Monday, August 13, 2012

Why we have decided to homeschool

After four years of sending our two older children to public school, I have finally surrendered to the call of homeschooling.  I remember discussing the idea with Sam as Ashlyn approached kindergarten age.  Just like all moms sending their first baby to school, I just figured it was first time jitters.  Little did I know that the Lord had started a work in my husband's heart.  We actually had a wonderful experience with public school.  Our kids attended a small elementary school in North Cherokee County.  For the first two years, we had the BEST principle a parent could ever ask for.  He was a Christian and without getting himself in trouble, he used his faith to encourage the kids.  Every single teacher we had was wonderful.  I always knew that they loved my babies and were very concerned with their success. Other than a few bullies and an issue with Aaron being placed in an EIP class that he really did not need, we had no issues at all.   As you can see, our decision to not send them back to public school and to school them at home had nothing to do with bad experiences with the school system.   I am actually glad that we did send them.  It helps me to feel like I am making a very well informed decision about homeschool.  If I had never put them in public school I feel I would not really have a clear picture of why I am doing this.

For a long time I would entertain the idea and then quickly say, "no way!"  I used to actually get very annoyed with Sam for even bringing it up.  I would wonder, "Is he crazy?"  I hated school growing up.  It was always hard for me.  I was a "good" student, but I had to work hard.  It did not just come easily to me.  I hated my homework and I hated my kid's homework even more.  Even in college, I could not wait for graduation.  So, why in the world would I want to homeschool my kids?  However, Sam was persistent.  He has this kind of annoying quiet persistence and patience.

 I am kind of ashamed to admit it, but the thing that concerned me about it the most was that I just could not even seem to get excited about public school.  I did not go up to the school as much as I should and was not as involved as I felt I should have been.  I used the younger kids as an excuse, but really it was something inside of me.  Yes, I was having babies, we were in a difficult situation in our church, and we were both battling depression, but something was just not connecting.   I felt incredibly guilty.  For the most part the kids were doing well and when we did run into some academic problems with Aaron, I was there doing whatever I could to help, but it was just not enough in my opinion.  If I could not get excited with my kids in public school, how could I get excited about homeschooling them myself.

I am not sure exactly when God started to work and change my heart.  Over time I just started to hear that voice that can only be the Lord's.  I would try to suppress it and just remind myself that I am not qualified to do that and that my kids would end up stupid if I tried.  I was even critical of other homeschoolers.  I feel kind of like Saul persecuting the Christians before his conversion!  There were times over the past year that I could not go anywhere without the topic of homeschooling coming up or meeting other homeschooling moms.  They were everywhere and God kept presenting them to me.  This is when it became a flashing sign for me.

During the year after the "irruption" at our church, we learned a lot about who we are, what we believe and the direction we desire to go in as a family.  Part of that was to be more intentional about sharing our faith with our kids.  As we read scripture and talked to other families, we learned that God's intention is for the parent's to be the major influencers in the life of a child.   We are told to "Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6  We began to realize that we have our children in our home for a short 18 years and by the time they are 5 years old, we are sending them away for 7 to 8 hours a day.  They are receiving the majority of their instruction from people that may have belief systems that are very different from our own. Then, when they return home, we spend a significant amount of time trying to undo some of the "bad lessons" learned from school.  When in the world do we have time to train our children biblically with that kind of routine?  Why not weave the two together?

However, our faith is not the only reason we decided to homeschool.  Let's face it, we all know that there are issues with the public school system as a whole.  Teachers know it, parents know it, and even students know it.  It is designed to move bulk people through a system and often times does not create an environment that promotes a love for learning.  Many of the books children read today are poorly written and full of negativity.  Have you ever read "A Dairy of a Wimpy Kid?"  I had no idea how terrible and negative it was until an excerpt was read to us at a homeschool convention.  Our daughter had one that she purchased at the school book fair.  I will admit it was my fault for not knowing the content of what she was reading.  I won't make that mistake again, but with that kind of literature out there for our children, no wonder kids today hate reading.  It doesn't motivate or inspire them.  Also, the class can only move as fast as the slowest student, leaving children that are excelling bored and frustrated.

We also believe that anytime you get one on one with a child, they will do better.  We believe that we can give our kids a broader educational experience as well.  With state mandated curriculum we feel that our children are limited by what the state wants them to learn as opposed to the opportunities we can provide being wide open.   With all of the state testing requirements, our children are taught throughout the year based on one test given in April.  In Georgia, it is called the GCRCT. All of the state curriculum is built around this test.  Students as well as teachers are assessed based on the test.  Therefore, the material the teachers can teach is very regulated.  Often times teachers are not able to be creative and use their gifts and talents in the way they would have envisioned.  I know this is frustrating to them as well.

With homeschooling, we will be able to learn the basics and add in things that we are passionate about and interested in.  We can study math, science, people, and places while also experimenting or going to those places.  We will not be bound to a classroom or text book.  Some of the things we learn about can actually come alive for the kids.

One of the arguments against homeschooling that is out there is that the children are not socialized.  This is a huge misconception that I believe is slowly starting to change.  There are many social opportunities for homeschooled children these days.  We have joined a co-op in Blairsville.  The children will be taking a variety of courses taught by other Christian adults from a biblical worldview in a classroom setting with other children in their grade level.   We will attend once a week and they will be required to complete assignments that are due back the next week.  This will continue to teach them how to interact with other authority figures and other children.  Being part of this group will also reinforce obligations and responsibility.  Much of the social interaction in public school is negative anyway.  When you consider all of the popularity games, mean girls, and bullies, how much wholesome social interaction are our children really getting?  Homeschool will allow us to be more proactive about choosing the families and children that are part of our family's social network. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says,"Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character."

I have had to ask God to change my heart, to give me peace, and to give me confidence.  There are still days when I wonder, "What am I thinking?  I just want to send them to school.  They are driving me nuts."  Often times I was the first in my circle of friends to start whining during school breaks saying, "I cannot wait for these kids to get back in school." In those moments I ask the Lord to show me the bigger picture and help me not be led by my feelings, but by what I know is right, what is true, and what we want the end result to be, which are well educated, self disciplined, grace-filled, spirit-filled, independent, healthy adult children who love the Lord above all!

I am thankful for a praying and persistent husband.  God gave him a dream for our family and he did not give up on it even when it seemed like it would never happen.    As our new adventure in education begins, I pray for myself and my children.  I pray that we will work together as a team, that we will follow the Lord together as we learn and grow, that we will be patient with one another, extend grace to one another, enjoy each other, have fun, learn more than we could ever imagine  and above all grow closer to each other and to our Creator, the one who created everything and designed us to be curious, to love learning, and who gave us so many beautiful and wonderful things to learn about!

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