We’ve made some bad decisions over the years, but there is one over which we have absolutely no regrets. If we could do it all over again, we would make exactly the same choice.
When Allison, our oldest, was three, Jim came home from a conference saying he wanted us to consider homeschooling. (That was back in the ‘80s when homeschooling was still considered a crime in some states.) After much prayer and fact-finding, we felt led to proceed. We started out by homeschooling Allison in kindergarten and just kept going, teaching all eight of our kids at home through high school. (A number of them did take Running Start classes in high school.)
In meeting with various homeschool families, I realized there was no certain formula for success. One family held school casually on their couch; one mom left her kids to natural learning with no formalized instruction at all; another woman hired a cleaning lady, set up a schoolroom with desks and an American flag in her basement, and held school from 8am-3pm every day. Seeing the broad spectrum of expressions helped me see that we could tailor-make a school experience to fit our family. In order to last for the long haul, I knew I couldn’t do school all day long. What worked best for us was to work until lunch and then leave the afternoons open for lessons, reading, and schoolwork that did not require my help. That gave me time to keep the household running.
We didn’t have an exemplary scholastic model, but I did the best I could with eight children. In the younger grades (K-2nd grade) we focused solely on reading, writing, and math. By third grade we introduced the other core classes. Even though I didn’t do crafts or rarely had my kids do a science experiment, one positive aspect of our schooling is that we were consistent. We schooled five days a week with grace for sickness, new babies, and unexpected vacations. For my sanity we did no school in December and took three whole months off for summer. Even with a shorter school year than most, we usually finished all of their books by dividing up the daily reading and assignments between our eight months of school.
Why was homeschooling a good decision for us? For one, I cherish the time I had with each of my children. It’s hard to believe this when you are in the midst of the infant and toddler years, but our children grow up very fast. We usually only have them at home for a brief 18 years. Now that we are getting close to being empty-nesters, I am so thankful for each day I got to spend with my children. There is nothing else I would have rather done with my life. I also believe there is nothing more valuable I could have done with my time.
One positive aspect of homeschooling is that our kids were not forced to grow up prematurely. When Allison attended a sleepover of a friend in sixth grade who attended public school, she reported that all the girls talked about was boys. That was a foreign topic to our 12-year-old daughter. Our dear Maggie played with dolls and set up pretend offices until she was 11. And James was famous for donning his pirate or cowboy or medieval outfit and sword fighting on the lawn during his school breaks until he turned 12. The funny thing is that after he attended his first youth group meeting, those make-believe costumes were never seen again. I’ve never seen someone grow up so fast! But I’m glad he got to live in that make-believe world for all those years.
Our greatest goal for our children is not that they become successful in the world’s eyes, but that they love God and fulfill His purposes for their lives. I believe we were able to accomplish that to a greater degree by having them under our influence for 18 years rather than under the influence of the world. Unfortunately, most children sent out to be a light in the world are damaged by the darkness they were expected to influence. Eighteen years of steady input and modeling at home is beneficial for most children if they are to become the salt and light they are called to be in the world.
I’m not insinuating that all people should homeschool their children. (I was blessed to have an incredibly supportive husband, plus it really helped that I am naturally administrative.) Counting the cost is important since homeschooling does require a whole new level of self-sacrifice beyond that of normal mothering. For me, that meant thirty years of my life were given to educating my children at home. But as I said earlier, it’s one of the greatest choices we ever made—worth it all.
PS: Pictured today are Pastors Bob and Cara Grimm and their family. Unlike us, their kids attend public school. One key to their success is Cara’s intentional decision to be present for her children as much possible. It’s her top priority to be there when the kids return home from school each day. Lots of sharing about their day goes on in that first half hour after school! Bob’s and Cara’s welcoming presence not only blesses their own children, but has translated into their home being a gathering place for their kids and their friends. I told Cara, “You know they come here because you are present, don’t you?” She replied, “They also come because I feed them!” Way to go, Bob & Cara!