This was originally posted in January of 2014. So many families underestimate the decision to homeschool and its impact on every aspect of how the family lives and breathes, so I thought it might be a good time to share–again–our own testimony.
‘Homeschooling is a how-to-live decision not a how-to-learn decision’ was the title of the blog –a title which so strongly resonated with my thoughts about home education until I was compelled to pen some thoughts of my own on the subject.
I have shared our testimony before regarding how and why we decided to homeschool, but briefly, our decision point was very unlike many Christian homeschoolers, who feel a ‘calling’ to minister to their families in this way. Instead, we were corporate yuppies growing increasingly frustrated with the evasive American dream. Put bluntly, the hours of travel and time away from our two small children, plus the debt involved with trying to match our realities with our middle-class suburban fantasy, were turning our dream into a nightmare. Discovering that we would have our third child was the proverbial straw, so to speak, that made us think about doing some things differently. Pulling our children out of their private, Christian school and taking on a journey with which we were only vaguely familiar—homeschooling—was one of those “things.” The fact that I was already working on securing a new job and only part-time opportunities were coming my way seemed to confirm that this was God’s direction for us at the time.
How did homeschooling change our lives? The most immediate change was financial. In the earliest days, we packed all three kids in the car and traveled with Dad, so the kids were blessed to be able to school on the road, which was an educational experience in itself. In that way, some aspects of homeschooling were actually better than the days before. (That season, by the way, ended as the kids grew older and more involved in their own activities; now, Dad cannot cajole anyone to put aside a dance class or youth group gathering to go next door). Yet, with the then-breadwinner coming home, we had to re-educate ourselves in other ways. Gone were the days of spontaneous eating out just because no one felt like cooking, gone were the clothes-shopping sprees just because of a good sale, and we definitely had to put our heads together regarding timing and necessity of purchases that might have just been matter-of-fact-on-my-way-home-from-work conversation before dinner. I did not think much of it then, but in hindsight, I consider it the hand of God that our church held a Financial Peace course right before I came home. Our road to financial freedom has had its fits and starts, but we were able to get out of a number of debts before I came home, and more importantly, we were able to totally reshape our thinking about money, deciphering needs from wants, and understanding better the power of delayed gratification.
There were other changes, too, that were equally significant, if not equally tangible. Mentally and physically, homeschooling required a very different level of preparation than our previous lives. There was—and continues to be—a significant educational process involved as I learned more about our children, how they learned, and what curriculum and processes would be of most help to them in their development. And just as I thought I “had it down,” something about them or me would inevitably change, and so I continuously needed the Lord to show Himself strong in my weakness and offer me grace. As the one who caught more skepticism, if not outright hatred, my husband had to educate himself to be able to address those who wanted to offer their unsolicited opinions about the value of educating our children in this way. I, who briefly enjoyed a cleaning crew while I traveled for work, had to learn how to manage more aspects of the home with small children in tow than I had previously. Finally, there was that accountability factor as we became solely responsible for the product of our education. Our faith in the traditional school system was that if we did our part—made sure homework was completed, periodically met with teachers, etc., for progress checks, and kept a general “eye” on things—that our kids would excel. Our faith in what we had put together as an educational package? Not so much, and the onus was on us, not the school system, for whatever were our results.
Spiritually, we were more accountable for certain areas, too. It is not that we were not always accountable for our children’s development, but when they spend all day with you, well, let us just say you begin to tighten up a bit. Bible study became a daily part of what we did, initially because it seemed like the “right thing” for a Christian educator to do; as those changes that I discussed earlier occurred within me, I grew more and more to understand that we—all of us–needed more than anything else to study the Word together, and to allow it to speak to each of us where we live. Even as I sit today with all of my own shortcomings as I ask the kids, “What is God saying to us today,” I am learning to trust God more and more that He has a Word for them, even when I may not.
Could all of these changes have occurred within our family without a decision to homeschool? Maybe. I know that a number of those haters that I spoke of earlier become incensed with my husband when he talks about how our children—deemed ‘unsocialized’ by the anti-homeschooling community—learn to communicate effectively with all types of people (not just children their age). Others give me the side-eye as they consider my posts sometimes too anti-public education. But in the words of a friend, we needed homeschooling. It made us purposeful and deliberate about what we wanted to see in our children as well as in our family. Our decision made us stronger as a couple, as we sometimes felt backed into an us-against-the-world type of position when others close to us would offer that unsolicited advice I mentioned earlier. What began for us as a cost-saving decision became a decision that totally changed our lives, and I am thankful for it.
I write this to the relative newbies are making decisions about home education and wondering what the real costs are. For those who have homeschooled a minute, what decisions, both tangible and intangible, did you make in order to homeschool? How did those decisions, including the decision to homeschool itself, change you and your family?