Why We Homeschool (well, the big reasons anyway)

Just yesterday, I was asked by a friend if I would share with her why we homeschool... that she hadn't ever felt strongly about it one way or another, and would I, as an excited homeschool mom, be willing to put together a compelling "case" for why someone should consider homeschooling. So I did what she asked. I thought about posting it here and then thought, well, it really was written for and directed to her because she was interested. I'll wait and write about this another time on my blog.

But then, to my surprise (and I must admit, delight), Lauren Hill (a sometimes-commenter here who shares a name with an interesting hip-hop artist) asked in the comments of my last post if I would share the reasons why we choose to homeschool. So, here are our reasons (the big ones at least!), Lauren (and anyone else who is interested):

I would LOVE to share with you why we homeschool! There are so many reasons, so this will be long- but I want to give you (as much as possible) the whole picture of why we have chosen this method of schooling.

We want our kids to be salt and light, but first, we think they need to be prepared for that. Like a young plant, they need protection and the right "input" so that they will be a strong vine, able to produce fruit LATER. Lots of people take different views, and that's OK... but we believe young children are easily swayed and pulled by opposing views. Kids are impressionable. A la Deuteronomy 6, we want to impress them, regularly, throughout the day, as we're walking, etc... with the things of God. We want to build into them a strong foundation that cannot be shaken.

We'll have no problem releasing (in fact, we WANT to release) our kids to be salt and light at SOME point (maybe 6th grade? Maybe 9th?, depending on each child, somewhere around that time), but they need to first learn how to stand on their own, lest they fall because they weren't yet strong enough.

(Rather than some other person doing it for 8+ hours a day) The people I can impact the most in this life, particularly at this point in our family- with young children, are the members of my family. And that's great, because that's who God's going to hold me responsible for!

I see our kids as little arrows (Ps. 127) that can be shot out into the world one day- and I want them to be ready to be used by God for His purposes in the battle we're in at that point. So I want to pour myself into the task, the ministry, of sharpening and fine tuning those little arrows, so that when they are shot out, they will shoot straight and far. I want to sharpen them so that they can deal a mighty blow to the enemy when they are ready to be shot out.

Me personally, I don't feel that the first few years of life, and then a few hours each evening is enough to mold and shape these precious lives. I don't want to give them over to someone else to shape and mold for 8-10 hours a day. Not when they are still young and impressionable. They will fit into one mold or another. That's how kids are. They want to imitate, emulate, and be like those that they see and admire. I want to show them what God's mold looks like, and how they can fit their unique talents, abilities, and gifts into his mold of a righteous life lived with an eternal perspective and Kingdom priorities.

(3) I SEE MY MINISTRY AS IN THE HOME FIRST- anything else comes second.
Please don't take this as accusatory of anyone else's way of doing things... but I see my ministry as being done THROUGH my role in the home- as a wife and mother. And I believe that as people see that this is a priority in our home, that they will notice something different about our family, and essentially, "know we are Christians by our love". Homeschooling is one way that I can invest and pour the things of God into my children.

It is hard when we young moms have several little ones, are learning how to manage a home, trying to live up to everyone's expectations and still have time left over at the end of the day for our dear husbands. What I have come to is this: I can do what I can do. Relationship with God first. Relationship with Doug second. Relationship/ Mentoring/ Teaching/ Shaping/ Pouring myself into kids third. Anything else, after that. I can do what I can do. And I can't do it all. And that's OK.

I understand that homeschooling can seem like a HUGE item on the growing "to do" list. But in these early years, I'm already spending virtually all my time with my children. It is not then vastly more difficult to learn how to be a bit more structured and do school with them as well, so that we can continue shaping them according to God's standards while they are young.

I want our kids to be involved in our work and lives- able to take a trip out to a village for a weekend or week with dad occasionally. Able to go to a woman's home and play with her children while she and I talk and form a relationship. I want for them to be able to take part in what we're doing, rather than having a whole separate life that revolves around whatever schooling they are in. And I want for us to be able to take part in what they're doing, demonstrating to them just how committed we are to the task of raising them up to love and follow Jesus and to love and serve others.

If I can teach them, in the early years, to love reading and learning, and encourage them in their curiosity, then they will be prepared in a BIG way for whatever they'll encounter in any school environment in which they may be put as they grow and later, in college. Many schools focus on rote, boring learning approaches, and I don't want my kids to think that learning or schooling is boring and repetitive. I want to be able to take them to the museum one day for "school" or watch National Geographic specials about Africa rather than memorizing sentences from a geography book. I want to be able to show them how we balance our finances during math lessons... and show them real world applications for things we're learning in school. Essentially, I want to encourage them to love learning. And I don't think there are many schools that actually do this effectively. A person who loves to read and learn can do just about anything they put their minds to do.

*Another neat thing about homeschooling is that you can get it all done (even at the complex levels) in less than half the time it takes at public schools. There is no stopping for the bad kid in the class to be dealt with (again and again), no switching classes and running to the locker, no required "homeroom", no recess (you can build that into afternoon play time), no dumbing the class down for the lowest common denominator... each child can learn at his/her pace, learn the things he/she needs to learn, and even have time to focus on things of interest. (I've heard of homeschooled kids getting to spend a couple hours a week reading up on what would normally be considered college level or higher work, simply because that interested them.)

* Additionally, homeschooling allows the flexibility to stop school or start to suit your family's schedule and needs. You can put the normal curriculum on hold because your son has suddenly taken a HUGE interest in airplanes, and you want to take advantage of that and spend 4 weeks learning all about the ins and outs of airplane mechanics, physics, manufacturing, history, etc. Or your daughter has an opportunity to go on a business trip with Dad for 2 weeks and she can just go! No problem! Take a few books with her and let her read in her spare time but spend time building a relationship with Dad.

*I love the curriculum we use- it is reading-based, where we sit down together and read about the world... they definitely expose kids to various (opposing) worldviews and real life, so it's not as narrow as other Christian curriculums I've seen, and it's not done through workbooks and tests, which is great. It's real world-type learning, and I LOVE it. And Ethan loves it. (Heck, Baxter does too and he's not even old enough... he just LOVES looking through all the fun books.) Anyway, if you're interested you can check it out at www.sonlight.com.

So, in a LARGE nutshell, :) these are the biggest reasons why we homeschool... plenty of people do it differently, and I respect many who have made different choices. But this is why we've made the choices we have so far. Any other questions? Ask- and I'll try not to be so long-winded. ;-) I'll say the same thing to each of you that I said to my friend: I hope this helps you consider something different- even if you end up choosing something different- at least to think through other options is a good thing! :)


Kris said...

Awesome blog, your reasons just have me nodding my little head off!

I followed your blog link over from the SL forum, and I hafta say, I may be adding you to my faves!!!

What a blessing your blog has been to me today!

thecurryseven said...

Great post! You mentioned all the reasons why we homeschool...now all I have to do is send people here when the ask. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. We are going to send our kids to public schools, but I know many people who have given their kids a wonderful and enriching education at home.

We certainly plan to supplement what our kids learn at school, as our parents did with us. In that sense I think every involved parent does a little schooling at home.

I applaud your decision to use a curriculum. Although I know some happy "unschoolers," it seems that children should learn eventually that they need to spend time studying things they may not have thought they would be interested in.

Laurie B

Anna S said...

Dear Jess,

Thank you for sharing your choice to homeschool. It sure sounds as though you know what you're doing!

Also, today I came across one of your older posts through a link on LAF; the one about how marriage is liberating. Very good points!! I don't know how I missed it while I was reading through your archives :)

OK got to get going... hope you and your family are well, and especially your littlest precious blessing!

Ann said...

Thanks for the perfect post--I needed to read this today so it isn't just chance. I just found your blog recently and enjoy it!

I have "dabbled" in homeschooling in the past. I feel there are advantages and disadvantages to both public schooling and homeschooling--for us, it just depends on the circumstances and the child.

We recently had to let one of our children go to be with Jesus and while we know he is in a place much better than our earthly home, with no more suffering from cancer, we miss him so very much.

Since we are in the midst of adopting a 5 yo from Vietnam, I had decided to let the kids all go to public school this year. However, with the shock of our son's sudden death, I have been feeling like I want/need to homeschool this year. It's been a traumatic year.

Your post gives me pause to think about hs more--even tho the school year starts in ten days :-) Thanks!

Blessings, Ann

Melissa said...

Thanks, Jess. That was a great post! Do you mind if I link it to my blog?

Kyla said...

Hi Jess,

thanks for writing this. I have already fowarded it to some people in my life who are not familiar with homeschooling. I was homeschooled for all 12 grades and I still (12 years later) hear "but you see so normal?" type of comments. So many people think that homeschooling doens't allow for social interaction or that parents choose to homeschool out of fear for the outside world. We haven' decided about our future Childrens education but I will be saving this article ot refer if we should decide to homeschool.

Anonymous said...

Jess! Thanks so much! I really appreciate you taking my question and running with it! I am so honored you took the time to answer with such detail...which is just what I needed and was looking for! What an excellent post. It gave me tons to think about.

I had not considered lots of things you brought up in your post. Such as the fact that the kids are with me all day anyway, so it wouldn't be a huge deal to just structure some of that into school. When I think about HS, I always wonder how in the world I would fit that into our day with Little Ones. I also hadn't considered that they could go to 'traditional' school in later grades. In my mind (I have no idea why!) it was either HS the whole 12 grades or traditional school the whole time.

I'm right there with you, Mama, in that I see my ministry as being in my home first. I really feel like this is where God wants me to be. It's a little mission field that He has blessed me with! I can easily see now that HS would just be a natural extension of that.

Thankfully, we still have lots of time to pray about what is right for our children. You have given me GREAT things to think about, and for that I am really appreciative!

Don't you just love it when someone asks you a question in a subject you are really passionate about?! I really enjoy talking about things I love too. Your enthusiasm for HS'ing is contagious!


-Lauren Hill
(who, by the way, is a polar opposite to the singer Lauryn Hill - I am a pale, caucasian girl and I don't sing well! Ha!)

sharyn said...

thought-provoking and compelling! if you've time, I'd love to hear in a future post more about the nitty gritty of how you are homeschooling -- schedule, subjects by age, etc.

love the pic of the family in the bazaar -- you have such a beautiful family.

Kim said...

Jess - Have you started "officially" homeschooling Ethan? I know he's at that age now - KINDERGARTEN! I didn't know if, on a practical level, you did any sort of "first day of school" or anything like that, or if you just basically did year-round schooling, and when you started with Ethan?

Since Jenna started kindergarten, I've been meaning to ask you this! :)

I hope all is well!

Anonymous said...

Ann, I am so sorry for your loss. That is a tremendous blow.

I am sure you know this already, but children are resilient even in the face of bereavement if they have a loving family around them. I know this first-hand from having lost my mother when I was a child.

Laurie B

Jess said...

Wow, Ann, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm glad to have had any part in encouraging or ministering to you. Wish I could give you a physical hug and just come do your dishes or fold laundry or in some other way tangibly do something to help you at this difficult time.

Melissa, yup! Link away!

Lauren It's LAURYN! I KNEW something about Lauren Hill didn't seem right about the singer- but I couldn't put my finger on it! I literally kept asking my husband, "that pretty singer's name IS Lauren Hill, right?" Well, now I know it's Lauren with a Y!

Sharyn, I'd be glad to do that (share about our schedule/curriculum/etc), although I'm sure it will be WAY more interesting and complex in, say three-four years! :) But I'll try to get around to that soon! And thanks for the compliment~ I was just glad to (finally) have a picture with my kids where I actually looked OK (we can be so self-critical, you know!).

Kim, we've been doing PreK since January (which is when I got the curriculum- late, because it never arrived in China), and we're more than 1/3 of the way through. I kind of can see us being close to finishing around the end of the year.

So we may be on an odd schedule, trying to finish up K by summer's end or something. He's EXTREMELY curious and LOVES school, so this isn't a situation of the cart pushing the horse! We have a really good time with it... he totally loves it. (Frankly, he asks to do it nearly every day, and yet we still only manage about 3-4 days a week.)

As for the first day of school thing, we went back to a special room in the house we were staying at and really took time to look at each of the books (have I mentioned that Sonlight's books are just totally incredible?! Anyway, we didn't do anything like your niece's precious video footage from her first day, but it was still fun. I guess part of that is that I had just done the whole "picture" thing when we took him to Chinese preschool the first time in September.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments!

Lori - The Simple Life at Home said...

This was a GREAT post, Jess. You did an excellent job summing up why we, and I think most families, homeschool. I can't imagine being an effective influence in my child's life if I could only spend 3-4 hours a day with them, and much of that spent in doing homework, chores, baths, activities, etc. Every point you made was so true. And I second your Sonlight recommendation. We love, love, love using it!

Kim said...

That's very cool, Jess. I know he loves to learn, he's always been inquisitive, from what I've heard! :)

Terry said...

You have a wonderful blog. I love your comments about homeschooling. We have 4 kids-3 teenagers and one toddler. Big gap, I know!! Hoping to have at least one more. When my teens were young kids, I knew nothing aboout homeschooling. I was raised in a home where both parents worked and we all went to public school. My husband has the same background. This past year I became acquainted with homescooling and considered starting it with my kids. After much discussion my husband and I decided that it was best to maintain the status quo given our kids ages.. Thankfully, because I'm a SAHM I've been very involved in their education every step of the way. Anyway, I will definitely be homeschooling the smallest ones from the very beginning for many of the reasons you stated. Thanks again for a great post.

Brenda said...

Great post. I think I will refer a friend to read this who is just beginning to consider homeschooling. I already gave her my reasons...but it would be nice for her to read your well-thought out response.

dcrmom said...

Thanks for sharing, Jess, this was very interesting. I do agree that those are all wonderful reasons to homeschool. I have considered it off and on and just don't have peace about diving into it, and so far public school is going well. I have a ton of friends who homeschool, so the community is available, should I ever want/need it. I'd love to hear more about your experience as you go along.

CB said...

Great post! Your reasons are so similar to ours, as is the future plan to send them to a classroom setting. We didn't ever plan to homeschool, but have been led by the Lord to begin this year, with our oldest in first grade. I almost went with Sonlight ... loved it ... but just couldn't figure out how to make it work and include my second alongside. So we're assembling our curriculum from the many options out there, but still using living books for the main sources.