Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why Homeschool

I've been working on this post for some time now.  I wanted to share a little bit about a big bit of my life's work:  homeschooling.  Talk to any homeschooling family and you're likely to hear a variety of different reasons for why they've chosen this method of education for their children.  But most will agree, it's more than an education, it's a lifestyle--a way of living and thinking.  Here's some reasons why we have chosen this for our family, and why we have not. 

1.  I am NOT homeschooling because I want to shelter my children from all the evils of the world.  I mean, I do of course, but it's an impossibility because the world is full of sinners.  My children are, and I am.  This is not about keeping them in a bubble of Christian safety until they are 30.  I AM homeschooling so that as my children encounter sin, in their own hearts and the hearts of others, I can help them see it for what it is--a sign of depravity and of the need for Jesus.  So that day by day, I can help them look at the world through the lens of the Bible, and discern God's way from the world's way.  The most natural way to do this is to be WITH them. 

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV, see also Deut. 11:18-21)
Do I know people who are doing this kind of teaching well without homeschooling?  Absolutely.  I don't think homeschooling is the only way.  But anything else requires a much greater degree of intentionality.  It's just the nature of the beast--if your kids are away from you the majority of each day, you see fewer of the out-workings of their hearts.  You can't be as in-tune.

2.  I am NOT homeschooling because I hate public schools or teachers.  I had a great public school experience myself, at least in terms of teachers.  I'm grateful for the people that helped me learn how to think, write, and create, and to love it.  I experienced the care and nurture of good teachers.  But I know my children better than any teacher ever could.  I know how they think and what helps them to learn.  And my interest in them and in their joy is that of a parent as well as a teacher.  All parents are teachers to their children anyway, whether they're intentional about it or not.  I AM homeschooling because I believe God has called me to teach them, and has equipped me to do so, even though I am not formally trained to teach.  What I've read about the correlation between teacher qualifications and student success has only increased my confidence.  

"One of the most significant studies in this area was performed by Dr. Eric Hanushek of the University of Rochester, who surveyed the results of 113 studies on the impact of teachers’ qualifications on their students’ academic achievement. Eighty-five percent of the studies found no positive correlation between the educational performance of the students and the teacher’s educational background. Although 7 percent of the studies did find a positive correlation, 5 percent found a negative impact."

Although teacher certification is pervasive, there is little rigorous evidence that it is systematically related to student achievement. Contrary to conventional wisdom, mathematics and science students who have teachers with emergency credentials do no worse than students whose teachers have standard teaching credentials, all else being equal. This result should, at the very least, cast doubt on assertions that standard certification should be required of all teachers. 12

The study also found that having a degree in education has no impact on student science test scores and, in mathematics, having a BA in education actually has a statistically negative impact on scores in math!

All the studies demonstrate that parents’ “hands-on” degree in homeschooling their own children is much more effective than spending all that time for a BA in education.

3.  I am NOT homeschooling because I think it is a guarantee of anything.  Of my children's salvation, or of any success you might name.  We believe Psalm 127.

    Unless the LORD builds the house,
        those who build it labor in vain.

    Unless the LORD watches over the city,
        the watchman stays awake in vain.
    It is in vain that you rise up early
        and go late to rest,
    eating the bread of anxious toil;
        for he gives to his beloved sleep.
    Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
        the fruit of the womb a reward.
    Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
        are the children of one's youth.

    Blessed is the man
        who fills his quiver with them!
    He shall not be put to shame
        when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
(Psalm 127 ESV)
I believe we bring very little to the table.  I AM homeschooling because I believe the Lord is pleased to work in weakness, and we are trusting Him to build this house so that one day our children might fly into the world as straight arrows, unafraid to live for Christ, and unafraid to die for Him.  We pray this labor may not be in vain.

Answering an objection...

"What about socialization?"  This is the question/objection most often raised about homeschooling, and it's also one of the silliest.  There is of course value in children interacting with other children.  Friendships are important.  But school isn't about socialization...right?   Would you send your kids to public or private school so they could talk with their friends all day?  No, you'd want them to be learning.  And I just don't believe the best environment for that is in a group of 20-30 of their peers.  Homeschooling provides more and better opportunities for building good and helpful relationships.  I love what homeschool pioneer Gregg Harris has to say on the subject:
To those who ask, "But what about socialization?" I can only weep. Socialization has always been a double-edged sword; it cuts both ways. "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" (Prov. 13:20, NASB). What my wife and I are doing in our home school is positive, biblical socialization that makes our children become wise. My children walk with me, and though I definitely have a long way yet to go, I try to be an acceptable companion to my children.


Most of our modem school-based socialization is of the foolish, harmful sort. Pooled ignorance leads to poor taste in clothing, music, films, and TV - the kind of people who read the grocery store tabloids and believe them. But the harm is far more than cultural. Disinterest in school, disrespect for teachers, rapacious dating, promiscuity, substance abuse, and gang violence also come in waves-- pounding waves of youth culture that erode moral standards. Even a small population of these poor creatures requires that high schools be run like youth prisons.


Good socialization is primarily age-integrated. It occurs when the young are included in the lives of older and wiser people, especially parents and other family members at home and the spiritual family of one's local church. Walking with the wise is a lifestyle, not a program. It is a club of fellow enthusiasts, not a class of uninterested age-mates. It includes working together, eating together, playing together, worshiping together, and studying together. This is where God placed the responsibility for child training and education, and it works very well in aiming children at God's highest and best targets in every area of life.


That is what I want for my children - God's highest and best - and that is my purpose in homeschooling them. Forgive what may seem my audacity, but I don't want my children to be merely counted among the Reformed. I want them to stand with the Reformers.
I could say a lot more about this, but I'll just add that my kids see, and will continue to see, quite a lot of other kids.  Every week they go to classes at church, group homeschool classes, and our small group.  They interact with kids they don't know on the playground and at museums.  Someday there may be neighborhood friends as well.  I'm glad to see some friendships blossoming.  I'm also glad I get to see them blossom, that I get to help them along, that I am able to direct them in good ways. 

Homeschooling is not always easy or fun.  My kids are with me from sun up to sun down 7 days a week, full of needs.  I've cried over it some nights, in weakness and frustration.  Even this early in our homeschooling journey, I've found that lights at ends of tunnels open up into clearings framed with the mouths of 6 more tunnels.  But those intermittent clearings are pretty glorious.  Here's a few other reasons why it's worth chugging along in the darkness sometimes:


- I get to pick what works.  My son and my daughter are very different, personality-wise.  My son is only 18 months, so everything is still developing, but I expect that I will have to make use of some different materials and curricula when it comes time to homeschool him. The good news is, I can.  My kids aren't just names to be assigned textbooks.  I can choose work for each of them to do that is catered to their learning styles.  And, while homeschooling has given us great flexibility in attending to areas of delay (speech, for my daughter) it also has allowed her to explore her areas of strength as part of her schoolwork.  My daughter has been figuring out 50-100 piece puzzles since she was 3 years old.  She's now almost 5, and as part of preschool math last year, we introduced Mighty Mind and found she could do the pictures meant for 7-9 year-olds.  She thinks they're fun and doesn't know she's building up great logic and spatial reasoning skills.

- Our mutual joy.  I wrote about how we are coming to the end of our reading journey.  Actually, it's really still the beginning, as we'll continue to read and work on those skills daily, but the foundation has been laid and we are all thrilled.  My daughter has caught the reading bug.  In fact, I can hear her reading to herself in the other room as I write this.  She loves it.  And I love that she loves it.  We've arrived here together, with God's help.  Today we're reading lesson 100, the last of the book.  And tonight we're celebrating as a family with a special dinner of her choosing.  How amazing to be a part of this.  She didn't just arrive home off the bus with a paper and a sticker that says "I did it!"  I've watched her do it, every step of the way.

Laurel Line tunnel image via freerangestock


3 comments:

Lil' Momma @ Five in Training for HIM said...

Oh wow I so needed to read this blog. You put all my feelings on one blog. I am going to link back to this blog from my own if that is ok. I am praying my daughter will catch the reading bug, since my son 12, has never been bit by it. Instead he has struggled for years. Thanks you again for the great post.

Lil' Momma
Living with a hard working husband, 1 toddler, 1 preschooler and 1 middle schooler who are Five in Training for HIM

Dee said...

I love how you have so intelligently and compassionately shared! You have put into words what so many of us homeschool moms feel! I have included a link to this post in my blog http://dee-lightfullmoments.blogspot.com/2011/10/freethinking-homeschoolers.html

Over Yonder said...

WONDERFUL post!! I so agree with all that your wrote.