If you’re considering homeschool for your children, this post is for you. I’m going into my fourth year as a homeschooling mom, and while that hardly makes me an expert, I’ve become very confident in my own ability to educate my children and I feel that I can pass on some of that confidence to you, especially if you’re wavering or dealing with negative input from friends or family members.
The big question you need to nail down an answer to is WHY you want to homeschool. Are you unhappy with the quality of public school education but can’t afford private school? Is your public school physically unsafe for your child? Is your child falling behind or too far ahead? Does your child have trouble sitting quietly for long periods and winds up in trouble because of it? Are you a Christian and concerned about the cultural values being transmitted to your kid? Does it trouble you that your child sits inside all day and isn’t exposed to nature as part of her education? Do you simply want to raise your own kid instead of turning him over to strangers all day? You need to figure out what the problem is that you’re trying to solve, because that will shape your homeschool style and curriculum.
I originally started homeschooling my daughter because she hated public school. She was extremely introverted and shy and resented being sent off every day to be forced to interact with an entire classroom of children. She found it exhausting and overwhelming. She begged me not to make her go. Eventually, she started falling behind in her work because she was too shy to ask for help. She started feeling like she was not a smart kid, and that is what pushed me over the edge. I pulled her at Christmas of 2nd grade, and left her little brother in public school because he is a people person and loved going to school every day.
Once I saw my daughter blossom as a homeschooler and saw what a better quality of education she was receiving at home, I pulled my son too. With my son, it was all about giving him a superior educational experience. I wanted him to know more things than he was going to learn at public school. I had also begun to resent the ridiculous amount of testing that was being done, and the time it took away from teaching. It was an inefficient system and I wanted more for my son than to learn how to take a standardized test.
The desire for a higher quality education is what initially drove me to homeschool. You should sit down and make a list of your reasons so you know what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. Once you have your list of reasons, you might notice that a lot of them are negative aspects of public school education, such as the over-emphasis on standardized testing or the secular worldview taught in school. Your next step is to figure out how your homeschool will be different.
This is the fun part. This is when you get to list all the positive things you want to incorporate into your homeschool. Examples would be more family time and a stronger bond between siblings, ability to do nature study every day, opportunities to travel and go on field trips, the opportunity to pray and do Bible study together and incorporate faith into academics. You can make this list as long as you want, but when you’re done, go back over it and make two or three BIG GOALS. These will be the foundation of your homeschool, the guiding principles. Once you have your WHY, this will help you determine HOW.
My WHY has changed over the years. At first it was about quality of education, but it has become even more about spiritual formation. My WHY today would be this:
- I want my kids to have a real relationship with God, to understand their faith deeply, particularly how it opposes the surrounding culture.
- I want them to have a strong work ethic and to display excellence, integrity and discipline in their lives, both personal and professional.
- I want to give them the highest quality education- great books, great art, and a deep understanding of history.
On a day to day basis, I keep these goals in mind. Public school did not foster these goals. Public school was not turning my children into the people I wanted them to be. That’s my job, not the job of the state.
The WHY for me is way more important than the HOW. Our HOW changes from time to time. We use different books or curriculum. We try different activities. But the reason we homeschool remains the same. I am not just filling my children’s heads with facts. I am providing a worldview, a moral and ethical framework that those facts fit into.
Once you have your WHY, you will automatically have more confidence in yourself as a homeschool mom or dad. It won’t matter when your mother-in-law tells you you’re nuts or your friends reiterate how great the public schools are in your area. You know WHY you’re homeschooling. You know what it is that you’re trying to accomplish that wasn’t happening at public school. It won’t matter what other people say because you have a clear goal in mind.
It’s okay if your WHY evolves over time. Mine certainly did. But it’s important to flesh it out, to re-visit it, to keep it in front of you all the time so that your day to day HOW matches your WHY. If you’re new to homeschooling, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the curriculum choices and styles of learning, from classical to unschooling. The HOWs really are infinite these days, now that homeschooling has become a more mainstream option. Once you have your WHY, you simply look at these different HOWs and ask if they match your WHY.
I have become an unapologetic advocate for homeschool. If your heart is being pulled in that direction, I encourage you to dive on in. You CAN educate your children, and you can do a better job than the state. I don’t care if all you have is a G.E.D. Education is much more than a piece of paper; it’s a posture of curiosity about the world. I am happy to offer advice or encouragement to any homeschool moms or moms who are thinking of taking the leap. You can do it and you can do it well!