Friday, March 6, 2009

Blog Party Post: Day 5: Deciding to Homeschool

I know that the Titus 2 Blog Party officially ends today, but I keep having this feeling that I have one more post to add to my series from this week. I wrote about my spiritual foundation, my quest to be a godly wife, my journey through motherhood, and my vision for keeping my home. I just feel compelled to conclude this Titus 2 series by posting about my convictions concerning education, and how my husband and I reached the decision to homeschool our children.

When my oldest daughter was 4, I began to worry about enrolling her in the public kindergarten. She was a very sensitive child and I began to feel she would not fare well. About this time, I met the most precious Titus 2 woman! I was immediately drawn to her meek and quiet spirit and longed to spend time with her and learn from her. She graciously invited me to her home, where I met her four lovely homeschooled children, and she proceeded to answer my many questions and loan me book after book from her well-stocked library. She taught me about home management, baking whole wheat bread, and homeschooling. These are some of the books she encouraged me to read:

I devoured these books, which combined with the living example of her family, ignited in me a burning desire to try homeschooling! Unfortunately, my dear husband did not share that passion! In fact, the harder I tried to persuade him, the more dead set he was against it! Eventually, he went so far as to say, "Over my dead body will we ever homeschool!" (Of course, he laughs about that rash comment today!!) Eventually, the Lord impressed upon me the need to back off the issue and just PRAY about it and let Him work. That is what I did, and eventually, God changed my husband's heart and he agreed to a "trial year" of homeschooling, and as they say, the rest is history! :)
Recently, a friend, who is a conscientious young mother, confided in me that she and her husband were praying about schooling options for their young children. She asked me to share with her why we chose homeschooling. So, I wrote her a long email, outlining the advantages of homeschooling. I want to share from that email for this post.

The primary reason we have homeschooled our children for the past nineteen years, is that we felt called of God to do so. Deuteronomy 6:6-10 especially speaks of the parents' responsibility to teach their children about God all throughout the day, while sitting in their house and while walking (driving) by the way, when rising up, and when lying down. Of course, if your children are at school all day, it makes it pretty hard to fulfill the mandate of these verses. So, this is one Scripture that the Lord used to turn our hearts toward homeschooling. There are many others, as well. Feeling a call from God is really the only reason you need to homeschool; however, what I want to do is share other advantages to homeschooling that we have discovered through the years.

First of all, most parents want to impart their beliefs and values to their children, but once they go to school, children become more influenced by their friends and teachers than by their parents. Homeschooling allows the parents to remain the primary influence in their children's lives and to control what they learn, what they watch, what they read, who their friends are, etc. While some may disagree with this approach and feel that it is wrong for parents to be "overprotective," I feel that God has given parents the responsibility to protect their children and to teach them His ways, and that we will have to give an account to God someday of how we have done in this area. Also, I believe that the home is like a "greenhouse" for young plants. If we carefully nurture our tender plants in our homes, then when they are old and strong enough to be "transplanted," they will have a better chance of weathering the storms of life, the pests, the diseases, the droughts, etc. which they will be exposed to in the "real world." Different children will be ready to be "transplanted" at different ages. Our two oldest daughters homeschooled all the way through high school, and then went on to attend college, work, attend Bible school, and serve in various ministries. At the present time, we have "transplanted" our sons to a Christian school for their high school years, which we hope will be a good transition for them to college life.

Secondly, homeschooling allows you to focus on teaching character, which is so much more important than academics to life and to godliness! Character is formed in the daily living and learning, and especially through daily disciplines, chores and school work. I think homeschooling is the ideal format for teaching character to your children, and also in yourself!! I know I would be a totally different person today, if it were not for homeschooling. My life was greatly influenced by the homeschooling books I read and by the character that was painfully formed in me through the daily challenges!! One book I highly recommend is Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit by Teri Maxwell. This is a great book for any mother or teacher! A lady from my church who is a public school teacher borrowed this book from me and read it and LOVED it!! Anyway, I really can't emphasize enough the benefits of having to deal with your children's and your own sin natures every day and ALL day! This may not sound like a benefit at first, and it is not for the faint of heart, but it is a real spiritual and practical benefit in the long run!

Thirdly, homeschooling really fosters family unity and strengthens the relationships between children and their parents. Everyone knows that first graders get crushes on their teachers -- if YOU are the one who opens the door to reading and unlocks the key to lifelong learning for your child, your child's heart will be drawn to you (as God intended) and not to someone else, who may or may not share your value system! Also, as children learn to see themselves as part of a team and live and learn together daily, it tends to draw their hearts together as well. I've always utilized older children to help teach or read to younger children and younger children can help by drilling flashcards with older children, etc. This reinforces learning for both younger and older and also encourages a team spirit in the family. We believe strongly in the value of a close family and believe that homeschooling has really helped us achieve that goal!

Fourthly, homeschooling allows you to protect your children from a vast host of dangers in the institutional school setting. Dangers are most prevalent in public schools, but I see many dangers even in Christian school settings. Today, the physical dangers from abuse or violence are very real, in addition to the dangers of negative peer influences. We have noticed that many homeschooled children are more confident and capable, because they've had time to mature in a loving, protected environment free from bullies, teasing, etc. Our oldest son started Christian school in the middle of his tenth grade year, and amazed us by feeling confident enough to volunteer to work a geometry problem on the chalkboard his first day of school! He also shocked us by running for student body vice president his junior year, which he won, and then went on to be student body president his senior year!!

Academics would be a fifth advantage. Tutoring is readily acknowledged as the best form of instruction. All of the research indicates that homeschoolers are doing well academically and have higher test score averages than public school children. They are also doing well in college. Most loving parents are capable of providing their children with a superior education at home.

A sixth advantage is that children learn much faster at home and much less time is wasted, even when you factor in interruptions from younger siblings and life crises! They can easily complete the basics in 2-4 hours a day, depending on age, and then the remaining time can be used for enrichment activities, creative pursuits, music training, character studies, home businesses, etc. My children have always felt sorry for the public school children coming home on the school bus at 4:30 pm or even later. One of the hardest things for my boys to deal with at school has been all the wasted time and "stupid questions" asked by their classmates, not to mention the time wasted on discipline problems.

Flexibility in scheduling is a seventh advantage. Time to travel with parents or grandparents is an option for the homeschooled student. You can take vacations during the off-season, when rates are lower and destinations are far less crowded. Children can accompany their fathers or grandparents on business trips and see the world!~ For a number of years, my husband has taken one of the older children with him when he has traveled to conferences. Different ones have gone to Milwaukee, San Diego, Phoenix, San Antonio, Austin and Philadelphia. This is a really neat fringe benefit!

An eighth advantage of homeschooling is that it allows children to pursue "delight-directed" studies and to explore whatever interests them, instead of having their natural curiosity and desire to learn squelched by "the system." My oldest daughter had a lot more time to pursue her music studies and ended up getting an excellent piano scholarship to college. Instead of receiving a "one-size-fits-all" assembly line education, your children can be given an individualized education that matches their "bent" in life. Also, homeschooling enables you to focus on giving your children lifelong tools for learning, instead of just requiring that they memorize and spit back information. Many school children today are "spoon-fed" right up through high school graduation, making the transition to college very difficult for them. Homeschooling in a busy household requires children to learn to be independent learners and to block out distractions. My oldest daughter felt this was a a valuable advantage when she got to college -- she saw other freshmen struggling to learn to be independent learners when she had mastered that years ago! In fact, just a couple weeks ago a representative from a prestigious, private college told me that they actively recruit homeschoolers because they are independent thinkers and learners!

So, there you have eight advantages to homeschooling! So, what about disadvantages? Well, homeschooling is time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming and exhausting to the mother, giving her less time to serve her husband, her church, and her community. However, many homeschool families have developed creative ways of ministering together as a family. Another possible disadvantage is that school is often interrupted when there are family crises; however, we have found that we have all learned a lot from "God's classrooms," even when they have been a deviation from the planned academic instruction. Another disadvantage is the lack of opportunities for homeschooled youth to be involved in various activities, such as athletics. In larger communities, this is rarely a problem, as there are large homeschool groups that offer a myriad of activites and even athletics; however, in smaller rural areas, such as where we live now, there are less options for homeschoolers.

Hopefully, this post will help you evaluate some of the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling, and point you to some resources where you can further research this educational option to see if it is right for your family!!


Jules said...

Elizabeth, thank you for sharing this post. You wrote, "Feeling a call from God is really the only reason you need to homeschool". Although I don't homeschool, I have to agree. Surprsingly (since we prayed and were uneasy about a state school), we never felt called to homeschool. I know that some homeschooling bloggers would say that this was because we were disobedient or selfish, but I don't think so. God - for reasons best known to Himself - did not lead us down this path. Homeschooling is growing in popularity in NZ but it still doesn't seem to be as prevalent as in the State and certainly seems to be done badly the majority of the time. However I'm pleased to be able to read the blogs of so many overseas homsechoolers who seem to be doing it so well (perhaps it will eventually take off here and there'll be better resources, support, etc). That colleges actively recruit homeschoolers is so exciting (the opposite seems to be true here).

Anyway, I just want to thank you for your post that was so fair and non-judgemental and helps someone like me see the benefits of homeschooling. Blessings, Jules

busymomof10 said...

Thank you, Jules, for your sweet comment! I really appreciated your perspective.

Muthering Heights said...

Thank you for the "review" of homeschooling! My children are too young for school just yet, so it's nice to hear about the different methods of schooling! :)

Amy said...

I wanted to tell you "THANK YOU" for the well-written posts you have contributed to this blog party! I have thoroughly enjoyed your insight, encouragement, and book suggestions. :)

Tina said...

Thank you for such a well thought out, well written post.
We homeschool our girls and love it! (It's such an ingrained part of who we are and how we function that it would make me sad to picture us in any other way. We know that it's God's plan for us.)
Thank you again.
In His love,

jamers said...

I just enjoy reading your posts so much. Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom with us.

L.H. said...

Thanks for sharing this story. We have an almost four year old and I really can't see myself sending her off to school. I want to homeschool her, but hubby has alot of concerns about it. I know that if I push and push, it will only make things worse. So, I am going to just pray and pray:)

I know it was God that allowed me to find and read your testimony about this today! I believe God is going to bless us in this area just like he did for your family!

We have also been trusting God with our family size as well and I hope to have a large family one day. It just seems like its so beautiful. (A lot of hard work, but beautiful!:)

Thanks for sharing your experiences on this blog. I've enjoyed it so far!

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