Easy Homeschooling … Or Not.

Yesterday I posted a sort of brain dump. I was having a frustrating moment (in the middle of one of our three-hour homework teeth-pulling sessions) and needed to vent. This morning, however, I feel a more balanced perspective may be in order. (This is a long one, so get ready.)

If you missed yesterday’s rant, click here.

Is homeschooling easier?

Yes and no.

YES: It is designed to work around your family. That means the curriculum is flexible, specific to your child(ren), your goals, your values, and your schedule. You do it when you want to do it and how you want to do it. Aside from state education testing and standards, you really don’t have to answer to anyone for anything. If you want to go to school all summer and then take off the month of February, go for it. If you want to have school at night or only on the weekends, feel free! It’s easy because you don’t have a boss or someone else’s agenda to match. (I mentioned most of the positives to this answer in yesterday’s post.)

NO: It’s a lot of work to coordinate all of the studies, especially if you have multiple children with different learning styles, strengths and subjects. Ellie really struggles with some things that come easily to Zach. When the kids learn at different paces, it can be very difficult to maintain momentum and appropriate skill levels for their ages. It’s a juggling act, one that takes practice to perfect.

On top of that, if you lack personal discipline (which, let’s face it, we all could grow there), homeschooling is definitely not easier. Sometimes we need other people telling us what to do. It can be very easy to sit back and say “I don’t feel like doing school today. Let’s have a field trip instead!” Then before you know it, weeks (or months) can pass without your kid meeting any their goals. Of all the homeschoolers I have known (both in person and online), the ones who do it best are exceptionally organized. Not only are they organized, they are disciplined and self-motivated.

Also, if your family struggles financially, homeschooling will not be easy on your wallet. Yes, it’s less than private school tuition, but it’s far more expensive than public school. True, if you have multiple children, you can use those costly curriculum materials more than once, but it’s still a difficult squeeze if you’re already tight.

Is homeschooling better?

Yes and No. (Are you noticing a pattern here?)

YES: You can do a Google search of this question and you’ll instantly receive links to hundreds of articles and studies that assert the affirmative: yes, homeschooling is better. Statistically homeschool graduates possess greater knowledge, especially in the subjects of history and literature, than their public school counterparts. They also  have greater discipline, self-motivation skills, and more refined communication skills. They frequently receive more hands-on education, more field trips and life experience. Generally, they have a more rounded, tangible, advanced education.

It’s kind of a no-brainer – right? I mean, any kid who receives personalized, one-on-one attention will learn better and faster than a child who must share his teacher with 20-30 other kids. Oh, and don’t forget that that teacher likely spends the majority of time just trying to get all those rambunctious students to pay attention and behave appropriately.

As homeschooling has become more acceptable, nearly every community now has homeschool co-ops, clubs, online curriculum and boat-loads of other easily accessable resources. Even parents without degrees in teaching can now give their kids a top-notch education simply by seizing available opportunities and networking with the right people.

NO: Most people against homeschooling instantly jump on the socialization issue. I’m not going to honor that argument simply because it’s not true. Homeschooling parents have every opportunity to socialize their kids through church, cub scouts/girl scouts, community sports or theatre, homeschool co-ops, playdates and personalized classes (piano, dance, karate, etc.). This argument is ridiculous, and while it may have been valid twenty years ago, it holds no water today.

My biggest problem with the quality of homeschooling is not a lack of socialization, but the vast number of families who don’t do it right. Anyone who is not organized, disciplined, and pro-active cannot homeschool their children. I call it “un-schooling” and I’ve seen it since I was a kid. These parents cling to homeschool for all the “easy” reasons I mentioned before: no schedule, no boss, extreme flexibility. But they translate those reasons into “no responsibility.” They buy a workbook, put it in front of their kids and call themselves a teacher. Worse: they wait for the kids to initiate school.

Workbooks are great and I fully support seizing child-initiated learning opportunities, but parents need to take schooling seriously. Those who don’t will continue to graduate kids who can’t tell the difference between their, there and they’re, kids who can’t spell to save their lives or complete a simple math test without their fingers, toes, or a handy calculator.

These families that fail to homeschool well are the very reason that colleges consider a public school diploma of greater value than a homeschool one. In fact, this one reason is likely the greatest reason why we don’t homeschool.

Is education the pinnacle purpose of parenting?

That depends on how you define education.

I believe every parent is a homeschool parent. Whether they realize it or not, moms and dads are absolutely the most influential factors in any child’s life. Our kids learn everything from us — nutrition, exercise, time management, humor, priorities, faith, relationships, problem solving, responsibility, ethics, cleanliness, respect, boundaries, discipline, consequences … EVERYTHING. We may not teach them everything correctly, but everything we do and say teaches them something.

Yes, I do believe education is the pinnacle purpose of parenting. As parents we are responsible for teaching our children how to live life as healthy adults who honor God. We do that through structured education and by example.

Does that mean that, if we believe homeschooling will offer our children a better formal education, we must homeschool our kids?

No. Because education is more than math, science, history and literature, and parenting is not the pinnacle purpose of the Christian life.

Is parenting the pinnacle purpose of the Christian life?

Someone once told me that I could never fully understand God’s love for me until I had children of my own. At that time we were in the midst of four years battling infertility. That statement was not only painful (and it was extremely painful), it is absolutely unbiblical.

If parenting is the pinnacle purpose of the Christian life, than any believer who never gets married, who is infertile, who financially can’t afford to have children, may never fulfill their purpose.

So what is the purpose of the Christian life? The purpose of the Christian life is to know God and make Him known. We are called to be the salt and light of the world, cities on a hill.

Our children have been in private school, public school and (albeit only a few months) homeschool. The only one of those three that actually allowed me to fulfill the above-stated purpose was public school.

The Christian school took me out of my community (rather than in to it) and built hedges around my children with a utopia-like educational environment. Homeschool made it so we never had to leave the house. In great contrast, the public school has allowed me (and the kids) to meet dozens and dozens of families who may or may not know God. Some of those moms are extremely open to learning about Him. Some are even attending my in-home Bible study. How would I have ever met them without the common ground of school?

Public school is not perfect by any means. Neither is homeschool or private school. Which you choose is a very personal, very individual decision. Homeschool may be easier for me, but public school has built some amazing bridges for our family, bridges I plan to cross in order to fulfill the purpose God has given us.

On a personal note … People can get very impassioned by this issue. I have received advice (frequently unsolicited) that runs the spectrum of opinions. Members of both camps have berated me, often for merely considering the validity of the opposition, and my waffling has incensed some. To those whom I have frustrated, to those who cannot understand why we still do not homeschool (or why it’s still on my radar), I ask for your trust.

You don’t have to trust me or my husband because, frankly, you may not know us and we could be making the wrong decision. I’m not asking you to trust us.

I am asking you to trust God. He is the One who gave us these children and thereby gave us the decision to make. We pray incessantly for wisdom. Trust that He is guiding us and that He will make clear when and if we should to change course.

The bottom line is this isn’t about you, no matter how much you care about us or are convinced we’re making the wrong choice. This isn’t even about us or our kids and their education. This is about God and where He would be most glorified. At this time we are confident that public school is where God wants us. I don’t understand it; I don’t even like it. But I trust Him. To Him be the glory for all that He does!

Talk to me!

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