We have been homeschooling for 14 years. We are grateful for the opportunity we have been given to invest in our children at home. To be sure, my wonderful wife has done pretty much all the schooling. I teach math, and help with a few other minor things, but she is by and far the one who does all the planning, preparing, buying, and teaching. She works hard and is good at what she does.
But, in this article, I would like to share some secrets about homeschooling and homeschoolers that I believe need to be shared and brought out into the light. My goal is to help families, both those that homeschool and those that do not. My hope for the homeschool families is that this could help create dialogue within the homeschooling community in order to better support, help, and in the case of Christians, pray for one another. My hope for those who do not homeschool is that this post would pull back the curtains of the homeschooling world a bit so that they could understand some of the choices, challenges, and weaknesses we have as home educators.
When my wife and I had our first child, I could easily say that I was against homeschooling. At the beginning of my marriage, I served on staff at a wonderful church that opened its doors to a rather large homeschool support group. While most all the children that I saw were fantastic, creative, smart, and well-behaved, what stuck in my young and immature head was a few incidents where I said to myself, “Never my kid.”
When our first child turned four years old, we moved to a small town one hour north of Montreal. While the town has a traditional feel to it, my wife and I realized that the teaching in the schools was very secular and we were not comfortable with it. We explored private school, but that option did not pan out. It was then that we began to talk about homeschooling our children. It was a hard and challenging step, but God, by His grace, allowed us to meet a couple of Christian homeschool families who helped us overcome fears and find resources for curriculum. So our homeschooling adventure began. It was not long until we were convinced that we were going to homeschool all of our children all the way through high school.
As the years pressed forward, and our oldest began high school, my wife began to find it harder and harder to balance the teaching of the younger ones, while also being able to give our oldest what she needed in high school. Then, 10th grade happened. Here in Quebec, 10th grade is the most important year of high school. For students that desire to go to college it is vital that they do well on these exams. While homeschoolers were not required to take these exams, the question of how to get a high school diploma was not clear. There were options, but the easiest practical way was to have your child pass the exams. For several months, my wife and I struggled over whether to have our daughter take the exams. She was learning a different curriculum than the schools, so if she took them, she would have to adjust all her subjects to correlate with the schools. So, in January of her 10th grade year, we decided that our daughter would take the exams. The months that followed became some of the most stressing months of my wife’s teaching career. She put all her energy into helping our daughter prepare for the exams. We all pressed in hard, we looked for help, and she did really well on those exams. My wife and I were so proud of her efforts.
As that difficult school year came to an end, my wife and I began talking and praying about what to do with our children’s schooling. Due to the energy needed to help our oldest, our second child had fallen behind in some subjects. As I saw my wife’s difficulty in homeschooling six children and dealing with the stress of making sure all finish high school, I began to pray for God to show us what to do. In order to relieve the pressure, we briefly spoke of registering our oldest two children in a local private school. This was a hard decision, but that summer, God made it clear that it was the right step. Two and half years later, our oldest child has graduated and is now in university, studying criminology. She is doing well. Our son, who was behind in grade 7, is now in grade 10 and is excelling. Now, our third child in grade 7, is in her first year of going to a school. She is adapting and doing better than we thought, though we were never really worried about her adjusting to school life.
So, for now, we have decided to homeschool through elementary school, but we revaluate our decision each year. So far, it is going well. I can see the joy back in my wife’s eyes as she teaches the three youngest ones at home. She has less pressure and is having more fun. I am grateful and thankful that God led us down this path. We have learned a lot and are continuing to learn.
So, what revealing secrets am I wanting to reveal? What is the big mystery? Here are some truths that need to be exposed that hopefully can help both homeschoolers in their adventure of home education and non-homeschoolers in understanding of what kind of people they really are and how to pray for them
- Homeschooling is hard and it should be okay to say it.
Those that homeschool, take it seriously, and have multiple children close in age, yet say that it is not challenging, are lying. It is hard. Unfortunately, what we found is that when we mention the challenges of educating children at home there can be blowback from both those that homeschool and those that do not.
When we have talked about the difficulties in schooling our children, we have had some that do not homeschool respond by saying, “Well, it was your choice to homeschool. All you had to do was put them in school.” Those comments hurt and lack compassion. They especially hurt when they come from your brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, we homeschool by choice. But we also do so because of a conviction. It is okay that you do not have the same conviction. But, what is needed is compassion and support. The same kind of compassion you expect from us when you children struggle in school.
On the other hand, even homeschoolers can look down upon each other for talking about the difficulties, especially in front of non-homeschoolers. The mindset is kind of like: To talk about how hard it is might cause some who are thinking about homeschooling to not do it. I mean, we have to be good salesmen for “our cause”. We have to show them how we have made the good decision, and not them. We have to show the other side that the Lord’s yoke is easy, and His burden is light. So, toughen up, smile, and talk about all the joy of homeschooling so we can expand our brand, influence, and control.
Now no homeschool person would ever come out and say that. At least no one in their right mind. But, the pressure to show the perfect homeschool life is there, whether direct or indirect. And this pressure is stupid and hypocritical. Homeschooling is hard and it is okay to say and feel it. So homeschool moms, take off your super hero suit with the big “H” on the front be okay with saying that what you do is challenging. Do not fall into to trap of promoting an exterior image that is not always an interior reality. Love what you do but be real in what you do. Walk in faith, not in comparison. Lean on grace, not pressure.
- Homeschoolers are susceptible to pride that can hurt both families that home educate and families that do not.
Many who do not homeschool feel judged by homeschool families for sending their kids to school. I want to come out and say that this feeling is right. In their pride, many homeschoolers look down upon those that send their kids to school. The fact is, if you heard the conversations that occurs when homeschoolers are by themselves you would cringe and get sick at your stomach. This should not be so. When gathered together, many homeschoolers bad mouth schools, school boards, teachers, and families who do not homeschool. And we congratulate each other for making the right choice. Some in the church have even blamed wayward children on the “sinful” decisions by parents to not homeschool. Comments like these truly exist. It is sad, and it must change. To think that one is more righteous or walking closer to God because of the way they educate their children is ridiculous, wrong, and sinful. And homeschoolers should repent of this and ask their brothers and sisters to forgive them. Yes, we should. And I do.
But do not forget brothers and sisters, like you, homeschool families are broken by sin and need the grace of God transform them. Do not be deceived by the outward appearance. Homeschoolers, like you, do not have it all together. Like you, they struggle with temptations, anxiety, and disappointment. Their children are not perfect. Be patient. Pray for them. Talk with them as one who is a member of the same body of Christ. They need you. You need them.
- Homeschooling is not for everyone.
Many believe that homeschooling is God’s will, so all Christians should do it, and if they do not, they are in sin, or at least walking on the edge of it. But, let us be honest. Practically, this cannot be true. Some practically cannot homeschool their kids. Whether the reason is financial, mental or physical capacity, or other reasons, some simply cannot do it. And it is okay. We as homeschoolers need to stop accusing parents on the “other side” of sending their kids to the devil. Yes, that comment is a common one. Secret exposed.
- Both those that home educate and those that send their children to schools need each other.
We do not know everything, and we never will. Some who live different from us can teach us things that can help us. It is sad that in the church there is so much of a dichotomy between homeschoolers and those that send their kids to school. If our unity is in the Lord, then a dichotomy should not exist. Scripture is clear that those in Christ are one body and members of one another. Therefore, we need each other. We must no longer only believe this doctrinally but live it practically. And we should live it humbly and joyfully. This division in the church is one of the devil’s ways to work against the advancement of the kingdom. We need to recognize it, repent of it, and walk in biblical love and commitment to one another. We are not called to only tolerate one another, but to show committed covenant love toward one another. In other words, we are called to biblical church, not “my people” and “your people”.
- It is okay to change your mind.
Some begin by sending their kids to public school and decide to homeschool after. Others start homeschooling and deicide to put their children in school later. And this is okay.
My wife and I’s conviction is that homeschooling is the best option for Christian parents, if at all possible. Scripture calls us to raise our children up in the admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6). This is the biblical principle that we get homeschooling from. But, it is important to know that our conviction is an application of this principle. The biblical mandate is the principle, not the conviction. Our conviction is our application of the principle we see in Scripture. But, it is not the only application that can be made. There are other ways.
Some might be thinking, if our conviction is that it is best to homeschool, then why did we decide to put our three oldest children in school? Great question. Here is my answer. We decided to put our oldest three in school because it was best for the mental, emotional and spiritual health of my wife and kids. Homeschoolers have a hard time admitting their weaknesses. Actually, this is not isolated only to homeschoolers. But, we came to a point to where we had to be honest with ourselves. We could not mentally do it anymore. It was too much stress and pressure. I knew it. My wife knew it. Our oldest daughter knew it. But to break the mold of the homeschool world and put our kids in school was a very hard decision. But it was the right one. We did get some backlash because we had moved to the “other side”. Yet, the principle we operate from had not changed, only the application. And this is okay. Actually, we find ourselves more at peace and more able to lean on God’s grace by admitting our weakness in homeschooling as we trust in Him to guide our decisions for our kids and family. If we had remained prideful, “sucked it up”, and kept homeschooling our oldest children, they might have graduated and done well, but it would have boasted of our grit, not God’s grace. And we would have missed the intimacy that comes from trusting in His provision.
I heard someone once say that they had never seen a workshop at a homeschool conference on “how to transition back to school”. So true, yet sad. The homeschooling world would be a much better place if there was more support for families moving in one direction or the other. I believe there would be a better understanding, fellowship, and witness if this was the reality.
I love that we homeschool. I think it a great way to raise kids. We wish we could have homeschooled all our kids all the way through high school. But that is not our reality. Nor does it have to be. We have three kids at home, two in school, and one in university. We are doing our best to raise them in the way of the Lord. And that is the goal. And by God’s grace alone (not by how we school our kids), they will love and serve Him with their lives. That is our prayer.