School Rethought- Why We Continue to Homeschool Our Children
A few weeks ago, I started reading the book “Rethinking School” by Susan Wise Bauer. Around the same time, I was meeting new friends, parents of children who attend a local Christian school. In that time, there were plenty of opportunities to share why my husband and I made the decision to bring our children home and establish “Daye Academy” and “Legacy High”. Since I am revisiting all of these ideas and reasons for homeschooling, I thought that I would write a post about our decision to homeschool and why we are continuing to make this decision.
One of the statements I hear often when I tell others that I homeschool my four children is “Oh, I could never do that!” I understand this sentiment. I used to think it myself. My oldest is strong-willed and my attempts to teach her anything when she was preschool aged were met with fights and frustration on both sides (I might be a little strong-willed too!). As my husband and I prayed about education options for her, the only real option for us at the time was public school. Besides struggles with a teacher in 2nd grade (she had 2 to 3 hours of homework every night!!) and personality conflicts with a teacher in 4th grade, her elementary years were pretty great. She developed a deep love for reading and writing and she generally enjoyed her time at school. We sent the boys to public school as well, because it had been a good fit for their older sister, so we prayed that it would be the same for them. Each year, we prayed and sought God’s leading in their education and each year we felt that they should be in the schools they were in.
When my oldest started middle school, she found a group of friends that she loved and with whom she connected. But as time went on, I began to see some difficulties arising. I could tell that she was trying to fit in with the other kids and this wasn’t always a good thing. Over the course of two years, my concerns grew. She had conflicts that were completely contradictory to her behavior elsewhere and when she started coming home every day in tears, we knew something needed to change. Her stress levels had reached an all time high and our family felt the strain of it. She would leave for school before her brothers woke up. The boys would get off the bus around 4 PM and then it was a scramble to get homework done AND make dinner AND deal with grumpy children. During the school week, we felt like we were on a treadmill, racing from one thing to the next, but not really getting anywhere.
When we discovered that an authority figure in our daughter’s life had labelled her a “mean girl”, we knew that something needed to change. We were not okay with this label, but as we met with our daughter’s teachers, we heard the opposite- her teachers spoke of her in glowing terms and even told us that if all of their students were like our daughter, they would have the best classes. They talked about her compassion and her thoughtfulness, her kindness and her generosity. Honestly, both opinions did not sit well with us. We didn’t want our daughter to drown under a weight of condemnation (she’s a sinner, but oh, she is saved by grace!!) OR to drown under the expectation of perfection (she may be a great kid, but please don’t miss that she’s a KID). And she was drowning!
My husband and I were both praying during this time and God was leading both of us separately to the decision we would ultimately make together. Interestingly, it was not our daughter’s struggles that pushed us to make the decision to homeschool; it was our fifth grade son. Our son has always been a sensitive and compassionate soul. He cares deeply for his friends and one night while I was kissing him goodnight, he asked, “Mom, why is life worth living?” I knew where the question was coming from. He had several friends who were struggling with some deep issues, yet his question broke my heart. He was too young to be asking that kind of question.
When I shared the conversation with my husband, his immediate response was, “I think we need to consider homeschooling.” I nodded in agreement, because I knew in my spirit that this was the direction God had been gently nudging us towards.
As I read Bauer’s book, I find myself nodding frequently in agreement. It is not a book about homeschooling kids (although she did write that one too!). Rather it is a book that encourages parents to step outside of the k-12 mindset and consider different possibilities. I love this, because the more time we spend homeschooling our kids, the more convinced I am that there is not a one-size-fits-all way to educate our children, yet educational systems keep trying to fit them all into the same mold.
I have no doubt that the majority of parents want the best education possible for their children. I don’t know any parents that want their kids to fail, yet there often seems to be an unwillingness to explore different possibilities. I am so grateful God rocked the boat of our lives and didn’t allow us to be comfortable where we were. A year and a half into homeschooling and our kids are thriving. They are able to pursue their unique interests, because there is time for it. If we have a particularly busy season, we can postpone a test and take it at a time when our kids are ready. If they grasp a concept easily, they don’t have to wait to move on to the next. Likewise, if they don’t understand something, we have the opportunity to take the time they need or figure out the best way to learn it.
I don’t believe that homeschooling is the best way for everyone to educate their children. I still believe wholeheartedly that parents need to be seeking God’s will for their families and then they need to be willing to follow where He leads. I believe God’s timing is always perfect and I am so grateful for the way He continues to lead our family, but many of the parents I speak with have had the opposite leading in their lives; they started homeschooling and now are sending their kids to private or public schools.
What I do think is crucial to a good education is a willingness to question how it’s always been done. As Susan Wise Bauer states at the beginning of “Rethinking School”,
Realize that the way we do school is entirely unnatural. And when your child struggles, think about how to flex the system, before you start trying to adjust the child. (pg. 4)
The system, even when excellent teachers are laboring within it, defies adaptation. (pg. 10)
I am so grateful that we were forced to rethink school. The benefits to our kids are beyond what I ever imagined. When something doesn’t work, we are able to adapt and we are not confined to fitting our “round” kids into a “square” hole.
Have you ever had to rethink school? Are you rethinking it now? What answers did you find or what questions do you have?