My son and his friend once got into an argument about which cereal was best. I found it ridiculous. “Why can’t you each be content to like your favorite cereal?” I asked. “Why do you think others should consider it the best, too?”
I feel the same way about arguments around families’ school choices. Parents tend to have strong feelings about education. We all want to do the best we can for our children, and we can tend to resent any implication that the choices we make might be inferior to someone else’s. Perhaps, this is why discussions about school choices can turn awkward and uncomfortable, as people argue in favor of their own choice and downplay other’s different decisions. I do not think there is one perfect method of education; every option has pros and cons. In casual conversations, I generally acknowledge the fact that we homeschool when the topic arises, but I don’t volunteer much more than that unless I am asked. Still, I am deeply thankful for the educational road my family is on, and glad for the chance to explain why.
Mine has been a homeschooling family from the start. Initially, my husband and I chose to homeschool for mostly economic reasons. We wanted to give our children a Christian education, but we both still had student loans and it was already difficult to make ends meet; Christian school tuition payments were out of the question.
I also wanted to homeschool for the sake of our children’s relationships with one another. Our oldest and second-born are just over three years apart in age. The second and third are separated by the same age gap, but they would have been four years apart in school because of their birth months. In school years, that feels like an eternity. I wanted my kids to have lots of memories of learning and playing together, but that seemed unlikely if they were apart for seven hours every weekday.
As we have continued to homeschool, I have recognized other benefits. We are able to enjoy a relaxed daily pace, without pressure to be out the door each morning at a certain time. Quite frankly, that makes me a nicer mom—that is, less snippy and nagging. It also means that my children can sleep later in the morning. When we do our formal schooling (so-called to distinguish it from the learning that is happening all the time), we can accomplish a lot in a short time, because with few students we have little need for crowd control. The combined lack of a commute and shorter school day mean plenty of time to play, to read, and to explore interests. There is space for imagination and experimentation.
I have loved learning with and teaching my kids. When my oldest son learned to read, I saw him making the connections between letters and words, and I was thrilled to have played a part in the process. I was hooked. The connections don’t always come naturally, so we adjust our learning pace as necessary. If a concept is difficult, we can spend more time laying the foundation of understanding. If a child understands a concept readily, we can build on it. I have a front-row seat as my children’s unique talents and interests emerge.
Of course, like any educational choice, homeschooling has challenges. Our house is generally busy, loud and messy. I am an introvert, and it can be exhausting for me to be around people all day long. As a mom, I already carry an emotional burden for my kids; sometimes it feels heavy to also carry the responsibility for educating them. My children and I regularly get on each other’s nerves, say hurtful things, and act selfishly. We deal with bouts of boredom and anger. We all regularly need attitude adjustments.
But, at the same time, homeschooling is so, so good! Yes, we are all sinners, but we are saved by grace—and we have learned (again and again) to repent, ask forgiveness, and start over. I cherish the relationships I have with my children.They are relationships woven with threads of laughter and lightheartedness, but also with tears and struggle. Days, weeks, months, and years of shared experiences tighten the tapestry.
In my experience, each family’s dynamics form their own unique and beautiful pattern. What characterizes one homeschool family will not necessarily be true of another. I am learning to appreciate other families’ strengths without feeling the pressure to do or be the same way. And, I recognize and celebrate specific aspects of my own family’s culture. For example:
- We love books! We visit the library weekly, and we have a very large collection of our own books. Sometimes I find all four kids quietly reading books in the same room. We enjoy reading aloud at the end of many meals, and often share audiobooks when we drive.
- We are part of a homeschool community, hiking with other families one morning a week and occasionally participating in other group activities.
- We grow things! We garden, keep bees, and cultivate fruit trees and grape vines.
- We have a daily Quiet Time after lunch, during which we each spend an hour alone, reading or playing or drawing. The uninterrupted alone time benefits all of us, but perhaps me most of all!
- Our days include time for being creative. Creativity takes different forms for each member of the family, including gardening, writing, electronics, drawing, needlework, and music.
Our homeschool has changed over the years. A few years ago, my oldest started high school at a bricks-and-mortar Christian school, which he enjoys immensely. His absence during the school day has changed the dynamics at home, giving our second-born a chance to be the oldest for a change. Also, since all of my kids now read fluently, I am finished teaching phonics! My appreciation of homeschooling has deepened with time. It’s a big responsibility, but an even bigger blessing!