Monday, October 21, 2013

why we homeschool

It’s the million dollar question that I am frequently asked. I have the 30-second answer that goes something like this, “We really like hanging out with our kids and want to be involved in all the best parts of their day—they grow up too fast.” But if I had time to share my heart, this is what I would say . . .

First, let me preface what I am about to share with this—I do not think homeschooling is a formula to make sure my kids turn out more “godly” than the next kid. Homeschooling does not ensure that my kids will choose to embrace my faith. While teaching our kids to love the Lord and to have strong character is the most important thing on our checklist, homeschooling—nor anything for that matter—does not ensure this. That being said, I have plenty of friends whose children attend public school and they do a great job teaching them and showing them who Christ is in their lives. Homeschooling is not for everyone—but God did call our family to homeschool.

On to the long answer of why we homeschool:

1. God
God called us to homeschool. Tim’s sister (with 11 kids and counting) has always homeschooled. They are one of the coolest families we know—and their kids are amazing. She was my first encounter with what homeschooling could look like. I started attending homeschool conferences when my oldest was three-years-old. I look forward to these conferences every summer--they encourage me and confirm our choice to homeschool each year. The following verse spoke volumes to us: 

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:5-7

We took this verse literally. For our family, we didn’t see how we could do this when someone else was with them during the best part of their day.

2. Character
I have to tell you, homeschooling brings out the worst and best in me. I’ve had to deal with my own selfishness, lack of discipline, lack of patience, anger, pride—you name it—and homeschooling has brought it all to the surface. When I’m with my kids 24/7, I can’t hide these negative character qualities.  I have to actually deal with them. I have to ask my kids for forgiveness. The same goes for my kids. I can’t tell you how many times we have stopped in the middle of our school day to deal with a character issue. What I love is that we actually have the TIME to do this. Yes, math may not get done on this particular day, but if I can teach my kids how to work out their differences and to respect one another, that to me is more successful than knowing every single multiplication fact. I am preparing them for real life—marriage, difficult co-workers, the cranky clerk at Wal-mart, etc.

3. Our pace
My oldest child (age 9 as of October 2013) has been a struggling reader from the beginning. We have gone through FIVE different language arts programs. F.I.V.E. Reading has finally started to click, but she is still not quite at grade level per the state standard. Her 7-year-old sister reads well beyond her ability. Did I do anything differently with each of them? No. They are just different kids with different abilities. God does not create cookie cutter children. When a teacher has 30+ students on his/her hands in a classroom setting, there is not much room for individual pacing. I realize the schools have “special” programs and such and I believe they really do the best they can under the circumstances. But, no one cares about my child as much as I do. I can tailor the curriculum to suit my child’s need. And if it doesn’t work—I can try something NEW! I am not forced to try and make it work and see the love of learning drain from my child.

4. Outside activities/interests
I love that my kids can participate in sports or other interests (our kids take gymnastics, piano, Spanish and art lessons) before their dad gets home from work. We have dinner together every night. We aren’t torn in different directions trying to fit these extra activities in. Also, we can go on field trips anytime we want—if we are learning about the solar system, we can take a quick trip to the planetarium; want to know more about reptiles—let’s go to the pet store after lunch. We have so much flexibility. Our church has some homeschool classes that we are involved in--it's a great way for our kids to be involved in a community of kids and for we moms to support one another.

5. Lifestyle
The big joke about homeschoolers is that we homeschool in our PJ’s all day. We don’t . . . well, not all of the time. But it’s nice to know that we could! There are so many things about the homeschooling lifestyle that I love . . . where to start? I love that we can sleep in if we’ve had a late night. I love that we don’t have to rush out the door early in the morning. I love that we can cuddle under a blanket on the couch and read together while we are still wiping the sleep out of our eyes. I love that we can vacation ANY time of the year—we tend to stay home during the summer and vacation when everyone else is in school—less crowds! I love that if we are studying pond life, we can drop everything and take an afternoon field trip to the pond to see what we can find in the water. I love that I can take my children grocery shopping with me and teach them math while we shop. And my favorite lifestyle factor that comes with homeschooling is NO HOMEWORK! When my husband gets home from work, they are ready to make memories with dad. Those memories do not involve working on a project or writing assignment until 7:00 at night. Those memories involve going on nature walks, bike rides and going out for frozen yogurt—all on a weeknight.

For those of us God has called to homeschool, He calls us for different reasons. Sometimes we know exactly what that reason is--for others, we might not know with certainty why He called us to this task. Years ago I heard of a homeschooling mom that had died of cancer at the age of 43, leaving several school-aged children behind. She may not have known at the time why God had asked her to homeschool, but my guess is that He put homeschooing on her heart because He knew those kids needed precious time with their mom--time that He knew was going to be short. 

If you've ever felt the nudge to investigate homeschooling, I'd love to talk to you! I love answering questions and pointing moms to resources that have encouraged me. Just shoot me an email! 

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