Originally published Tuesday, 05 August 2014.
Our homeschool materials have arrived for this next school year. Books yet to be opened lie there shiny and new, an invitation to learn and explore. I look forward to cracking them open and discovering the world God has created with my children.
This year we are studying space and the human body. We are also studying the New Testament, the history of Ancient Rome, and the early church. And of course, there's spelling, math, language arts, art, music, Spanish....
When people learn that we are homeschoolers, I get a few different responses. One response is genuine curiosity. People are intrigued by the idea of homeschool and ask lots of questions about what we do and how we do it. Some are considering it for themselves and are excited to talk to someone who has done it.
There are others who say, "Oh, I could never do that!" They talk about how they could never teach their children and shake their head at just the thought of it. They stare at me as though I am a strange specimen they've never encountered before. (It may just be that they are confused that I am not wearing a long dress with my hair wrapped in a bun!).
Occasionally, I meet someone who does or has homeschooled. That is so much fun because we start talking shop and share curriculum ideas and strategies. It's a little like running into someone from your home country while traveling abroad. There's an immediate understanding and connection because of shared experiences.
When it comes to those who find it strange that we homeschool, or those who are a bit suspicious of it, I don't hold anything against them. Because I don't think it is for everyone. I think it's worth looking into and evaluating as a possible option, but it's not something that can work for every family. Homeschooling is a big commitment and shouldn't be taken lightly.
Today, if homeschool is something you've tossed around in your mind, I want you to consider a few things before you decide to homeschool.
1. Consider Your Motives: When it comes to making big decisions in life, we should all carefully weigh our motives. This goes for homeschooling as well. What are your reasons and motives for homeschooling? Are they based on trust or fear? Unless a giant bear is chasing you, fear is a lousy motivation for doing something. A big decision like homeschooling is something that needs to be prayed about. Seek God's wisdom for your family. Search your heart, is this something you believe God is calling you to do or are you simply afraid of the alternatives? The truth is, homeschooling is not an end all solution to our fears. It won't remove all the things we fear might harm our children. Ultimately, we need to make decisions based on our trust in God's goodness and faithfulness.
2. It's a big sacrifice: Like most sacrifices we make for our children, homeschooling is a sacrifice worth making. But it is a sacrifice. We give up our time, our energy, and space in our home to spend most of our days teaching our children. Don't think that it is an easy sacrifice. Sacrifices hurt and you will notice the pain and discomfort of the sacrifice. Sometimes more than others. But you need to prepare your mind and heart for what it will mean to your life.
3. It takes discipline: While you don't have to be the most organized person in the world to homeschool, it does require a certain level of discipline. For some this comes naturally, for others it requires work. But no more than you need for a job or be a student in school. If self-discipline isn't a strength for you, you may want to find some resources to help you stay organized.
4. It's hard work and some days you will want to quit: Some days your kids may be cranky. Some days they will struggle to learn a new concept. Some days they will be distracted. Some days it may seem like you didn't accomplish a single thing. Homeschooling is not easy. Wherever two or three sinners are gathered together, there is guaranteed to be problems. When days like these come, they are great opportunities to practice grace and live out the gospel. This is where character is forged and life long lessons of self-discipline, contentment, respect, and hard work are learned. Even the hard days can be useful in a child's growth and learning. And the good new is, tomorrow is another day.
5. It's okay to ask for help: Just because you are homeschooling doesn't mean you are in it all alone. There will be times when you need to ask for help. Your child might need additional help because he or she struggles with learning in some way. Or you may not know the best curriculum to use. Or maybe the curriculum you are using just doesn't cut it. Seek out help. Use resources available to you. Ask other homeschoolers for advice and recommendations. When homeschooling, it's important to be a part of a community where you can draw from the strengths of others.
6. Too much socialization: One of the greatest misconceptions about homeschool is that kids are isolated from other children and they never learn how to socialize with others. I could write an entire article on why that's not true but for the sake of brevity, here's the truth: there is so much for homeschoolers to do apart from their learning inside the home that you have to set limits or you'll be doing too much. There are so many co-ops, clubs, activities, classes, field trips, etc. that are available for homeschoolers that there is no risk for homeschooled children to be under-socialized. We've had to learn to say no to activities so we actually have time to stay home and learn!
7. Your family will grow closer: Here's an amazing by-product of homeschool that I love: you will grow closer as a family. You will play a central role in your child's growth and development. You'll see them discover new things, learn about the world around them, and mature in their reasoning. You will create memories together that last forever.
Homeschooling has enabled us to travel quite often as a family. We can bring all our materials and books with us on the road and learn anywhere. There's a whole world out there to explore and we are enjoying it together.
8. You will have lots of fun!: Even though it is a lot of work and even though it's often hard and challenging, homeschool is also lots of fun. You will do fun activities and projects together. Sometimes, you'll learn new things yourself and find yourself excited about the topics you are teaching. There's nothing like listening to the creative stories your children write or doing a science experiment together or reading an adventure story out loud together. Learning is fun and learning together only magnifies the fun.
Do you homeschool or consider doing it? I would love to hear your comments or questions.