I recently received a message from a family member in Michigan. Even though all of her kids are grown and out of school, she had noticed a growing trend of families leaving the public schools there. Knowing that we are big proponents of homeschooling, in an effort to understand some of what was driving this trend, she wrote me to find out why we had chosen to homeschool.
While I was happy to answer her questions, I was also excited at the opportunity to finally write down all of the things our family loves about homeschooling. While I know that every homeschool family has different motivations for choosing to home educate, I know that we never planned to do it, so over the years I have had to carefully consider what changed our minds and hearts. I also know that as the years have gone by (we are in our 9th year of formal homeschooling now) many of my convictions have grown. Where I was once loosely convicted that homeschooling was best for our family, at least for a time, I have now become firmly convinced that homeschooling is the gold standard for education through high school, and in many cases, even through college. In fact, while I was educated in public and private schools from kindergarten through junior college, I very happily completed a Bachelor’s degree at home, and would heartily recommend that graduating high school students take seriously the option of getting a college degree at home.
One quick note: While I normally would not shift between “I” and “we” pronouns so readily in a single article, in this case it is completely appropriate and even necessary. Homeschooling is a team sport! Homeschooling works best when mom, dad, and kids are all on board. While this isn’t always the case, it really helps. I know, as the husband, father, and spiritual leader in my home, my role is critical. I must support my wife, who is the primary teacher. We must be unified. I must encourage my children in their learning and they must be engaged in that process. We must be active in training the hearts and minds of my children, and I must take the lead in teaching them the Word of God.
So, after far too long, this is why we homeschool.
First, we love that we can integrate the Bible into every aspect of our girls’ education. While we know that every homeschooling family isn’t Christian or even religious, it should still strike everyone as a benefit that every aspect of your child’s education (every academic subject, religious discipleship, character training, professional training, etc.) can reflect the values, morals, and goals of the family. Our primary goal for our girls is that no matter what academic subjects they enjoy or excel at, in everything they would have a Biblical worldview and would develop a distinctly Christian character.
While we fully expect our girls to be well-educated and we work diligently to teach them fundamental skills and subjects like math, reading, writing, logic, language, history, and science, we know that both knowledge and wisdom begin with the fear of the Lord. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10 (ESV) We also know that rather than worrying about what we (or our children) will eat or wear, where they will live, or what they will do, we are instructed to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and all of these other things will be added. Matthew 6:25-33
The next thing we love about homeschooling is the ability to customize the education that each of our daughters receives to their personal strengths, abilities, desires, goals, and preferences. We know that every person is specially made by God for an individual purpose. There is no standard person, so a standardized education is, at best, a compromise for every student. Even in our family, our girls are very different. Each excels at different things, struggles with different things, and enjoys different things. We believe that these gifts, strengths, and preferences give us some insight into what God is preparing these girls for in the future, for His glory, so we do our best to customize our girls’ training to best develop their strengths and allow them to work in the areas that interest them.
That said, we still want our girls to have a well-rounded education, so we make sure that they are getting instruction in many different subjects. Even though one of our girls doesn’t love math, that doesn’t mean she won’t need to know math to succeed in life, so we teach her math – in a way that best suits her learning style. Because of our ability to custom fit their education experience, we can pay special attention to both of our girls needs and struggles and give them the help they need where they struggle. In fact, because of the flexibility of homeschooling, the ability to repeat content that hasn’t been mastered, the ability to teach at the pace of the student, and the availability of excellent curriculum and resources (in our case, Teaching Textbooks was a LIFESAVER), our daughter is now doing great with math and has become confident in her skills.
Next, we love that homeschooling allows us to teach for MASTERY of subjects. In a traditional educational model, all of the students must move through the curriculum at roughly the same pace. The teacher tailors the curriculum and lessons for the middle of the class. Some students excel and are bored as they wait for their peers to catch up with them. Other students struggle to keep up and never really learn the material. Only a small percentage of the class gets the optimum amount of instruction, and those students will not be the same in each subject so, in every case, students are not trained at the optimum pace to truly master the subjects they study. Advanced students will always be hindered and slower students will always be left in the dust.
In homeschooling, we have the luxury of adjusting the pace of every course to perfectly meet the needs of our children. We don’t move on until they have mastered the material and we never make them needlessly repeat work they have already mastered, when they could be moving on to new material and subjects. While this means that our most homeschoolers don’t fit within their “grade level” in every subject – they may be “ahead” or “behind” – they have the opportunity to truly master the subjects they study. As an added benefit, we are under no compulsion to study six to eight subjects every day and move to the next classroom when a bell rings. If we want to take a full day, week, or month to dive deep into a subject we can. If we have a child who wants to do several math lessons every day, to move ahead, there is nothing stopping them.
We love the freedom that homeschooling provides our family. We have the freedom to set our schedule and modify it any time, depending on what is going on in life. We have the freedom to travel and to teach from everywhere and anywhere. You wouldn’t believe the amount of GREAT educational experiences we have had in our car, as guests at peoples’ homes and farms, at historical sites, at national parks, at the beach, and just about everywhere else. Not only do we have the freedom to travel, but we have freedom of location. We can live or work anywhere and we don’t have to worry about what school district we will be in or if we will be around at the beginning of the school year. Homeschooling allows us to pursue the things that are important to our family. We are able to work together, to minister together, and to experience every aspect of life together – joys and challenges.
On the topic of freedom, we love that homeschooling allows us to teach the foundations of freedom. While History, Social Studies, Government, Civics, Economics, and nearly every other subject taught in public schools have been corrupted by distinctly socialist, anti-American, anti-constitutional, and anti-family agendas, we have the freedom to teach these subject without the progressive bent.
We know that our children are OUR responsibility. Public schools are constantly pushing the boundaries of influence and control they exert over students (and even parents). Under the legal principle of In Loco Parentis, public schools take the place of the parent in matters of discipline, medical treatments (including the administration of birth control, abortions, and cross-sex hormone treatments), mental health evaluation and treatment, mandated vaccinations, and the authorization of instruction in sensitive and controversial subjects, regardless of the will of parents. While many parents believe they have the right to opt their children out of controversial lessons, in practice, this isn’t the case. Many parents are currently outraged about dangerous, anti-family Comprehensive Sex Ed (CSE) programs being implemented in schools across the country. In district after district, parents are shocked to find out what is being taught in these programs – after their ELEMENTARY SCHOOL students are already being taught – and they are wondering why they didn’t have the option to opt out. When parents drop their children off at school they turn over their authority to the school, in many cases, even when the student isn’t at school.
These parents are missing an important point. The “C” in CSE stands for “Comprehensive.” Pro-homosexual, pro-LGBT instruction, which promotes early sexual activity and deviant and dangerous sexual behavior, is being integrated into every subject. That’s what “Comprehensive” means. History classes have the accomplishments of prominent gay leaders added. Science and health classes get heavy doses of sexual instruction added under the guise of “preventing pregnancy” and “preventing HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.” The library has books on finding your “true” identity and defining “family.” English classes read “sexually suggestive” poems and students are instructed to write down the included vulgar terms for genitalia.
We understand that ALL education is indoctrination (the teaching of established doctrines – basic, deeply held principles) and ALL education is discipleship (the intimate training of the whole person – intellect, character, and values). We love that in homeschooling we get to direct every aspect of that indoctrination and discipleship. We know that no one, not even the best, most loving, most dedicated teacher, with the highest moral character, will love our children or care for their lives on earth or their eternal souls like we will. Therefore, we believe that we, their parents, are best suited to direct that indoctrination and discipleship.
While it isn’t the most important aspect of home education, it should be noted that there are a wealth of excellent resources available to homeschooling families. High quality curriculum and resources to cover EVERY subject can be easily found from multiple vendors. In fact, there are even completely free homeschool programs that cover every subject and every grade from pre-school to high school, and most colleges and universities offer their courses online as video and audio podcasts.
In addition to the wealth of curricular resources, there are support groups and co-ops that focus on every imaginable teaching method. Classical education has become very popular among homeschoolers in the past decade or so, and it is growing even in private schools. Homeschoolers are able to determine what methods or combination of methods work best for their family. Some of the popular styles or methods employed, in addition to classical education, are Charlotte Mason, eclectic, unit studies, lifeschooling, unschooling, Montessori, virtual school/online school/video instruction, and combinations of all of these. In our own home we have used a combination of Classical, lifeschooling, and eclectic methods, augmented by online and video programs for a few specific subjects.
Finally, because it is the most common objection to homeschooling, I will address the socialization question. Because homeschooling is legal in every state, and has been since the early 1990s, the stigma of having your kids out in public during the week just doesn’t exist any more. Homeschooling families have the freedom to go about life together in ways that they didn’t in the early days of the homeschooling revival in the early 1980s (it must be noted that homeschooling was the norm throughout history, and the “traditional” classroom model has only been common for around 160 years). In just about every state, county, and city, families have the opportunity to have their kids involved in sports, social clubs, church, AWANA, youth groups, service organizations, scouting organizations, and educational co-ops. Our girls have never lacked opportunities to be social. They have participated in gymnastics, AWANA, youth group, several homeschool co-ops, and an organized weekly classical homeschool program. To the contrary, we have often had to dial back the social activities to avoid being overwhelmed by them.
Here is a great video on the socialization argument – Heidi St. John – The Homeschool Socialization Myth
As our girls have grown they have also been able to work with us and serve others in important ways. We have enjoyed the distinct benefit of having our kids contribute in valuable ways to the family business and economy, and to the running of the household. This has not only benefitted our whole family, but they have become very competent homemakers and skilled “employees,” which will prove invaluable as they grow into wives, mothers, homemakers, leaders, and servants in their communities.
While we, and most homeschooling families, realize that homeschooling offers an unequalled opportunity to develop socially, it should be noted that “traditional” school offers a very unnatural and unhealthy social construct. It is one in which students are segregated by age and discouraged from “socializing” in class. Their personal wills are minimized and they are herded around in groups from task to task every time a bell rings. It is also one in which the dangers of peer pressure and violence are very real. In fact, the only other social constructs that closely resemble the social structure of schools (especially public schools) are prisons and asylums.
As you research this subject, I would like to recommend several resources we have produced, including podcast episodes on the “why” of homeschooling, how to homeschool, and the benefits of homeschooling.
If you are considering homeschooling yourself, I would like to invite you to register for our online homeschool conference, the Homegrown Generation Family Expo. There you will find over 35 hours of homeschooling instruction and encouragement and a wealth of homeschooling resources in the Digital Swag Bag. Registration includes lifetime access to every session and you can watch each session video online or download the audio to listen on the go.
All of these episodes are available as full transcripts, along with a few hundred excellent articles on our blog, here.
Homeschooling in Your State (State Homeschooling Organizations) – Almost every state has a Christian state homeschool organization, made up of mostly volunteers, who are on the front lines fighting to keep YOUR freedom to homeschool and providing you with the information and resources you need to homeschool legally and successfully. These organizations are vital to the homeschool benefits we all enjoy and your involvement and support are critical.
HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) – HSLDA is a legal organization that works to protect and defend the rights of parents to educate their children. In addition to their legal support they also have support representatives who can give state-specific homeschooling guidance. Finally, they track and fight anti-family and anti-homeschooling legislation in the United States and around the world, even arguing in the Supreme Court at times.
Classical Conversations – This is the largest Christian homeschool program in the country. They have a ton of really good articles on their blog.
Teach Them Diligently – These guys put on large Christian homeschool conferences in several states. Homeschool conferences are a great place to preview curriculum and to get encouraged and equipped.