Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why We Homeschool (well, the big reasons anyway)

Just yesterday, I was asked by a friend if I would share with her why we homeschool... that she hadn't ever felt strongly about it one way or another, and would I, as an excited homeschool mom, be willing to put together a compelling "case" for why someone should consider homeschooling. So I did what she asked. I thought about posting it here and then thought, well, it really was written for and directed to her because she was interested. I'll wait and write about this another time on my blog.

But then, to my surprise (and I must admit, delight), Lauren Hill (a sometimes-commenter here who shares a name with an interesting hip-hop artist) asked in the comments of my last post if I would share the reasons why we choose to homeschool. So, here are our reasons (the big ones at least!), Lauren (and anyone else who is interested):

I would LOVE to share with you why we homeschool! There are so many reasons, so this will be long- but I want to give you (as much as possible) the whole picture of why we have chosen this method of schooling.

We want our kids to be salt and light, but first, we think they need to be prepared for that. Like a young plant, they need protection and the right "input" so that they will be a strong vine, able to produce fruit LATER. Lots of people take different views, and that's OK... but we believe young children are easily swayed and pulled by opposing views. Kids are impressionable. A la Deuteronomy 6, we want to impress them, regularly, throughout the day, as we're walking, etc... with the things of God. We want to build into them a strong foundation that cannot be shaken.

We'll have no problem releasing (in fact, we WANT to release) our kids to be salt and light at SOME point (maybe 6th grade? Maybe 9th?, depending on each child, somewhere around that time), but they need to first learn how to stand on their own, lest they fall because they weren't yet strong enough.

(Rather than some other person doing it for 8+ hours a day) The people I can impact the most in this life, particularly at this point in our family- with young children, are the members of my family. And that's great, because that's who God's going to hold me responsible for!

I see our kids as little arrows (Ps. 127) that can be shot out into the world one day- and I want them to be ready to be used by God for His purposes in the battle we're in at that point. So I want to pour myself into the task, the ministry, of sharpening and fine tuning those little arrows, so that when they are shot out, they will shoot straight and far. I want to sharpen them so that they can deal a mighty blow to the enemy when they are ready to be shot out.

Me personally, I don't feel that the first few years of life, and then a few hours each evening is enough to mold and shape these precious lives. I don't want to give them over to someone else to shape and mold for 8-10 hours a day. Not when they are still young and impressionable. They will fit into one mold or another. That's how kids are. They want to imitate, emulate, and be like those that they see and admire. I want to show them what God's mold looks like, and how they can fit their unique talents, abilities, and gifts into his mold of a righteous life lived with an eternal perspective and Kingdom priorities.

(3) I SEE MY MINISTRY AS IN THE HOME FIRST- anything else comes second.
Please don't take this as accusatory of anyone else's way of doing things... but I see my ministry as being done THROUGH my role in the home- as a wife and mother. And I believe that as people see that this is a priority in our home, that they will notice something different about our family, and essentially, "know we are Christians by our love". Homeschooling is one way that I can invest and pour the things of God into my children.

It is hard when we young moms have several little ones, are learning how to manage a home, trying to live up to everyone's expectations and still have time left over at the end of the day for our dear husbands. What I have come to is this: I can do what I can do. Relationship with God first. Relationship with Doug second. Relationship/ Mentoring/ Teaching/ Shaping/ Pouring myself into kids third. Anything else, after that. I can do what I can do. And I can't do it all. And that's OK.

I understand that homeschooling can seem like a HUGE item on the growing "to do" list. But in these early years, I'm already spending virtually all my time with my children. It is not then vastly more difficult to learn how to be a bit more structured and do school with them as well, so that we can continue shaping them according to God's standards while they are young.

I want our kids to be involved in our work and lives- able to take a trip out to a village for a weekend or week with dad occasionally. Able to go to a woman's home and play with her children while she and I talk and form a relationship. I want for them to be able to take part in what we're doing, rather than having a whole separate life that revolves around whatever schooling they are in. And I want for us to be able to take part in what they're doing, demonstrating to them just how committed we are to the task of raising them up to love and follow Jesus and to love and serve others.

If I can teach them, in the early years, to love reading and learning, and encourage them in their curiosity, then they will be prepared in a BIG way for whatever they'll encounter in any school environment in which they may be put as they grow and later, in college. Many schools focus on rote, boring learning approaches, and I don't want my kids to think that learning or schooling is boring and repetitive. I want to be able to take them to the museum one day for "school" or watch National Geographic specials about Africa rather than memorizing sentences from a geography book. I want to be able to show them how we balance our finances during math lessons... and show them real world applications for things we're learning in school. Essentially, I want to encourage them to love learning. And I don't think there are many schools that actually do this effectively. A person who loves to read and learn can do just about anything they put their minds to do.

*Another neat thing about homeschooling is that you can get it all done (even at the complex levels) in less than half the time it takes at public schools. There is no stopping for the bad kid in the class to be dealt with (again and again), no switching classes and running to the locker, no required "homeroom", no recess (you can build that into afternoon play time), no dumbing the class down for the lowest common denominator... each child can learn at his/her pace, learn the things he/she needs to learn, and even have time to focus on things of interest. (I've heard of homeschooled kids getting to spend a couple hours a week reading up on what would normally be considered college level or higher work, simply because that interested them.)

* Additionally, homeschooling allows the flexibility to stop school or start to suit your family's schedule and needs. You can put the normal curriculum on hold because your son has suddenly taken a HUGE interest in airplanes, and you want to take advantage of that and spend 4 weeks learning all about the ins and outs of airplane mechanics, physics, manufacturing, history, etc. Or your daughter has an opportunity to go on a business trip with Dad for 2 weeks and she can just go! No problem! Take a few books with her and let her read in her spare time but spend time building a relationship with Dad.

*I love the curriculum we use- it is reading-based, where we sit down together and read about the world... they definitely expose kids to various (opposing) worldviews and real life, so it's not as narrow as other Christian curriculums I've seen, and it's not done through workbooks and tests, which is great. It's real world-type learning, and I LOVE it. And Ethan loves it. (Heck, Baxter does too and he's not even old enough... he just LOVES looking through all the fun books.) Anyway, if you're interested you can check it out at www.sonlight.com.

So, in a LARGE nutshell, :) these are the biggest reasons why we homeschool... plenty of people do it differently, and I respect many who have made different choices. But this is why we've made the choices we have so far. Any other questions? Ask- and I'll try not to be so long-winded. ;-) I'll say the same thing to each of you that I said to my friend: I hope this helps you consider something different- even if you end up choosing something different- at least to think through other options is a good thing! :)


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