By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Choosing how to educate your children is one of the most weighty decisions we must make as parents. School is where our kids spend a large part of their time; it's where they develop critical friendships, are shepherded by teachers, and are inspired to see God in this world he has created for us.
I truly believe there is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to decisions around educating our kids. Sometimes even families find that one setting is best for one child while another will thrive in a completely different environment. There are no easy answers regarding how we choose to educate our children.
Our Father, who gently leads us, is faithful to guide us towards wisdom and truth if we are willing to hear his voice for our families. I have found that what we assume our families should look like isn't always what he is calling us to. God often takes us outside our comfort zones as parents to teach us his ways and to keep our children on the path less traveled that ultimately will point them toward Heaven.
In our story, my husband and I were both teachers in public schools when our kids were young. We assumed we'd send our kids to Kindergarten on that big yellow bus and continue our careers in the schools alongside them, but God had a very different plan for our family. He softened our hearts and prepared the way for us to embrace homeschooling, and it's been a gift to our family.
It was not what we expected, but we are thankful for the grace God gave us to hear his voice on these issues and make the necessary sacrifices so we could be present with our kids during these growing years. He has provided abundantly for us in and through each and every season.
Here are some ways homeschooling has been a gift and a sacrifice for us that may help you as you consider the next right step for your children.
1. Homeschooling Offers Families More Control Over Their Time
Homeschooling gives your family more control over your time. We all feel the pressure to fit in extracurricular activities, homework, family time, church meetings, work functions, and social gatherings into the week! Homeschoolers aren't exempt from full schedules, but the flexibility of a home-based education relieves some of the pressure families feel to get it all in after the traditional school day ends.
Our family can take some days of the week to enjoy extra sleep, fit in some extracurriculars such as dance or music classes during the school day, and my kids have time to rest in the afternoon before heading to their evening sports. We have time to fit in field trips that bring topics we study to life. Several days out of the week, we have friends pop by for a few hours just so we can be together. I can attend weekly Bible study with my kids. We also enjoy the community that our Classical Conversations co-op offers.
When my kids are sick or have doctor appointments, we can shift our day around so no school is missed. When a need arises in our community, we also have the chance to step up and help. We have delivered meals and supplies to foster families and adjusted our learning schedules to accommodate the foster kids that have joined our family over the years too! The older my kids are, the more they appreciate that they have the chance to complete school work and play and enjoy their days.
As a parent, all this freedom can sometimes feel like a challenge. It is up to us to create a rhythm that brings structure that works for your family over the course of a week. Our routine has changed almost yearly as we've pivoted to accommodate new babies in our home, new classwork from our co-op, and new interests as a family. Remaining flexible as a parent and being willing to make changes as life changes can help relieve the stress that comes with being the planner of everything for your kids.
2. Homeschooling Makes Space for Solid Relationships
I know that can sound counterintuitive because we've all heard the adage about homeschoolers being insufficiently socialized, but the reality is that if you invest in a strong homeschooling community and make family connection a priority, your kids have so much space to build lasting, solid, long term connections as homeschoolers. As you consider if homeschooling is right for you, I'd begin by researching what the homeschooling community looks like in your area. One great resource to look into is Classical Conversations. Some campuses worldwide follow their homeschool co-op model and are a great place to find a community you can learn and grow alongside.
Relationships are the way we learn and grow in a healthy way. Connection fuels the brain more than a specific curriculum or educational philosophy. Homeschooling gives your family the power to build a strong, intentional community. I won't lie; creating this community takes work! It means lots of playdates, showing up to co-op field trips, Mom's nights, and clearing time just to be with people. I promise the work is worth it, though.
Our kids have the time and space to connect in an organic way with kids and adults when their whole day is not programmed from morning until bedtime. My ten-year-old loves playing with our two-year-old and his buddies just as much as he is able to talk to other adults or his preteen cousins. He is accustomed to interacting on a regular basis with more than just his peers.
Homeschooling also gives your family a special chance to be together and grow together throughout your kids' young lives. Every day I spend significant time with each of my kids. I know how my kids learn best, what they excel at, what they need extra help with, who their friends are, what they are worried about, their favorite books, games, eating habits, how they treat others, and more! As my kids get older, I appreciate this extra time to connect more and more.
3. Homeschooling Gives You the Chance to Know God and Make Him Known
Learning isn't supposed to be about achieving a certain level of success, as the world likes to tell us. Our culture is underselling to us the true value of having a well-trained mind. The chance to learn is a chance to know God. It's so much more important than testing well or getting a certain college degree.
When we begin to see education as the reward and not a means to an end, homeschooling makes so much sense. The choice to opt out of the assembly-line education system is giving our kids the gift of exploring God's world with wonder and space every day.
I'll be honest in the daily grind of mothering and teaching, it can be hard to remember you are giving them wonder. But then, all of a sudden, in the middle of our full days, beauty just shows up, and the best part is that you all get to behold it together.
That's the gift of this life, beholding God's beautiful world together.
I can't tell you how much I've learned as a homeschooling Mom. There is so much I never really mastered in school and so many things I never got to do. It's a sweet chance for me to reexamine English Grammar alongside my 6th grader, discover the natural world with my fourth grader, and delight in making art with my 1st grader.
Homeschooling is an opportunity to see the world with God as the center. It takes daily grace to be together, learning, and growing. Homeschooling allows you to see that you can be something beautiful as a family, even amid all your imperfection. It's a costly journey, and I'll never fully be able to share with you what all it can mean for your home. It's one of those rare unseen treasures you get to hold close to that the world will never understand, but you will always remember to be sweet and good.
Homeschooling isn't just about our kids; it's a family affair. It takes all hands on deck. It's Dad helping with reading aloud at bedtime; it's families giving up extras because potential income is lost so a parent can be with the kids; it's Mom investing wildly in being present even when the day is filled with chaos for the sake of loving her people well. Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It's not an easy road, but I know if you trust God with this next step for your home, he will gently lead you closer to Him.