My husband and I have been married 5+ months and I’ve already started getting the question. Will you homeschool your children? Wait a minute! Already?!? We’re not even in the family way, so to speak, let alone prepared to make decisions about our imaginary children’s education.
Let’s be honest though, I’m not surprised or offended by the question. I’ve received it since college when people would learn I was homeschooled. In some ways, I even like the question. I’m a fan of homeschooling and think it’s one of many sound educational choices. But instead of answering the question of homeschooling my children with a definitive yes or no, I try to share with folks what I learned from being homeschooled. Now, I’m not talking about the wives of Henry the VIII or the quadratic equation. No. I’m talking about the big life ideas that continue to shape me every day as an adult.
Before sharing my perspective, a bit of a disclaimer re: what I believe about homeschooling:
-It’s not a perfect education system. If anyone knows this truth well, a homeschooler does. There’s bad curriculum. There are lazy students and parents. There are academic standards set too low. I could share more, but I’ll stop there.
-It’s not a surefire way to protect a child. Everything that happens in public schools and private schools happens in homeschooling in some form or fashion. The biggest problem facing children isn’t the big-scary-outside-world, but their own hearts.
-It’s not inherently superior to public and private schools. The smartest, industrious, most interesting, kindest people I know went to public schools, private schools and home schools. How a family chooses to educate their children matters. But it is just one piece of what shapes a child.
-It’s not God’s way of educating children. No where in Scripture is homeschooling commanded. To say that is the case, or to make others feel inferior for choosing a different education method, is legalism. Parents are called to train up a child in the way he/she should go. Period. Jesus didn’t die so we could homeschool our children.
Many of my friends from different education backgrounds learned the same things I list below, but in different ways. In my story, homeschooling was merely the means. I look at that means with warmth, fondness and thankfulness because it has shaped me into who I am today.
Learning is more than sitting in a classroom. Homeschooling showed me that learning isn’t confined to a specific space or time of day. Dissect a lamb’s brain in my neighbor’s kitchen? Yes. Give a health class presentation on the benefits of breastfeeding to middleschoolers? Been there, done that (thank you, Mrs. Green). Mummify a chicken in my kitchen? Check (see pics below). Visit a landfill to learn about trash and the environment? That was done too. I’m just scratching the surface. My fondest memories of childhood, middle school and high school revolve around my education because learning was our lifestyle.
Those we live with can be our greatest community. In most cases, homeschoolers are profoundly shaped by their family. More than anyone else in my K-12 years, my family shaped me into who I am and made me more like Jesus. Additionally, my family is one of my greatest and favorite sources of community. They were (and still are) who I have fun with, who I enjoy talking with, and who I like doing life with. Spending time with family isn’t a box to check off a list, but a joy, most of the time.
Domestic life is beautiful. Since I was at home most of my life, I gained a deep appreciation for the complexity and glory of domestic life. I never saw home as a place of bondage, but freedom. My views on home life have evolved since childhood, but I firmly hold that home is one of the most powerful forces in society. Along those same lines, homeschooling showed me that parenthood is a noble calling and there is value to having a parent stay home to care for and nurture children.
Don’t teach facts alone; tell stories. A significant portion of my childhood education was always connected to stories. How did I learn about WWII, the history of China and the great missionary movement? Through reading a biography on Eric Liddell. How did I learn about Roman history, art and science? Through reading The Bronze Bow. How did I learn about philosophy, theology and the nature of man? Through Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Certainly stories & novels don’t address every academic subject. But in our home, narrative was always the starting point for diving into an array of subjects.
Hard work is ultimate, not innate intelligence. In my home, my IQ and grades were rarely praised. Instead, effort and critical thinking were rewarded. This set a tone in my life to embrace humility, industriousness, thoughtful risk-taking and creativity. The dividends this has paid in my personal, academic and professional life are incalculable.
Words are powerful. For our family and greater education community, homeschooling = conversation. We learned through talking whether the topic was chemistry, English lit, algebra, physics, current events, ancient history, health, etc… Through all of those classes (whether with my mom and brother or our co-op) I came to understand the relationship between artful conversation/question-asking and learning.
Religion isn’t an academic subject, but a way of viewing all of life. I never had a “Bible” class. Whenever I approached a subject, I was taught to ask how my faith and the Bible informs the study and understanding of a subject, not simply what the Bible says about that subject.
Education is a sweet, grand endeavor. Ronald Reagan said that “life is just one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” Homeschooling taught me to believe the same thing about education. Education never stops. It’s always in the background of life. And it’s a beautiful journey.
So will we homeschool our children? That question really misses the point. I want to teach my children the above, and perhaps that means will be homeschooling. Until that season of life comes, I’ll remember with joy the quirky and beautiful pieces of my educational journey.