Ask a NextGen Homeschooler: Why Homeschool?

29 Feb

Welcome to “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler…” It’s your turn to ask the authors of NextGen Homeschool — four formerly homeschooled moms who are now homeschooling our children — to weigh in on your homeschooling questions. From the practical to the personal, all questions are welcome — whether you’re a current homeschooler or just homeschooling curious!

This week’s question is one that we have all asked ourselves, and it’s one that we are constantly asked by others:

Why did you decide to homeschool? Did you know you’d homeschool from the get-go, or did you decide after trying traditional school first? And how did your prior experience being homeschooled influence your decision?

NextGen Author Rosanna Ward
Was homeschooled since 8th grade
Began homeschooling in 2005

“I have been thinking lately about the many reasons families choose to homeschool. I know for myself, the reasons we started homeschooling our girls seven years ago are a little different than the reasons we now homeschool our boys. (My previous post, “Why We Homeschool,” tells the whole story.)

Besides the religious and educational benefits, the reason we chose to start homeschooling our daughters when we did was for peer reasons. At the time, both of our daughters were in public school. Our eldest daughter was heading for middle school and already her attitude had started changing. She started to really worry about what her friends thought more than anything else — including good sense. School was no longer about getting an education but about making sure she was in the “right” crowd and that so and so was still her “friend.” On the other hand, our younger daughter was happy to start homeschooling with her sister.

For Joel, my 6-year-old son, homeschooling has just been a natural progression, but sometimes my husband and I talk about contingency plans and wonder about putting him in public school for a few years. I think about the reasons I homeschool him, and I see that it works well with our crazy donut shop schedule. He gets to spend more time with his dad. They go golfing several times a week, which he couldn’t do if he was in public school all day. And I will admit I really enjoy it: I love helping him learn and hanging out with him. I also appreciate the time he gets to hang out with his older sister and little brother during the school day.

My best friend homeschooled her two children for several years, but this year she put them in a charter school so that she could go back and finish college. Her daughter adapted to public school well, but her son started having trouble from the get go. In one semester, he had four different teachers for 2nd grade and they all had problems with him. He wasn’t finishing his work, he was disruptive, etc. She had him tested for possible ADD and put him through a series of tests with the school psychologist. Turns out my friend’s son does not have ADD but is a genius — and the psychologist actually suggested that the best thing for him was to be homeschooled. The schools in her area just don’t have the resources to handle someone with his needs. So now she is scrambling to research and learn how to best direct his intelligence without getting in his way.

I met a mother this week at one of our outings who had just started homeschooling her boys. She had been homeschooled previously like me, but her boys had gone to public school and private school until this year. She said it was something that God really had kept putting on her heart. Sometimes it takes a while for us to work things out in our own lives, but when God has a plan He doesn’t give up, gentleman though He is. He just keeps nudging us and whispering to our soul until we just can’t not obey Him.

I have talked to and read about countless reasons why parents choose to take their children’s educations into their own hands. Outsiders may think we do it only for religious reasons — which may be true for some, but that is most definitely not the only reason.

Some parents are tired of the peer pressure, the bullying, and the politics their children face in traditional school. Some families live in other countries or far away from the nearest schools. Many choose to homeschool for family growth, or to enjoy a schedule that fits them better than the typical school schedules.

Some children have learning disabilities and special needs. Some parents identify early on that their children have life passion that they want to focus on (such as acting, gymnastics, etc.), and homeschooling provides more opportunity to develop those talents. Some children ask their parents to be homeschooled because they want to work at their own pace, without spending six hours a day confined to a school building.

Whatever the reasons we choose to homeschool, the bottom line is that we love our children and want the very best we can give them. And for some parents, that means homeschooling.”

NextGen Author Elizabeth Thomas
Was homeschooled from K-12
Began homeschooling in 2009

“I’m not what I would call a typical homeschool mom — someone who got fed up with the public school system and made the choice to homeschool. Noooo, not me: I never wanted to homeschool my children!

The journey started after the birth of my fourth daughter. I had tried to go back to work after having her, and for the first time, I didn’t have to — which made it hard. One day my husband Tony said, “Please stay home.” That was all I needed to hear: I became a “housewife” from that day forward.

Then one day when Tony took the girls to school, he realized Faith (who had speech problems and, we would later find out, some dyslexia as well) was being put in the back of the classroom to “color.” The teacher had no control over her, and she was falling behind. She was “special,” so to the back of the class she went. She was in first grade at the time.

Tony came home and told me I should take her out and homeschool… wait, WHAT?!?!?

My parents made the choice to homeschool me, along with my two older siblings, when I was just four years old. My perception of the homeschool experience was different than my siblings: They seemed to have had a wonderful experience, while mine felt horrible. As far back as I can remember, I felt I had to defend my education — convince people that I could read, write, and do math.

I also thought I was missing out on everything: riding a bus, packing a lunch, having teachers, playing sports, and getting new clothes, shoes, haircuts, book covers, etc. Most of all, I was missing other kids my own age! Other adults would ask me about my “social life,” and I began to wonder if I had one. Homeschooling seemed like an isolation from the world to me, and I later began to rebel against my father, mother and God. (My previous post, “An Unexpected Path to Homeschooling,” tells the details of my personal story.)

When issues surfaced with Faith, I was not ready to homeschool. I marched right up to that school to talk to the principal. But after talking to the principal, talking to my sister (who offered to help), and knowing that my husband wanted me to and my father wanted me to (“But wait, what about me?” I screamed on the inside), I gave in. I just took her out — only her.

But soon the other girls were begging to be homeschooled too. It was so strange how it all happened, and I still have moments where I think, is this right? Can I do this? But I know with God I can do anything, even homeschool four girls.

I strongly believe in homeschooling now. It is hard work, but God gave me four daughters, and someday I will answer to Him for these precious gifts He gave me. I don’t want to say, “I gave the responsibility away to people who reject Your existence eight hours a day.”  All the knowledge in the world won’t lead you to salvation.

If I had to draw a map of how I got here, it would probably be a mess of scribbles, then a huge drop, followed by a lot of climbing uphill in zig-zag motions. The only thing I know now for sure is that teaching my kids is teaching me a lot. I don’t know if I will ever have to put my kids back into public school (I hope not) or if I will make big mistakes as a parent (I hope not), but I am thankful for the gift of today, and that today, I homeschool!”

NextGen Editor Renée Gotcher
Was homeschooled in 11-12th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010

“My first experience with homeschooling was in high school: It was the mid-80s, and my mother was inspired by the discussion about homeschooling at a biblical foundations conference we had attended. I really didn’t know what to expect — the idea was just so foreign to me. At the time, I was just two years away from graduating high school.

Even though homeschooling seemed to have lots of benefits, I couldn’t imagine what good it could possibly do for me at that point. I was already a straight-A student, in the AP programs, beloved by my teachers, socially adjusted and deeply engrossed in campus clubs and activities. I’d been on the drill team, softball team, swim team, and a cheerleader — as well as a member of the top academic clubs and student government. I felt pretty accomplished and well on my way to completing a great resumé for college applications and beyond.

But my mom chose to homeschool me anyway. As a student, I did enjoy the flexibility of homeschooling and the fact that I no longer “wasted time” with the drudgery that results from group teaching in a traditional school setting. It was also nice to escape some of the social pressures of being an involved teenager — I would realize much later how critical that benefit would become. And I appreciated my mom’s effort to put God at the center of our home, and felt like she had done a pretty good job of sending me off into the collegiate world with a strong faith and foundation.

Fast forward almost 20 years: I’m a mother to three bright, energetic daughters and married to a wonderfully supportive husband who, in fact, was homeschooled himself. I’m also a work-at-home entrepreneur. Though my husband and I had discussed homeschooling many, many times over the years due to our shared experience with it, I was content at that point to pass along the responsibility to the local Catholic school.

But God doesn’t give up when He has a plan for you. And the nudge in my heart all those years soon became a “squeeze” — His hand applying some uncomfortable pressure in my life to shape me even further.

The squeeze started out with finances: My youngest daughter was about to start preschool and add several hundred dollars a month to the tuition bill — yikes! At the same time, my business wasn’t producing as much income. Then the “squeeze” got stronger. After renting three different homes in the two years we’d lived in Durango, we were crushed by the news that we’d soon have to move again.

As we began to acknowledge God’s hand reaching down to take us in another direction, the subject of homeschooling became part of the discussion. My husband had been waiting patiently for God to bring me around. And now we had the perfect opportunity to make that change, so we did. (My previous post, “My Biggest Homeschool Blunder: Thinking I’d be Ready,” explains more about my personal journey to this decision.)

For a while, I felt some relief — and even excitement — because I’d finally arrived where God was trying to take me all along. And the destination was looking a lot more promising than I had expected thanks to the vast improvements in the homeschooling landscape. But I realized very quickly that homeschooling was more than just an alternative education method or a more flexible way to provide quality, focused education with a spiritual component. I began to ask myself: What was God uniquely calling ME to do as a homeschooling parent?

God has been faithful to answer me. I realized that He was challenging me to center my entire educational plan — from the method to the content and context — around His Word. That our focus on Him would radiate out into everything we do as a family — not just at Bible time, during school hours, or at church. After all, was my goal to raise excellent academic minds, or to develop hearts that are Christ-like and servants equipped for God’s purpose?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

As many times as I’ve read this verse, it took on another level of meaning for me as a homeschooling parent. I realized that homeschooling was so much more than what I understood it to be as my mother’s student back in 1988. It was an opportunity to focus on God in all our ways (school included) so that He could make our paths straight — for our family right now, and for my children’s individual journeys down the road.

I know every homeschooling parent’s reasons for homeschooling will be different. I don’t expect everyone to view homeschooling the way I see it. But that is the beauty of it all: Homeschooling is about the heart of your family — how you uniquely operate. Whatever homeschooling means to you, trust that God has equipped you for your particular journey.”

NextGen Author Cristina Eklund
Was homeschooled since the 6th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010

“The reasons my husband and I decided to homeschool our two children are many. However, let me first start out with those things that were not our reasons to homeschool:

• Because we fear the public education system, though it is clearly failing.
• Because we think Christian education ensures our children’s future status of becoming Christians and remaining on a straight and narrow path, though it is our prayer.
• Because we think all Christians should homeschool.
• Because I love being home with the kids morning, noon and night — on the contrary, I actually love working outside the home, though I have felt called by God in the past two years to stay at home.
• Because I think I can do a much better job of educating my kids than a private school.

Now that I got that out of the way, I will share some of the thoughts that did lead to our decision to homeschool. Both my husband and I were homeschooled: My husband until the 3rd grade and myself from 6th grade through high school. We can both look back at our own homeschooled years and in retrospect, examine the pros and cons with sober minds. (My previous post, “Why We Homeschool,” explains more of the factors that led to our decision.)

One of the biggest factors that concerned us was the social side of school. Though I can trust another system or adult with educating my kids in the driest sense of the word, I don’t trust where my children will fall in the rankings of cliches and social prejudices among their peers. Yes, one day they will face the ugly reality of peers and peer pressure, but I want to do all I can to prepare them for it and develop their sense of self to stand firm when faced with such challenges.

Whether we decide to put them in school in fourth grade or in college, I want the most formative years of their lives to be spent learning who they are in God’s eyes, experiencing the small wonders of life in purity and being able to express themselves freely as they discover it all.

Ultimately we realize that it is our prayer and living a pure Christan life that will most influence our children toward becoming and walking as believers themselves. But may every moment we are able to share with them – and teach them — provide them with a storehouse of spiritual wealth they will utilize for the rest of their lives.

_________

Why did you decide to homeschool — or not to homeschool? If you are still thinking about it, what reasons are drawing you toward the decision to homeschool? Did any prior experience with homeschooling have an impact on your reasons pro or con? We’d love to hear what you think!

We are also taking NEW questions for upcoming “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler” features. Send your questions to nextgenhomeschool@gmail.com or post them as comments to this article (and let us know if it’s OK to quote you if we use your question). We look forward to responding to your homeschooling questions!

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