Early on, I knew that God had prepared me for a role as a teacher, a nurturer of children. He gave me a strong will. (If you ask my mom what I was like as a little girl, she will quickly back me up on this. Ahem.) He gave me a lot of patience. He gave me a love of children, a love of learning, and a love of teaching. When I started college, it seemed like a major in Elementary Education was a natural fit for me. I liked and did well in my classes. Shortly before graduation, I was even awarded the Eleanor Eddis Fultz Memorial Scholarship for “significant academic quality and significant promise for the teaching profession” for my class. But when I was offered a long-term substitute position (with the promise of it likely turning into something permanent), I turned it down. Teaching in a public school was not for me. (See here for details.)
In 2008, our first son, Shane, was born, and I found my fulfillment and purpose again in being a stay-at-home mom. Dan and I had always been intrigued by the idea of homeschooling. At the time, the primary appeal was the high level of achievement homeschoolers often earn, and we thought this could be a good fit for us given my background in Education. When Shane was a toddler, we attended a homeschooling seminar to get additional information and a feel for it. After the seminar, our overall feeling was that homeschooling held a lot of promise, but we weren’t sure it was a good fit. When it came time to start thinking about preschool, we decided to go the more typical route with Shane’s schooling.
Why we initially chose not to homeschool:
- Some of the families we met at the seminar struck us as being a little too “out there” and religious for us. (See here for my season of distance and rebellion.)
- We had lucked into moving into the school district (truly, families bought houses in our neighborhood just to get into that set of schools), and we didn’t want to waste our good fortune.
- We thought sending our children to school would be easier on me, which, admittedly, it probably was, in the early years.
- We wanted to provide our children with lots of opportunities to make friends their age. (At the time, we didn’t understand that socialization is a non-issue for homeschoolers.)
When Shane was in first grade, and our family had expanded to three children, we really began to question whether public education was a good fit for our family.
Why we changed our minds about homeschooling:
- Since we had begun with the typical school track, we had started attending a new church, participating in Bible studies, and God had done some major reworking of our hearts. While Christ-centered education had once seemed a little over-the-top to us, it now become very desirable. Top priority, in fact.
- The school was great (particularly the teachers), but it still couldn’t compete with a custom-tailored education. Homeschooling would allow us to adequately challenge our children in every subject. We wouldn’t have to wait for a standardized test to determine whether our child was eligible for a gifted and talented program, which may or may not exist. (We never did find out if the school district had one, even after we asked the principal directly.)
- I missed my child when he was away at school. I remember thinking, Oh, sure, just when my son becomes pleasant, agreeable, and easy to teach, the school gets him for the best part of the day. It felt strange and unnatural for him to be gone. Not only did I miss my son, but his brothers missed him too. My middle child, Conner, was missing his playmate, so he turned to me for attention and entertainment. We also noticed that the long school-day was difficult for Shane, and he wasn’t his normal, happy self when he came home from school. In these ways, sending my child to school ended up not being easier for me.
- Surprisingly, the socialization at the public school was not what we expected it to be. (Once we started homeschooling, we found that our son actually had more friends and, better yet, they were from like-minded Christian families.)
Once the Holy Spirit planted the seeds of homeschooling firmly in our hearts, we needed to figure out how to do it. Although I had my degree in Elementary Education, home education is an entirely different animal. I found a great deal of encouragement in a laid-back morning spent with a dear friend from high-school who homeschools her children. There was another person I wanted to speak with though. The women’s Bible studies at our church were led by the wife of one of our pastors, and I looked up to her a lot. (I still do!) She homeschools her children, and they are all friendly, intelligent, and Christ-like. It took me a while to work up the courage, but I finally asked her about homeschooling one day after Bible study. She graciously offered to sit down with me and chat about it soon. My talk with her not only gave me the last bit of courage I needed to take the leap and give homeschooling a try, but she also introduced me to Classical Conversations, which is a nation-wide program that helps train and equip parents to provide their children with a Christian classical education.
Classical Conversations appealed to me for many reasons. I didn’t exactly understand what a classical education was at the time, but I could tell that the program was orderly and well-structured, which is a good fit for this A-type personality girl. I liked that each community meets on a weekly basis, ensuring that I could network with other homeschooling moms, and my children would be learning and playing with friends regularly. Further, the community I was hoping to join met at my church and consisted of at least three families whom I already knew–a familiar setting and familiar faces sounded awfully comforting in a time of great change. The only problem, I was warned, was that this particular community was full, and there was no guarantee that we would be able to get in the next year either. Harrumph.
When you are walking with God and submit to His will, it’s amazing to see how He works to make His plan for you a reality. In the late fall, I received a phone call from the director of the community I was hoping to join, saying that a family within my desired CC community was moving unexpectedly mid-year. The little boy who was leaving was Shane’s age, so there would be an opening in that age group’s class. Best of all, if we took this family’s place and joined the community mid-year, we would be in next year and wouldn’t have to worry about whether we could get into the community the next school year.
Our only hesitation was that the transition would take place mid-year, and we weren’t sure how Shane would feel about leaving the public school before Christmas. Dan and I prayed about it, and we decided to leave it up to him. Either way, we were going to start homeschooling by second grade, at the latest, and Shane was already on-board with that. After discussion, reflection, and prayer, Shane said he wanted to come home, and stay home, at Christmas break. I am still impressed by that little man’s maturity and bravery.
We are now going into our third year of homeschooling, and I can tell you that it’s a great fit for our family. If the Holy Spirit has stirred your heart with the desire to homeschool at all, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Worst case scenario, if you find it’s not a good fit for your family, you can always try or go back to something else. Dan and I have said on multiple occasions that we would always have regretted it if we hadn’t given it a try. I’m not going to rehash all the benefits to homeschooling, because they are out there in abundance. This book initially got us really excited about the idea of home education, but there are lots of others like it.
I often get asked if we plan to homeschool through high school. My answer: We would like to, but we’re reserving the right to opt out if it ends up being the right decision for our family. We’re taking it year-by-year. This year, we’ll have a third-grader, a kindergartner, a two-year-old tag-along (in a good way!), and a newborn. I’ve never homeschooled with a newborn before, and I have to admit I’m a little nervous about it. It’s comforting to know, though, that it’s not in my hands. And I’m looking forward to see the amazing way God will guide us through this school year.