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  • Why We Homeschool (and Why You Should Consider It, Too!)

    There is nothing like a bold, direct statement to start off an article. So, if the title has not already turned you off, let me plant my tongue firmly in my cheek and brazenly declare it again another way: “We love homeschooling and think everyone should do it!” Hmmm . . . I suddenly hear the sound of crickets chirping. Wait, it is only the sound of hundreds of mice . . . closing their browsers. Okay, okay! Wait! Allow me to back up and explain myself. You see, now that I have proclaimed such a radical viewpoint and you have rolled your eyes and said to yourself, “Uh, oh . . . one of these kinds of homeschoolers, “ I can say, “Ah ha! Got you! It was only my crafty ploy so that any bold statement made from here on in this article will not sound nearly as radical!” (cue evil genius laughter). So, now that that is out of the way . . . in order to understand why our family homeschools, perhaps we should first do away with a few of the possibilities.

    So, why does our family homeschool? No, it is not because jean jumpers are my attire of choice. In fact, I don't think I've donned a jean jumper for . . . well . . . ever? They looked great on Laura Ingles Wilder, but give me jeans and a comfy shirt, please! No, it is not because I want to have weird children. Okay, unless your definition of “weird” includes children who enjoy learning, are able to play with children of all ages, and can carry on conversations with adults. No, it is not because I want to “buck” the system. Though, I must admit I don't mind going against the norm. And, if we really look at the issue, homeschooling is quite normal, having been around for centuries, and being the educational method of such greats as Da Vinci, Washington, Lincoln, and Einstein (to name just a few). No, it is not because we want to “shelter” our children from the world. If by “shelter”, you mean leave them totally ignorant of anything with a “PG rating” or above, rather than give them our view of the world in the timing that we feel God leads us to. No, it is not because I plan to have 15 children. Though, children are truly a blessing and if God had led this disorganized mom to procreate in hyper mode I would have sincerely loved every gum-in-the-hair, baby-eating-dog-food, plates-for-our-cereal-because-I-forgot-to-run-the-dishwasher moment of it!

    Yes, as someone who did not grow up homeschooling, I am familiar with the common stereotypes that are made about homeschooling. After all, I used to make them myself! So, now that those those misconceptions and assumptions are out of the way, let's take a fresh look at the issue of homeschooling. And perhaps the best way to do that is for me to first just share the reasons why we chose to homeschool our children and why we continue on this path today.

    I will admit it. I did not go into homeschooling with a neatly packaged philosophy, but like many other homeschoolers, kind of tripped over my philosophy along the way. Looking back, I can now see how God directed our choices and how our chosen educational model fits so nicely with our beliefs and desires. Like many others, we chose homeschooling because we felt we had no other choice. At the time, we did not have the finances to send our children to a Christian school and we were strongly opposed to sending them to a public school. Added to this was another factor. Our son showed signs that he might not fit into a regular school easily, as he seemed pretty bright for his age. My husband had “suffered” through school, doing only enough academically to avoid getting in trouble, and being so bored and under-challenged that he once finished an entire year's worth of math in a few weeks, much to the dismay of his exasperated teacher who was desperately trying to keep him occupied with extra work. Placing a boy of nine or ten years in an uncomfortable chair for seven hours of the day with nothing intellectually stimulating to occupy him is like storing firecrackers in an oven. The energy will come out eventually.

    So, our choice seemed obvious. Our son would be homeschooled. After all, what did we have to lose if we started out this way? We could always enroll him in “regular” school later if it didn't work out. That decision was made six or seven years ago and today, we have two children who pop impromptu history and Bible quizzes on one another at the dinner (and breakfast and lunch) table, beg for the next CD set of the Story of the World, ask to “do school” on Saturdays, and sometimes teach me random facts I didn't know! And that is just the educational aspect. Despite their gender differences and 2.5 year age difference, they are also best friends. They have tender little hearts toward God. They share and get along better than most nine- and six-year-old children I've been around and are some of the most enjoyable children to be with.

    But wait, there's more! (CLAP, CHEER, “OOOO”, “AHHH”) Sorry, I got a bit carried away by the infomercial. Back to reality. Let me emphasize (before you meet them and discover on your own) that our children are actually human and . . . sometimes quite human! I don't say any of those things with a blind eye toward their faults. In fact, I hesitate to mention their qualities and achievements for the fear of seeming like a typical braggadocios parent. But, I say these things because I don't believe these results are due to superb parenting skills or that it is because our kids are somehow any better in nature than anyone else's children. I just believe so strongly in homeschooling, that by sharing our results, I hope to convince some of the rest of you of its benefits. I truly believe that our children are developing better and our family ties are closer simply because we have had more time to make an impact on them. We are with them all day long!

    As I mentioned, along this journey, we have come into our philosophy of why we are homeschooling. So many parents today take the decision of schooling for granted, as we did. We do what our parents did or what our church advocates or what our friends are doing or what seems best and easiest at the time. However, choosing a model of education for one's children is an enormous decision! It should not be taken for granted or made without a significant amount of thought and prayer.

    With every form of education, just as with anything else in our imperfect world, there are pros and cons. There will be unexpected issues . . . problems you didn't foresee. The key is that we must choose the “best” model, not the “perfect” model. For reasons that I won't explore here (partially because many of those reading this article have likely already convinced themselves not to homeschool because of the negatives or supposed negatives), homeschooling is not the perfect option, but I believe it is the best option. So, how does one make the big decision of eduction?

    First, I believe you must define your terms and get to the core of the issue. Many of us are tempted to jump ahead and attempt to answer the question of what the best method of eduction is. But, you can't figure out what the best educational choice is without first defining “education” and figuring out what that means to you, as a Christian parent. It's a very curious thing, really, to try to figure out the best method of doing something without first defining what, precisely, you hope to accomplish! So, let's ask ourselves the following questions: what is education?; what is my responsibility as a Christian parent?; what model provides the “best” education?; and, in light of these questions, what will work best for our family?

    What is my philosophy of education? What is “education”?

    The term “philosophy of education” may paint a picture of a middle-aged, monotoned professor standing in front of a room full of dozing college students. (“Bueller? . . . Bueller? . . . ”) Yet, however dry and dull the term may seem, it does not diminish the importance of all parents coming to their own conclusions about what their “philosophy of education” is. Again, how can we best choose how to educate our children if we do not have fundamental beliefs about what it is we are doing and the results we are expecting? If we don't know exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish, we cannot assume to know the best way to accomplish it. We don't even know what “it” is!

    Perhaps in order to figure out own own educational philosophies, we should start with a simple dictionary definition of “education”. According to the World English Dictionary, “education” is defined as “the act or process of acquiring knowledge, esp systematically during childhood and adolescence.” But, is this all that the Christian parent is to be concerned with? Is a knowledge of facts what we are striving to instill in our children?

    To answer this question, we must go to the Bible. Ephesians 4:17 states, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” Also, in 1 Corinthians 3:18-21 we read, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness,' and again, 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.' So let no one boast in men.” So, it would seem that education by the world's standard is not nearly as important as education according to God's standard. Education, biblically speaking, would seem to be character development and training in biblical knowledge. I believe that to the Christian parent, education should encompass more than a knowledge of basic facts and human wisdom. Knowledge of facts may be useful, but even the smartest of men is a fool in God's eyes! I think it is clear that from a Biblical perspective, the most important aspect of eduction is Biblical knowledge and character training. So, we have already touched on the next question a bit, but let's a explore it in more detail.

    What is my responsibility as a Christian parent?

    In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, we read, “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.” We are told here, rather emphatically, to train our children in God's Word and to do it continually.

    So, we have already seen that education, according to the Bible, is character training and teaching our children biblical truths. Now we see that we, as the parents, are the ones ultimately responsible for this large task. We are responsible for their Christian education. Of course, the Bible never commands that we homeschool . . . or send our children to Christian schools, for that matter. The Bible is silent on the matter of education, in the typical definition of the term. But, we do have a clear command to train them Biblically. And for this we will be held accountable. This leads us to another question: How can we best give our children a biblical education?

    What choice – public schooling, Christian schooling, or homeschooling – provides the “best” education?

    We have already defined education from a Christian standpoint and then looked at our responsibility as Christian parents when it comes to education. Now, based on these answers, we can finally ask and answer our final question: What choice provides the “best” education?

    It would stand to reason that the more time we spend with our children, the more we are able to instill our own biblical values into them. Certainly, the more time we spend with someone, the more we know that person and the more we are able to be an influence on his or her life. Going back to Deuteronomy 6, we see that biblical education is supposed to take place when we're walking, sitting, rising, coming, going, running, skipping, doing back-flips . . . okay, the Bible does not actually address the running, skipping, and doing back-flips part, but it would seem that this verse has pretty much every moment of the day covered! Given this, if we want to spend as much time as possible teaching our children about our spiritual values and influencing them, then homeschooling is the logical solution. It is much harder to live up to this verse if we don't even see our children for 7-8 hours out of every day, five days a week. This adds up to roughly 35 hours per week (1400 per year) of discipleship time that we are missing! Add to that the time our children spend doing homework and that number goes up.

    Now, before the fingers are pointed and accusations of advocating illiteracy are thrown at me, let me clarify. Certainly, education in its strictest sense is also important. We all want our children to be able to read, write, have a knowledge of history, etc. And I believe that we also have a command to be a light in this dark world. How can we have a strong testimony if our children are intentionally uneducated in everything except the Bible, which the world finds foolishness? We also have strong biblical examples, such as Paul, who was highly educated not only in the Jewish tradition, but also in “worldly” teachings of his time. He was able to be salt and light because he was able to relate to the modern man of his time period. There are examples in Scripture of Paul preaching to Greeks using Greek teachings and logic as a spring board for his preaching. It is not often that you can reach a lost soul without first being able to relate to that person. So, academics are certainly important in training our children for God's purpose!

    So, if we are to also take into account this more “obvious” definition of education when answering the question, “What is the 'best' education?”, then we must examine some basic research and statistics to find the answer. Many studies have been done and the conclusions are indeed very favorable toward homeschooling. The most recent study done, Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics, was the most comprehensive study of homeschooling ever done. Data from 15 independent testing services was compiled from the 2007-08 school year. The results show that homeschooled students scored in the 84th percentile or above in all areas of testing, compared to children from public schools, whose scores were in the 50th percentile for all subjects. Results for the homeschooled students were even, regardless of gender, race, and socio-economic standing. Statistics overall are also very favorable towards homeschooling. Homeschoolers consistently score higher on the SAT and ACT tests. And a comparison of 2008 - 2009 SAT scores shows homeschoolers achieving higher grades than both public schoolers and Christian schoolers. Even many state departments of education, not known for their proclivity toward homeschooling, consistently produce statistics that show homeschoolers testing around 30 percentage points higher than their public schooled peers.

    So, while homeschooling is clearly the better academic choice, I think that a balance must be achieved between the academic and the spiritual. We cannot overlook the spiritual, but we cannot simply throw away all “worldly” knowledge and focus exclusively on the Bible. Ultimately, however, I believe that the Bible is what is most important for life . . . both this one and the next. It should always have precedence. We are, after all, ultimately helping to prepare our children for eternity (which is, by the way, a lengthy bit of time compared to the 18 years we have with them)! Therefore, our first consideration should be which educational model best provides a Biblical education. But again, both are important. And, in my opinion, homeschooling provides the best education, both spiritually and academically.

    In light of all this, what is the best option for our family?

    I believe I have shown by the research and Biblical support provided that, all things being equal, homeschooling is the best educational option, both for the academic benefits to the child, as well as for the spiritual benefits in raising him or her for God's ultimate purpose.

    However, one question I cannot answer with authority is this one: “In light of all this, what is the best option for our family?” Here is where it all comes down to a personal decision. There is no right answer for this one. Like so many other decisions, we have freedom to take Biblical principles and apply them as we are led of God. I only know of one expert on your family and that is God. It would be best to consult Him!

    Obviously, we are all trying to do what is best for our children and our families. That is not always easy! Hopefully, we will pray and seek God's will in the process. But, one way or another, there are many good Christian families that have seen the evidence and come to different conclusions on the question: “What is the best educational option for our family?” As brothers and sisters in Christ, we may respectfully disagree on any of the previous questions, but the answer to this final question is a personal one. We cannot judge another on his or her answer but only pray that each one of us is following God's will. It would be presumptuous to answer this final question for anyone but ourselves.

    I would like to take it one step further, however. (Remember, there's no shocking you after my bold introduction!) Because of the evidence I've given in support of homeschooling, I personally believe that perhaps there are far more who should be homeschooling, but are not. This is only my opinion based on the number of families homeschooling and the fact that I know I would not have given it much consideration, if any, had it not seemed like the only option for us at the time. Again, I cannot judge individual families' decisions. I do not know all circumstances of each individual family and certainly not all Christian families are able to homeschool. There are many factors (financial, physical, etc.) that can inhibit this being a viable option for some.

    God is certainly not limited by our choice of how to educate our children. He will work to accomplish His will no matter what we choose to do. However, my hope and prayer is that by examining with open minds the option of homeschooling, more Christian families will be led to pursue this wonderful, family-centered educational model . . . jean jumpers and weird children optional!
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