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Monday, September 6, 2010

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool

by Dina Sleiman

Today is our first ever official "Current Events" Monday. Hmm, and I just realized this post will be going live on a holiday. So, happy Labor Day everybody! I have prepared nothing inspiring to say today about our nation's labor force. Uh oh. However, in my tourist area of Virginia Beach, Labor Day signals school will begin tomorrow. And, as is so often the case these days in Christian circles, parents all around me are agonizing over their decisions to homeschool or not to homeschool. Homeschooling is a great thing and a growing trend. However, in response to that positive trend, I’ve noticed people homeschooling their children for the wrong sort of reasons, and this causes me great concern. Perhaps the word homeschooling brings to mind multilingual 3rd graders doing calculus for fun, but it rarely turns out that way.

I sent my children to Christian school for three years, I homeschooled for five, and now my children are about to enter their fourth year of public school. So, I have seen the pros and cons of all the choices. That’s exactly what it comes down to. Pros and cons. Each system of education has advantages and disadvantages. No one should feel pressured by anyone else into making a choice that doesn’t fit their family. I firmly believe that schooling decisions should be made year by year and child by child according to the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. However, if you are struggling with your choice, I’ve put together some checklists that might help you discern God’s will in this area.

Good Reasons to Homeschool
1.Peace and faith that God is calling you to homeschool
2.More quality time with your children
3.Flexible schedule and relaxed educational environment
4.Individualized educations for your children
5.You love to teach
6.Your child is involved in a time consuming extra-curricular activity
7.Making relationships with other homeschoolers
8.A chance to help your children grow in the Lord
9.The cost of private school in your area is excessive
10.Your area’s public schools are particularly dangerous or blatantly promoting an ungodly agenda

Bad Reasons to Homeschool
1.Fear for your child’s safety
2.Fear of the financial pressure of private school
3.Fear of the “liberal agenda”
4.Desire to shelter your children
5.Desire to be the only influence in your child’s life
6.Pressure from church, family, or even spouse
7.You think it will fix your relationship problems with your children
8.You will feel guilty if you don’t
9.You don’t really see the need for so much education, especially for girls
10.Desire to impress others with your self-sacrifice

Good Reasons Not to Homeschool
1.God is not calling you to homeschool
2.You have peace and faith about a different choice
3.You can not adequately meet your child’s needs at home
4.Your child desires more socialization
5.There is no homeschool community and support system in your area
6.Your child needs special education or advanced opportunities
7.Your child needs a structured environment or experienced teacher
8.God’s calling on your life conflicts with homeschooling
9.You have great public schools in your area
10.You have great Christian schools in your area and God has provided the finances or the faith that he will supply the finances

Here’s what it comes down to: the Bible says whatever is not of faith is sin. If your decision for this school year has been based on fear, guilt, pressure, laziness, or pride—it’s sin. Turn back now while you still can!!! If your decision for this school year has been made based on faith, love, and hope, then proceed with confidence that God will supply your needs, and that where you are weak, he will be strong.

Yes, there are specific school districts that are truly dangerous, or that purposefully promote an ungodly agenda, but these are few and far between. At the end of the day, the vast majority of teachers, principals, and administrators in this nation place the well-being and education of their students as their first priority. And where they might have weaknesses, God’s strength can see your children through. Homeschooling should be a lifestyle choice and a response to God’s individual call for you and your children for that specific school year, not a theology or political agenda.

If you do decide to homeschool, for the love of all that’s holy, do a good job at it. Your child should receive an equal or better education at home than they would in the public school system. Otherwise, you are withholding opportunities from them that they deserve. No matter your personality or the personalities of your children, God can give you the wisdom to be a good homschool parent. And he will do so, and give you strength in your weakness, if this is something he has called you to do.

And remember, while your children should be your first priority, you should also give consideration to your own health, well-being, and calling. You are just as precious in God’s sight as your children. If you are depressed, unfulfilled, or overwhelmed, not only will you not be a good homeschooler, you won’t be a good mother or wife either. So ultimately, you are serving your children’s best interest by taking good care of yourself.

I loved my homeschooling years, until I didn’t anymore. I felt called to homeschool for a time. When that season was over, I put my children into public school with faith. Our experiences have been great. My children loved homeschooling during that time, and now they love public school. As I mentioned, the two oldest even went to Christian school for a season and loved that as well.

And so, let me close with a list of tips that will allow your children to succeed wherever God might call them.
1) Plead the blood of Jesus and angelic protection over your family daily
2) Pray that your children will be salt and light in a dark world
3) Teach your children to always be a blessing and encouragement to their teachers and friends
4) Teach your children to see the best in others and not be easily offended
5) Teach your children to extend God’s love to everyone
6) Teach your children that while we respect the beliefs of others, God’s word is our personal standard for truth
7) Make time each day to disciple your children in the word of God
8) Take ultimate responsibility for your children’s education
9) Encourage each of your children to be the individual God created them to be
10) Nurture the unique gifts and callings God has given your children

What school memories would you like to share with us today? Do you have kids in school this year? Any thoughts on homeschool, public school, or Christian school?

17 comments:

  1. Well my favorite school memory is of my first grade teacher Mrs.Carter.Mrs.Carter had this way of nurturing and making everyone feel like they had unique qualities that made them who they were created to be.I do not have children so I cannot comment on kids being sent to school.Homeschooling being done with the wrong motives can be very detrimental to your child.I have a best friend who has seven children and homeschools.Her children are very well balanced.I think you have to have balanced.

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  2. Love your list of tips, Dina.

    I just put my kids in public school after homeschooling for a couple years. They're loving it. I wasn't a great homeschooling mom. It was the right decision for the time, though because we were traveling and in missions and there just were no other options. I don't regret our time homeschooling, but I think I would do better when they are older.

    We may go back to it someday, but only if the Lord directs. And as you suggested, Dina. We need to evaluate that regularly.

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  3. Louise, I think our most of us had at least one really special teacher who truly modeled God's love to us. I know I had a few. Mrs. Gust in second grade stands out the most in my memory.

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  4. And following on my comment to Louise, on the other hand, I had a few awful teachers. One in public school and two in Christian school. That is one of the reasons it is important to evaluate school decisions yearly.

    I always pray for my kids teachers from months before school starts. So far so good. With my older kids having a lot of teachers, I would say we've had a couple that weren't the greatest educators, but they've liked and been liked by all their teachers.

    All of my elementary child's teachers have been truly amazing and a real blessing in his life. This year he has two teachers. When I went to meet them, I got teary-eyed. They were so wonderful. Fun loving and encouraging. One of the teachers went to grad school at the same Christian University my husband and I attended.

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  5. Not many people around on Labor Day, I guess. I put this same post on facebook last week, so I want to copy in some good comments I got there.

    From Charity Luiskutty about university model schools that meet 2-3 days a week: I have to put a plug in for Oaktree Academy if in the VB/Chesapeake area or other University Model Schools that are elsewhere in the country. In listing the pros and cons of homeschooling vs traditional schooling it is a lovely mix of many of the pros from both lists. Still very much not for everyone, but is another option from just straight homeschooling vs not homeschooling.

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  6. Another facebook comment from Lauran Holton who was homeschooled from 4th-12th grade:

    I did. It was right for me. I actually received an equal, if not better, education and definitely had more opportunities than I would have without it. But it's not for everyone.

    I saw plenty of kids and parents take advantage of the system a...nd use it as an excuse to be slack. I had friends who couldn't do math, even simple math. Not due to learning disabilities, mind you, simply because it wasn't "fun" or it was "too hard"-- scary stuff. In NC, you had to be interviewed by a social worker (for starters), and we had to take the usual standardized tests every year. Even so, kids slipped through the cracks...probably no worse than they were slipping through in our public school system...but still very sad. I also met truly gifted kids, who our public schools could not serve, and were getting an awesome education at home-- you've heard of the types: fluent in 3 languages by the age of 10, plays 5 musical instruments, etc. ;)

    I love #9 and #10 on your list. Because if parents do not look for their child's gifts and talents or fail to instill a love for learning/exploring then quite honestly any school system/method will be insufficient.
    I believe that homeschooling, done right, prepares you for college in many ways- one of the most important being that the student has to learn to take responsibility for how much/how little he or she learns. In any school environment you get out what you put in-- homeschooling only magnifies this truth. In college, and especially in grad school, no one holds your hand and "forces" you to learn. The earlier a student learns this lesson- the better. :)

    That said-- I shall repeat--it is not for everyone. :) I believe that homeschooling worked for me because my mother instilled in me a love for learning when I was very young. The private school I had the misfortune of attending almost killed that love-- homeschooling brought it back. And it still lives. :)See More

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  7. Hi Dina and Inkies,
    I've always felt particularly guilty for not being able to homeschool my oldest who has complicated mental health problems and a severe learning disability.

    I had to work, I wouldn't have been a patient teacher, and I didn't feel called to it. I always wonder if it would have made a difference through the transition from elementary school to middle school. In our district the kids left elementary school after 4th grade, I think the transition was too much for her.

    I bring this up for others out there that might be dealing with the same kind of situations that my hubby and I had to address. So all of you who have home-schooled, what would you recommend for parents in a similar situation today?

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  8. This is such and important - and complex - subject. Thanks for bringing it up, Dina!

    My son has been in public school, then in homeschool, then back to public school. And so far, his experiences have all been very good. The one thing we haven't done is private school because it's just plain too expensive. But I don't regret any of our schooling choices.

    From Kindergarten through 4th grade, we lived in Medina, Ohio. They had a great public school system, and Billy thrived there. But then we moved back to Southern California. Unfortunately, the district we were in was NOT very good. After researching the local grade school, I realized there was a good chance that my highly intelligent (but easily bored and somewhat rambunctious) son would get a reputation he didn't deserve. That's when we started to homeschool.

    We moved to Las Vegas when Billy was in 8th grade. We decided to try out a charter school that focussed on at-home learning. One day a week, Billy went to the school campus with his classmates. Two afternoons a week they met at a local park for PE. But all the other school work was done at home via the computer. It was great.

    Last year, Billy's transitioned to full-time, on-campus school. Only it's still a bit different. He goes to a community college high school program. So he's a senior in high school, but he's taking all his classes at college. I was worried that it might be hard for him to acclimate, but he's loving it.

    I'm very thankful that God has lead us to the right schooling situations at the right times.

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  9. Hi Jill,

    Well, the first thing I would say is there's no point in regrets. If you made a family decision that you had to work, then you had to work.

    As for homeschooling special needs kids in general, I would say it can easily turn out better or worse, so you probably need to be extra sensitive to how God is leading you. I know a number of people who have homeschooled to keep their kids off of ritalin (sp?) In some cases it worked great, in others it was a disaster. They ended up putting them on drugs at home and in some cases sending them back to school where the experienced teachers had more success.

    I understand your point, though. In retrospect, I feel like a big part of why I homeschooled was for my middle son. Although we didn't know it at the time, he has a focusing issue with his eyes that the public schools don't test or treat for. By waiting until he was 5th grade to send him to school, we saved him a lot of frustration of those years when most of what you do is reading and writing. I was able to let him advance in science and math while keeping his language arts at a bare minimum. By the time we did send him to school, his first year was easy. His second year they put him in all advanced classes. He struggled, but by the end of the year was able to verbalize the issue to us and was willing to do the hard work of eye therapy.

    So in short, there can sometimes be a benefit in homeschooling special needs kids. But it can also cause more frustration and tension at home.

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  10. Jennifer, sounds like you've approached the whole schooling issue much as we have. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  11. what a good evaluation on the pros and cons of home schooling. Very balanced! I like it! I don't have children myself but I've watched many friends wrestle with the decision of what to do for their children's schooling! Good advice here!
    Elaine King

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  12. Thanks, Elaine. As I mentioned, I put this up as a facebook post last week because I felt like a lot of people could you this with the new school year starting.

    In my area homeschooling is so common that Christians often end up feeling pressured to do it, but like I said, a lot of how these things turn out is in the attitude.

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  13. I started homeschooling my daughter for kindergarten and first grade. Then we moved and lived in town, so she went to 2nd-5th grade at public school. Her brothers did K-2 and K-1, and the youngest has never been in public school.
    I pulled her out when she was headed into 6th grade, and all the boys came home with her. We homeschooled all the way through her graduation. She'll finish community college this year with an associate degree in early childhood education (and straight A's.) Number #2 graduated a year early and has been apprenticing with a highly skilled local taxidermist for four years. Child #3 started dual enrollment/ college courses at the high school a couple of weeks ago, and #4 is still at home.
    Best advice I ever got was from a homeschool mom whose kids I really admired for their relationship with God and their attitude/behavior as teenagers. She said homeschooling is NOT for everyone, and it's important to realize that you have to go back to God every year to see what's right for your individual child and you.
    Public school is not the den of the devil, and homeschooling is not the perfect solution for whatever ails your student. Getting an education is a very individual thing, and has to be prayed through.
    Okay, I've rambled enough.
    See ya tomorrow!

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  14. You're right, Niki. Homeschooling is not for everyone. I've definitely seen situations where it was hard on the relationship between partent and child. Sometimes kids view teachers as the "enemy," and if mom is the teacher, guess what! Sometimes its better for Mom to have her quiet day and be ready to love and nurture the kids when they get home.

    For us, there were a number of considerations in sending everyone to public school. 1) Youngest was very social and wanted to be with kids all day every day. 2) Oldest was ready for advanced classes. 3) Middle was becoming difficult to homeschool and had worn me down to the bare minimum. 4) Husband traveled a lot, and I never got a break when he was gone. 5) Our afterschool schedule was becoming so packed that I needed my days free just to keep up and be ready. 6) I wanted to spend more time writing.

    Basically, everything just lined up and pointed in that direction. It's been a win/win situation.

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  15. Fantastically well thought out post.
    Here are my not so well thought out reasons for homeschooling my kiddos:

    I hate parking lots.
    Once I got them potty trained and out of the barbarian stage, I didn't want the teachers to have all the fun.
    I really like having them around...
    Since there are five of them, it's like we already have a homeschool group right here!
    We have an awesome math tutor!

    In spite of me, my children have turned out really cool, and I do mean in spite of me...

    The Lord is so good...

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  16. I love your reasons Cheryl. One of the main reasons I loved homeschooling was because we slept in and didn't start until 9:00. And we were part of an awesome homeschool group.

    During my favorite year we met two days a week from 10-3 and the Mom's all worked one day and got one day off. I taught what I thought of as "Humanities," basically combined history and the arts. My best friend called it "Dina's history class for the gifted and other children." We did really fun stuff like medieval banquet complete with rolling chair joust and chicken bones on the floor, Greek olympics, and Civil War reinactment.

    Part of the fun of homeschooling was that four of my closest friends with children around the same ages were homeschooling with me.

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  17. Thank you so much for this post. You have a qualified perspective on this and you approached the subject without judgment. I really appreciate your objectiveness. (Objectivity?)

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