “If I were you, I’d be a lot more concerned about the socialization my kid is getting in the government school than the supposed lack of it for a homeschooler.” Are you aware of the social climate in the typical public school? You may want to research this.
There is a stereotype of homeschooled kids as strange Amish-like little drones who can’t interact with other humans. I used to work with a public school teacher who repeatedly referred to homeschooled kids as “social retards.” Those are his words, not mine. As is often the case with stereotypes, it has a basis in reality, but is also not entirely accurate and, in fact, quite discriminatory. I’ve observed a lot of homeschooled kids over the past five years, and I can tell you that not only are they usuallynot socially awkward, they’re very much normal. In fact, it seems to me that many homeschooled kids are better able to relate to those both younger and older than they are. I look at adults who were homeschooled and they appear to be completely well-adjusted socially. I’m sure there are exceptions, but there are also plenty of kids in public schools who aren’t well-adjusted socially, either (I’ve had a lot of those in my classes!).
I haven’t been able to figure out what makes public schools such great institutions of socialization. When in one’s adult life will they ever spend all day sitting in a room with twenty-five other people their exact age? I personally learned a lot of very negative social behaviors on the school bus and the playground (swear words and dirty jokes come to mind). I even had a kid put a knife to my throat one day at recess (this was before the days of zero tolerance for weapons). He was joking around, but I was scared. I think I would’ve been okay not being around people like that.
Another argument against homeschooling is the lack of a quality education from Mom & Dad, versus trained professionals. As experienced, licensed teachers, Kendra and I obviously are not the norm. I do know of one family that tried homeschooling and it was a disaster, so after a couple years the parents sent their kids to public school, where there was a lot of remediation. That’s the only example like that of which I’m aware. Most homeschoolers actually receive an excellent, one-on-one education that is at least as good as what they’d get in a public school. Again, you may want to research this. I once averaged 36 students in each of the classes I taught. It’s awfully hard not to have kids slip through the cracks there. As a student, I had teachers who were awful, and I worked with some teachers who were awful. But I also had and worked with some amazingly awesome teachers. Most were somewhere in between.
Finally, I’ve talked to a lot of parents who tell me something like, “I wish I could homeschool my kids, but they’d drive me crazy/I wouldn’t do a good job, etc.” My response to this is to ask you if parenting is hard work. If you’re honest (and a good parent), you’ll admit that it is. But is it worth the trouble? Hopefully again you’ll say yes. Well, homeschool is simply an extension of that. And if you feel under-qualified, there’s a ton of amazing resources out there. There are quality curriculums that make it easy to teach. There are increasingly effective online resources to help you. And, there are more and more other families homeschooling to look to for support and encouragement.
We belong to a large homeschool group, and there are a wide variety of activities every day of the week. Our kids have a lot of friends they enjoy hanging out with at these activities. Some are educational, some are athletic, some artistic, and some plain fun. Another advantage we have as homeschoolers is flexibility. If we want to take a day to do something non-academic, we can. If we’re behind on math or something, we can buckle down on that for a while. It’s great!
Our family has not only quality time, but quantity time. Relationships need both. This is a wonderful way for us to grow together as a family. It’s not always easy, but it’s very much worth it.
Finally, there’s the faith aspect. Kendra and I are followers of Jesus. That’s the most important part of who I am, and it’s my highest priority for my family. My children will not only not be nurtured in their faith in a government school, they will indeed come under attack. It’s subtle, but institutional. Religion is to be kept in church. Your faith and your education are completely separate, according to the doctrine of public schools.
Christian parents often justify sending their kids to government schools by saying that they need to be “salt and light.” I’m not sure how a little five-year-old is gonna save her school, but I do know that bad company corrupts good character. I know that adding clean water to muddy water only dirties the clean water. I remember reading what someone said about all the Christian musicians in Nashville. To paraphrase, “Nashville’s changed the Christians a lot more than the Christians have changed Nashville.” As a teacher, I wanted to be salt and light, but if I got very salty at all, I’d lose my job. I teach my children about drugs, alcohol, etc. Do they need to be in an environment that pressures them to engage in behaviors contrary to God’s Word in order to be socially well-developed?
It’s one thing to go on a “rescue mission” to save those in danger. It’s another thing altogether to send a vulnerable child on such a “mission.” Lifeguards will tell you that it’s best to save a drowning person by throwing them a floatation device, because actually going to them is a last resort, because the victim is liable to drag their rescuer down with them.
Without sounding judgmental, I do want to ask my Christian friends this question: What scriptures are you standing on as your mandate to send your kids to a secular government school? I can share a ton for my justification to homeschool my kids, and I encourage you to search the scriptures in regard to this.
Finally, I want to reiterate that, although I obviously have strong opinions about this, I have nothing against people who send their kids to public schools or to those who work in them. There’s a lot of good stuff happening there. But there’s also a lot of good stuff happening in my home every day, and for that I’m very thankful.
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...